Kodak’s ESP 5250 multi-function printer

The Kodak ESP 5250 all-in-one colour inkjet multi-function printer costs only $150 (as of Feb. 5, 2010) and includes Wi-Fi connectivity–a nice feature to have at this price point. Otherwise, it’s essentially the same average-quality, slightly slothful machine as its $20-cheaper cousin, the Kodak ESP 3250 all-in-one. It’s best for light-duty school or home use.

Aside from the Wi-Fi, one highlight from the ESP 5250’s feature set is the 2.4-inch, tilt-able colour LCD, whose menus are as intuitive as the navigation buttons that work with it. And in the back of the machine is a roller insert that helps you clear paper jams (though we experienced none).

Other than that, the ESP 5250 is a sparsely featured machine. Its single, 100-sheet front input tray also catches up to 50 sheets of output, right on top of unused sheets–a common, but clumsy, design among low-cost models. A single media slot takes MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and SD Card. The driver and the LCD walk you through manual duplexing on the PC; but for the Mac, you’ll find just a klunky workaround documented on Kodak’s support site.

The prop arm for the scanner unit seemed wiggly at the joint. The scanner lid hinges are not double-jointed, so thicker media is harder to scan. Setting the scan area got tricky when the borders were close to the unit’s maximum 11.5-by-8.5-inch area, requiring more zooming and scrolling.

The documentation accompanying the ESP 5250 is top-notch, and setting up the Wi-Fi connection is quite easy: The unit presents you with a list of available networks, and you just select one and enter the password.

In PCWorld Labs tests, the ESP 5250 was only slightly faster than the ESP 3250, generating 4.7 pages per minute printing text, and 2.7 ppm printing graphics. Plain-paper prints were adequate: Text seemed charcoal rather than black, and images appeared slightly grainy. However, using Kodak’s own photo paper, the same images dazzled–rivaling or surpassing output from the Canon Pixma MP560 and the HP (Nasdaq: HPQ) Photosmart Plus, depending on the test. The ESP 5250’s scan and copy results were good overall, too.

The ESP 5250’s ink costs are the lowest in the industry. Included in the box are standard-size supplies: a 442-page black cartridge that costs $10 to replace (2.3 cents per page) and a 219-page, unified, five-colour cartridge that costs $15 to replace (6.8 cents per page). The colour cartridge contains cyan, magenta, yellow, and photo-black inks, as well as a clear protective coating. A page with all four colours costs a mere 9.1 cents. Offsetting those low ink costs somewhat, however, is the need to buy special paper to get the best results.

Though the Wi-Fi in the Kodak ESP 5250 is tempting, other than that this MFP is an unremarkable device that happens to have very inexpensive inks. While it would fit nicely into a light-duty environment, other models in this price range are faster or better performers on plain paper.

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