Kodak has been playing on the public’s hatred of ink guzzling printers for a couple of years now with the headline push that it’s cheaper to print with Kodak. With tempting yield stats quoted at 2p in ink per page of black and white, it’s certainly worth listening to what the company has to say.
Naturally, though, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, with the pudding in this case the Kodak ESP C310 all in one printer and Pocket-lint in charge of the chowing down part of the equation. As ever, we polished up our fork and spoon, tied the table cloth about our necks and tucked in. This how it tasted.
Set-up and design
It’s a largish - but not unduly so - charcoal grey back-loading unit with front print-out tray and rear repository, where one stuffs the paper, both of which fold neatly away to leave the same charcoal box of around the same size only with fewer bits of plastic sticking out.
Now, that’s no bad thing at all given that this machine is one for the family and, with Toddler Lint on the case throughout the time we trialled the C310, folding extraneous and more easily snappable appendages safely away was very useful indeed. As it happens, so was the very solid and straight forward structure in general.
The aforementioned toddler spent a good deal of time climbing on top of it, jumping up and down on the chassis, smacking it over and over like a set of bongos and even came close to taking a scan of his own behind. It’s still doing just fine - the printer, not his behind.
The other feature of its family existence is that it’s supposed to a fairly straight forward piece of kit both to set-up and use. According to Kodak, the C310 is aimed at mums in photo active families with mid-incomes and high aspirations for their children whom they wish to be successful and creative. As it turns out, this sounded rather like Mrs Pocket-lint to us, so it was with her that we left the set-up and first few rounds of use, just to see if Kodak had pitched the printer correctly.
It seems they have.
The C310 is a doddle even for the non-tech crazed. Unwrap it, open up the big lid to reveal the place to slot your cartridges and some etched on and very clear instructions of just how to change the ink. There’s also a flipout kick stand support that springs to life as soon as you pop the hood allowing you to keep both your hands free. All very neat.
You can then choose to connect your computers over Wi-Fi or via a USB cable from the back of the machine. The only catch is that you’ll need to install the Kodak software if you want to go wireless. It’s a bit annoying but thankfully it doesn’t get in the way on your desktop too much.
As for the rest of the ins and outs, it’s really just a memory card reader placed kindly on the front underneath a 1.5-inch display screen which is just far too small to be printing your photos directly from even though it’s quite possible. You can see why Kodak has included it and, at a push, it’s doable but it’s always going to be worth putting that card into a laptop and previewing from there instead. On the plus side, at least a titchy LCD helps keep the cost down.
As an all-in-one, the C310 is equally adept at all your printing, copying and scanning needs and that’s true to the last. None of this is done at lightening speeds by any means but the quality of the results are reliably good.
Naturally, your first port of call is printing. Black and white runs at around 6 pages per minute once it’s got going, 6 x 4 colour photos come in at just over a minute per print and an A4 size shot at around double that. With everything coming out perfectly dry to the touch the moment it hits the tray, it doesn’t keep you hanging around long enough to be of any real concern even if competitors do have faster pace machines.
Photos come in at 600 x 600 dpi resolution and, although it’s not as premium as what you’ll get at a professional level shop, it certainly near enough matches your classic kiosk standard. That said, look close and you might crave a touch more detail with striping across the colours a little too obvious for comfort in uniform, light areas of your shots. At the same time, the hues it churns out are true and they’re still good enough to be hung on a wall - just perhaps not a very brightly lit one.
Copying and scanning work as expected with the flat bed system and super simple menu tree leaving you in little doubt as to what you’re supposed to do. There is a quick setting to change the shade of the results if you’re not happy with what you get but you will be and you won’t need it. Scanning can be done straight to your computer or to an SD card if you prefer and there’s even quite a neat feature that lets you put several smaller documents in at once but still get separate PDF files for each. We’re not quite sure what the use case is for it but, either way, it works.
Now, one might think that that’s it but the Kodak ESP C310 does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. With its ideals set at the heart of family life, one interesting little feature is that you can also get it to print out a few blank templates in black ink. These include lined paper, graph paper, music staves, to do lists and shopping lists. Again it’s all very simple and actually quite a nice touch especially considering little ones and their homeworking needs.
The other inclusion of note, however, is a little, well, rubbish. It will also print pictures in 3D. While that may sound good on the surface, sadly, it’s the kind of 3D that requires red/cyan anaglyph glasses in order to work. So, while you’re using colour ink to print it, you can only see the results in a combination of two bizarre shades. Not worth it.
Ultimately, of course, that’s not really a problem. If you don’t want to bother with 3D you don’t have to, but what’s really going to get on your wick, we promise, is that the printer will refuse to print if both cartridges do not have ink in them. So, even if you’re out of colour for your photos but still have plenty of black for your documents, you won’t be able to churn out any paper at all. Criminal.
Having had to install the Kodak software in order to benefit from the wireless printing, we were pleased to see that the bundled photo editing and preparation areas were actually really good. Adobe Lightroom it isn’t but what makes the Kodak AIO Home Centre excellent is its ease of use - again, perfect for a device with such a position in the market. You can crop and push some decent effects sliders up and down but it’s the One-Button Edits that really do the trick and turn retouching into something even for the incorrigibly lazy. If you can only manage one click, then the Kodak Perfect Touch filter never failed in our tests.
In this day and age, of course, desktop software isn’t the end of it. Kodak’s Pic Flick app for BlackBerry, iOS and Android means that you can print 6 x 4 images straight from your smartphone as well. We took a look at the versions on the first and the last of those three and, although neither was particularly well designed or easy to use, in terms of pure printing operation they did the trick and with decent results too - even from the relatively poor resolution snapper on the 3.2-megapixel BlackBerry Bold 9700.
At £69.99, the Kodak ESP C310 is a really strong option as any entry level all-in-one printer. It does exactly what you need it to do with minimal fuss, maximum ease and - combined with the wireless printing, decent photo reproduction and relatively cheap cost of ink - it more than makes up for the titchy screen and silliness with the printing strikes that happen unless both cartridges are good to go.
You will find better photo printers out there and you’ll also find that even though the ink is cheap, the Kodak paper isn’t quite as aggressively priced, but, at this end of the market, the C310 fits in very nicely indeed.