Kodak ESP 7250

Kodak’s latest all-in-one printer is aimed, says Kodak, at "helping you share your mobile life for less". In fact this new all-in-one is a compact, attractive looking machine combining a scanner, copier and photo quality printer with low ink costs (saving up to £75 a year says Kodak) and clever Wi-Fi direct print features for Wi-Fi enabled smartphones (BlackBerry phones to be precise). Kodak claims this is a "world first" for those devices and iPod touch or iPhone users can also join in on the fun using the Kodak Pic Flick application.

Okay enough of what Kodak says, what do you actually get?

The ESP 7250, joins Kodak’s ESP printer range at the top of the tree, a range where you pay a little bit more for the device and less for the ink, with Kodak claiming the overall cost of ownership, over a year, can enable a saving on ink of around £75 on other maker’s similar devices.

The 7250 is a neat and compact, black liveried device featuring a nice 2.4-inch LCD screen and a large, clearly buttoned flip-up control panel which graces the front. A front-loading 100-sheet paper feed tray sits beneath the front of the device, so paper must be loaded print side down, where it is fed into and back out on top of the paper tray. A 40-sheet dedicated photo paper tray (for paper smaller than A4) is also built into the same feeder tray set up and accepts 6 x 4, 7 x 4 and 5 x 7-inch paper sizes.

Paper guides can be moved to adjust for paper of varying sizes easily, though as with the 5250 test, if you put A4 photo paper on top of plain paper, it had a tendency to drag in the plain paper along with the photo paper, only load one type of paper at a time.

Some of the clever technology you pay for in the 7250 includes the wireless print function from a smartphone, but it only supports BlackBerry phones unless you download the Kodak Pic Flick App which allows iPhone and iPod touch users to print directly too.

And it’s very easy to use and once on your iPhone, for example, printing in four or five clicks. One to launch the app, one to pick a photo gallery on the iPhone, another to select a default print device and one more to "send" the file to print.

Then you have what Kodak calls the "intelligent" features where the printer can select the correct paper tray for the print job at hand as well as the automatic quality settings when using Kodak’s own paper. Back printed codes tell the printer what settings to use.

There are a raft of features for image enhancement called Kodak Perfect Touch technology, while these are only available on Windows computers they provide facial retouching as well as colour and brightness enhancements, colour restoration and redeye reduction all built into the machine.

Setting up the printer is fairly straightforward once you’ve stripped it of all its sticky tape and packing. The print head and dual, single black and combined five-colour pigment based inks slot home easily into a removable print head carriage, which sits beneath the scanner/copier platen. Once in place, the 7250 primes the ink and will prompt you to print an automatic head alignment sheet.

The software’s easy to install (we tested the 7250 with an Intel iMac) and once up and running, connecting to a Wi-Fi network proved a simple case of selecting the connection method on the 7250’s colour screen, entering the (WEP, WPA PSK or whatever you use) password and that was it. Almost as easy as connecting via the USB connection, and like the other ESP’s we’ve tested in the range, this makes for a refreshing change.

The direct print control panel is well laid out with the menus clear and easy to follow on the colour screen. Each function can be easily controlled, allowing copying, printing and scanning as a standalone device, or you can control the device from your computer.

The supplied software drivers are simple enough to follow, the print dialogues for the printer are easy to understand and the 7250 can automatically select the print quality depending on the paper type used; Kodak papers have a special "bar" code on the reverse which it uses to check the paper type in use to help set the print quality accordingly.

The machine is easy to use for the less technically minded out there, but you do have manual controls over print quality too, within the printer’s advanced driver options, but these could be a little easier to understand and control as they are hidden. This is important if you use third party media on the device, but once you know where the advanced print driver controls are, you're sorted next time around.

Kodak’s Ultra Premium Photo Paper is the best quality paper for best photo prints, but you can "force" the printer to use the higher quality settings, though more ink will be used and it may not provide the best result depending on the exact media types in use.

As with other ESP’s in the range, Kodak’s Dot Replacement print mode allows for better quality output on specific paper types, but not if you print borderless. Disappointingly and like all the other ESP’s we’ve reviewed, Dot Replacement does not support borderless printing.

However, print quality on the better quality papers is very good and suitable for the most demanding consumer, Dot Replacement or not, but it’s a shame you cannot access this setting for borderless prints where that extra detail might be useful.

We have a caveat on this though. The automatic print quality control can sometimes produce images with a striped effect and so we feel the auto quality settings are somewhat conservative, Kodak setting the machine up to use ink more frugally at the cost of producing a better print.

We found manually controlling the print quality produced better results and was faster! Yep that’s right, it’s slightly faster. Our example A4 photo print on Kodak’s Premium Photo Paper (High Gloss) took 3.5 minutes leaving the 7250 to do its quality settings automatically.

We then printed the same image manually controlling the quality (setting the paper as above) and not only was print quality better (no stripes) but it took 3 minutes dead. The same image printed using Dot Replacement took a lot longer, a lot longer indeed, at just under 21-minutes. And then a borderless print at the manually controlled setting (again on the same paper as above) took just over 4 minutes.

One thing that Kodak has not fixed, that would help reduce the frustration of that non-borderless/Dot Replacement mode, is in selecting the print settings. You can select to use the Dot Replacement technology, even with the incorrect, borderless setting and it is only as paper is fed into the printer at the start of the print job that the error is picked up by the machine.

You then get an alert about the incorrect paper selection and all you can do is abort the print process and start again using the correct settings. That is either non-borderless printing or deselecting the Dot Replacement mode prior to hitting the print button. Why not simply have warnings when you click the Dot Replacement radio button on the print driver if you have borderless selected? That would save time and make the 7250 easier to use in terms of printing.

Interestingly, print quality on lesser photo papers (in automatic mode) drops quickly with even the Premium Photo paper producing prints with distracting visible dots, akin to blotchy white coloured noise. Get round this by selecting a higher print setting manually, overriding the auto selection the printer would usually employ.

When printing text documents - with or without graphics - quality is excellent, text looks very crisp and "laser-like" while graphics pack plenty of colour and punchiness.

All this tooing a froing over print times and settings makes it worth looking at Kodak’s claimed print times, which are up to 32 pages per minute (ppm) for mono and 30ppm for colour. However, these settings are only achievable by letting the printer control things and at lowest quality settings. These times are faster than previous models (as are our timed tests for all but Dot Replacement mode photos) but a 6 x 4-inch photo prints in around 29-seconds again at the lower quality settings on offer.

Copy quality leaves something to be desired, copied images having blocky-looking darker areas in shadows. Text copies well however, while copying photos, at photo quality settings, provides prints where detail is missing or filled-in and with odd colour casts. 

In terms of scanning, scan speed is to a large degree dependent on the system/connection method you are using. However using the Wi-Fi connection, scanning took 5 minutes to scan an A4 photo at 600ppi. The 89MB file’s scan quality was good (you can scan up to an optical 2400ppi resolution) with faithful colours and good detail. 

Overall then the 7250 provides a good platform for most printing and copying or scanning needs. And while the 7250 costs a penny shy of £170, the inks cost much less than many competitors; the black pigment ink costing £6.99 and for the five-colour ink tank you’ll pay £11.99, and it is here Kodak’s claimed savings come in.

But there’s a thing to consider, to get the cost of ownership savings, you’ll need to allow the printer’s systems to control the print quality to help get at these savings, but as we’ve seen that also means you get inferior prints to the manual controlled settings that provide better prints.

As with the aforementioned ESP 5250 test the cost of ownership varies on how satisfied you are with the machine’s print quality on lower specified papers and with all auto settings.

Verdict

The Kodak ESP 7250 is well-made and easy to use all-in-one device the low ink cost is important in your purchase consideration; even if you see cheaper machines on the market, compare ink costs as well. Some makers’ devices cost less than a new set of inks for the same machine. Having said that, bear in mind you might need to use the printer’s manual controls to get at a better quality output that in turn, will use more ink.

Print quality is good overall and so is the scan quality; copies are just about acceptable though. The ease of set-up was impressive (particularly the Kodak Pic Flick app on the iPhone) and the wireless printing, which took only a few minutes to get sorted.

The printer is much slower than the claimed speeds Kodak use, at least for a reasonable photo print, and it is also frustrating you can’t use Dot Replacement on borderless prints. Nevertheless, this is a good all in one and it sits perfectly well at the top of Kodak’s ESP tree.



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