Kodak's ESP 3250 Uses Cheap Ink, Prints Great Photos--Slowly
At a Glance
The Kodak ESP 3250 All-in-One color inkjet multifunction printer is very inexpensive ($130 as of January 25, 2010), and it prints superior images on photo paper. Otherwise, it is an average-quality, rather slow machine, appropriate for light-duty school or home use.
The ESP 3250's configuration is modest. The 1.5-inch LCD screen on the top panel is small but legible. Its menus and control buttons are intuitive, as is Kodak's Home Center printing/copying/scanning software. The single, 100-sheet front input tray also catches printed output, up to 50 sheets (per Kodak); this design, common among low-cost printers, is tolerable but messy. The single media slot takes MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and SD Card.
I noticed just a few oddities. First, duplexing is manual on the PC, with help from the driver and the front-panel display--but on the Mac, you get zero help aside from Kodak's support site, where an awkward workaround is documented in detail. Second, setting the scan area when the borders were close to the unit's maximum 11.5-by-8.5-inch area was a bit tricky and required a lot of zooming and scrolling.
The ESP 3250 is decently constructed. A roller insert in the back of the machine eases the clearing of paper jams (we suffered none). Ink-cartridge manipulation is a breeze. The prop arm for the scanner unit wiggled at the joint when I tugged at it, though. And since the scanner lid hinges have only one pivot point, they cannot rise to accommodate books or other thicker items.
In PCWorld Labs performance tests, the ESP 3250 performed slowly for the most part, outputting just 4.4 pages per minute printing text, and 2.5 ppm printing graphics. Samples we printed on plain paper were adequate: Text came out charcoal rather than black, and images sometimes seemed grainy. Once we switched to Kodak's own photo paper, however, the same images looked amazing--on a par with or better than the output of the Canon Pixma MP560 and the HP Photosmart Plus, depending on the test. Scan and copy performance were good overall, as well.
The ESP 3250'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-color cartridge that costs $15 to replace (6.8 cents per page). In the color cartridge are cyan, magenta, yellow, and photo-black inks, as well as a clear protective coating. A page with all four colors costs a mere 9.1 cents. Unfortunately, the need to buy special paper to get the best results offsets those low ink costs somewhat.
The Kodak ESP 3250 will work nicely for anyone who averages perhaps 10 to 25 text pages a day and values photo quality over other printing tasks. Its ink costs can't be beat, but other printers do a better job on a wider variety of media.