As someone who writes for a living and works out of a home office, printers come with the territory. Unlike with a new laptop or camera, I tend not to get all that excited about printers, especially the workhorse all-in-one variety. I’ve owned good ones and bad ones and I’ve reviewed a number of them for GeekDad and other outlets. In general, the technology has matured to the point that most consumer-oriented printers are capable of covering basic family and home office functions, with a few models that may shine in specific functions like faster printing or a compact footprint; otherwise they’re pretty much commodities these days.
Kodak, a company that’s seen its bread and butter film photography business decimated, moved into technology such as digital cameras and in 2007 started producing consumer inkjet printers. GeekMom reviewed one of these a few months back and Kodak subsequently sent me one of their higher end all-in-one printers to have a look at, the ESP Office 2170. This was my first hands on experience with a Kodak printer, after years of Brother, Canon, Samsung and Apple models.
Out of the box, there’s nothing that really stands out about this device. It’s your basic all-in-one inkjet form factor, a sizable black plastic hunk measuring nearly two feet wide, a foot deep and 18 inches high, weighing in at just over 15 pounds. Yellow trim is a nod to the Kodak brand, recalling the iconic yellow and black film canisters that oldsters like me used to buy. It sports a 1.5-inch color LCD display, a 150 sheet paper tray and a collapsible output tray. The expected suite of functions for this class of printer is offered: printing, scanning, copying and faxing, although with a caveat. I had to check the documentation because it seemed like I’d made a mistake, but faxing requires printing a copy of the document first, then feeding that hard copy through the machine — very 1990s and not in a good way. Connectivity is offered via USB, memory card slots or wireless, while mobile device users can print directly via the Kodak Pic Flip app. Wireless setup (which I’ve found to be a bit of a pain on occasion with other devices) was extremely straightforward and once I’d installed the drivers and powered it up, it took maybe thirty seconds to complete the setup.
Performance for the ESP Office 2170 was pretty much what one would expect from a $130 inkjet all-in-one, which is to say it’s acceptable. The printer is not going to set any speed records in general use and text quality is okay — perfectly fine for home use and most small business purposes, but text lacks the crisp and deep black of a laser printer. Kodak markets this as a low cost printer, citing lower than average per-page consumable costs. I tend to take these claims with a grain of salt, but after extensive printing I’m ready to agree. While other inkjets utilize multiple color cartridges to minimize the cost of consumables (individual colors can then be replaced instead of replacing the entire color cartridge), the Kodak uses a two cartridge system: black and color. In theory, this should mean a higher per-page cost, especially with color printing. However, with optional high capacity cartridges available at reasonable prices (the high capacity color cartridge rated at 550 pages retails for $33.98), the printer can print quite economically. Firing off high quality 8×10 photos with high capacity cartridges, the printer supply levels didn’t physically move the way they seem to with most inkjets and after printing dozens of high quality photos, I’d hardly dented the cartridge. For those looking to cut standby power cost, it’s also worth noting this model is Energy Star qualified.
Where the ESP Office 2170 managed to impress me was when I used the high quality Kodak photo stock (supplied as part of the review) to print photographs. Where photo prints on plain paper were run of the mill, combined with Kodak’s premium photo stock, the results were exceptional. While the premium stock obviously raises the cost per page for printing, the results are worth it. Colors were accurate, everything was sharp and clean and even on 8×10 prints with large expanses of blue sky (a challenge for many inexpensive printers), there was no banding. High quality color prints are relatively fast too, with 4×6 versions clocking in the low 40-second range while 8x10s came in at under a minute and a half; they are also dry on printing and with the high quality stock, there was no warping. If you frequently print photos and want to have a general purpose printer around to handle some day to day stuff as well, the ESP Office 2170 would make a good choice.
Kodak claims 3D printing capability, but I didn’t test that function. I’m not big on 3D, but if it means something to you, well then this printer is apparently capable of it and other reviews indicate that it works (supply your own red and blue glasses). One of the scanning functions — called “Perfect Page” — is not currently available to Mac users, so I didn’t have the opportunity to play with that either.
Wired: Reasonable cost for consumables; easy wireless setup; if you’re willing to spring for premium paper and print at highest quality you can generate some pretty spectacular photo prints with this printer.
Tired: Print to fax requirement (pass on this one if you send a lot of faxes, otherwise it’s just a nuisance).