Kodak ESP 9250
Kodak's flagship ESP 9250 color inkjet multifunction prints, scans, copies, and faxes, and does it all wirelessly, for less money ($250 as of November 5, 2010) than the majority of the competition. Although its speed and print quality vary, its low ink costs could be a reasonable trade-off for some users.
We breezed through the wireless setup (USB and ethernet are also available). The layout of the front-panel controls, including a 2.4-inch color LCD, is intuitive. However, the rubber buttons tended to wiggle when pressed, slowing operations that involved them.
The ESP 9250's paper handling includes a 30-sheet automatic document feeder for the scanner. The scanner lid telescopes about an inch to accommodate thicker material. A 100-sheet input tray takes most kinds of media, and the printer also has a second, dedicated tray for up to 40 sheets of photo paper. Sheets exit onto the lid covering the two input trays. Automatic duplexing works on both the Mac and PC.
Kodak's AiO Home Center software works on both computer platforms to take care of the all-in-one chores. The company also gives away Pic Flick ( ), an app for printing photos directly from iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices.
The ESP 9250's mediocre speed limits it to relatively light use in a small office or home. In our tests, at the default settings, text pages printed at a rather slow 3.6 pages per minute on the Mac and 4.6 ppm on the PC. The snapshot-size photos we printed on letter-size paper on the PC took about a minute apiece to print, while the near-full-page, high-resolution photo we printed on the Mac took nearly 3 minutes. Copy speeds were also slower than average, but scan times were faster than average.
Output quality fared better than speed. On plain paper, the ESP 9250's printed text looked black and crisp, with few flaws. We could not say the same for color graphics, photos, and copies, all of which looked washed out and grainy, with a distinctly greenish bent. Printing the photos on Kodak's own glossy stock transformed them into truly high-quality prints. Monochrome copies and scans were impressively smooth and detailed. Color scans looked dark, with an orange cast that affected even white areas.
Kodak's cheap inks stand out in a market that bases its profit margins on selling the fluids at a premium: With the $10, 425-page black and $18, 420-page unified color cartridges, you pay just 2.35 cents per page for text, and just over 6.5 cents for a four-color page. Note, though, that with a unified color cartridge you'll wind up wasting some ink, as colors rarely empty at the same rate.
Macworld's buying advice
The Kodak ESP 9250 excels in features and economy rather than speed, and its output quality varies from outstanding to disappointing. It's best suited for a low-volume small or home office.