Kodak Office Hero 6.1 All-in-One Printer Review: Everything but Speed
At a Glance
Using the word "Hero" in a product name is like waving a red flag in front of a bull--it's a sure way to invite skepticism from journalists. Fortunately, the Kodak Office Hero 6.1 color inkjet multifunction printer (copy/fax/print/scan) delivers on its marketing boast on almost all counts. The notable exception is speed, which is more like that of a home unit than of one intended for a small or home office. Still, for $200 (as of 12/06/2011), you’re getting a full load of features, as well as stellar photo quality. (If you're on a really tight budget, see our "Best Bargain Printers."
It's a shame that Kodak dropped its classic gold band across the front of the printer for a red one. That gold band was a nice nod to Kodak's tradition, and it made their printers look friendlier and less cheap. The red just highlights some poor styling choices, such as dull-silver buttons, and detracts from the otherwise solid construction and flawless performance.
The front panel of the Office Hero 6.1 sports a 2.4-inch color LCD and an array of logically placed controls, including a keypad for faxing. The ink cartridges (black and unified color) are easy to get to, and the machine has Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card, Memory Stick, and USB/Pictbridge ports for easy photo printing or offloading scans. You may connect the unit via USB, ethernet, or Wi-Fi. The bottom-mounted paper tray holds 200 sheets, and the output tray, approximately 50 sheets; the automatic document feeder for the letter/A4-size scanner holds 35 sheets. Duplexing is fully supported, with both two-sided printing and two-sided-to-two-sided copying and scanning.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Office Hero 6.1's Home Center software. The package is the easiest to use and the easiest on the eye of any put forth by the major vendors. It's also highly integrated: Everything is done from within the application. The fun 3D-photo feature prints any photo as a 3D photo; Kodak even provides a pair of 3D glasses for enjoying them. The OCR (optical character recognition) feature is so well integrated that you know it's there only because it has a save-to-RTF (rich-text format) option for document files. The OCR is not suitable for recreating complex documents with graphics, but it's great at grabbing text. The only thing missing is the documentation, which is available only online.
Much as we enjoy the Home Center software, we encountered a few kinks during use this time. When testing the Office Hero 6.1 on the Mac platform using Microsoft Word, the system hung when we selected the 'Printer Options 2' menu in the print driver. Kodak is aware of this issue and will be releasing a fix later this month, with the 7.3 version of its Home Center Software.
The Home Center scan driver includes Kodak's Perfect Page, an imaging technology designed to improve the quality of scanned documents with less user intervention. It is enabled by default in the driver. Unfortunately, in our routine test of scanning a simple document with plain black text, the results were decidedly imperfect, with significant areas of white artifacts, especially within larger font sizes. Kodak confirmed that if we tell the driver we are scanning a document in black and white, leaving Perfect Page enabled will create this result. Disabling Perfect Page will eliminate the issue.
As mentioned, the Office Hero 6.1’s speeds are more in keeping with that of a home environment, rather than that of a small or home office. A rate of 5 pages of text per minute (ppm) on the PC and only 3.8 on the Mac is not going to help you make that deadline. Printing half-page photos to plain paper at 2.2 ppm and to glossy photo paper at 1.2 ppm isn't exactly Indy-500-like, either. A high-resolution, full-page photo printed on the Mac at a slightly below-average rate of 0.4 ppm. Scans are on the slow side as well.
On the other hand, the output is worth the wait. Photos are reproduced with wonderful accuracy and are easily best-of-class in this price range. Text is sharp, albeit not as crisp as what you'll see from HP and Canon, but the Office Hero 6.1's draft-mode quality is better (albeit slower) than most. If quality drops a bit in any area, it's in scans: They're accurate, but somewhat dark.
Ink costs are another plus for the Office Hero 6.1. The standard-sized $10 black cartridge lasts for 425 pages, for a per page cost of only 2.4 cents. The unified cartridge (all three colors in one) costs $20 and lasts for 420 pages, or 4.75 cents per page. Combined, a four-color page costs only 7.1 cents. In addition, a 770-page, $17 XL black cartridge reduces black costs slightly to 2.2 cents per page. Not a great savings, but it nearly doubles the time between cartridge changes if you print a lot.
A barn-burner the Office Hero 6.1 is not, but in every other way it is a worthy inkjet MFP. It's extremely cheap to operate, it offers an easy out-of-box experience, and the photo printing is the best you'll find in this or most other price ranges. If you need faster performance, spend a hundred bucks more on the Epson WorkForce 840 or the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus.