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Kodak has quickly become the number 2 brand in the UK for printers, due to approaching the printer manufacture from a completely different angle to the rest of the market. Usually you can buy a printer for <£50 and then when you run out of ink, you then have to choose whether to spend £40+ on ink, or buy a whole new printer. Printers have become an almost "disposable" item, creating a glut of plastic landfill (see your local car boot sale, plenty of printers that nobody wants anymore).
Kodak on the other hand, will sell you a more expensive printer, but when it comes to buy new ink, you wont gasp at the price of the cartridges, with the black inks costing £6.99 and colour costing £12.99 - and these are genuine branded inks from Kodak. I know I would prefer to know that inks are available cheaply for my printer when it is time to replace the ink - knowing that I'm not contributing to the disposable consumer lifestyle.
The new Kodak Hero series consists of: 4 new printers, with the new name "hero" and clear model versions signified by the first number, with the version number signified by the second number, so next year you can expect to see 5.2, or 6.2 etc. This makes it much easier to see the difference between the models compared to the previous names such as ESP510 or something equally confusing / meaningless. All models feature dual sided printing, cloud connection, email print feature, smart sensor technology that automatically detects whether there is photo paper loaded to automatically set the correct print settings. (Odd numbers are the home series, even numbers are the office series)
Kodak Hero 5.1 home model, 4 ink, 2.4inch screen, wifi, double sided printing, £99
Kodak Office Hero 6.1 (office, shown above) 6 ink - with built in fax, 2.4inch screen, 35 page automatic document feeder, 200 page paper tray, wifi, double sided printing, £169
Kodak Hero 7.1 home model, 6 ink - 1 clear ink to keep gloss finish on whole image, where there may only be one colour printed, and in other areas 3 colours, the one colour would not be as thick as the 3 colours, so the gloss would not be uniform, the clear ink maintains consistency across the photo print. 3.5inch touch screen, 200 sheet paper tray, 40 sheet tray for photo paper, wifi, double sided printing, £169
Kodak Hero 9.1 home/office - the 6 ink system features a separate black cartridge, and the colour cartridge features: black, cyan, magenta, clear, yellow, 30 page automatic document feeder, 40 sheet photo tray, 200 sheet paper tray, wifi, double sided printing, £199
The printers are cloud connected - using the Google cloud printing service - this gives you internet based print queues allowing you to manage print jobs on the google cloud, and share printers etc. Cloud printing functionality will also be added to previous printers with a firmware update either through wireless or USB depending on how the printer is connected to your computer.
The higher end models, the 7.1 and 9.1 have two paper trays, one for plain paper, one for photo paper, this way the printer can automatically load the correct paper when needed. An example given is when an email issent to the printer with a photo attachment, the ptiner would print the email on plain paper and then the photo attachment on photo paper. The photo tray will take upto 40 sheets of photo paper, and 200 sheets of plain A4, meaning you don't need to swap paper when printing
All printers are wifi connected, all have USB connection, and SD/MS memory card readers. Higher end, ethernet connection.
On the printers, they feature the ability to copy / print / browse photos, change settings (print black and white), etc directly on the printer without having to use a PC. However if you do use the AIO software on the PC you can then access additional features (crop, retouch, reduce noise, red-eye reduction, sepia, 3D photo printing, white balance (see above) plus more).
The printers themselves are priced higher than the competitors, with high quality fine peizo ink heads for improved colour mixing, and long life inks, but give much cheaper ink costs, so for heavy print users the savings on having to buy ink can really add up. Kodak has put a useful print costs calculator on their website.
Some example printers, and expected savings: (printers picked at random)
Canon Pixma MG5150: £79 10 series ink, £66 30 series ink
Lexmark Prevail Pro 705: £152 10 series ink, £139 30 series ink
Epson Stylus SX215: £137 10 series ink, £124 30 series ink
We used the printers (specifically the 7.1 and 5.1) to see how they performed printing a variety of photos, both colour and black and white. While the models were pre-production, the output from the printers looked good, with no signs of banding. The Hero 7.1 model with 6 inks produced better results, with more subtle gradation between colours and textures, it also showed a more consistant gloss finish over the whole photo, looking more like a traditional photo from a high street photo developer.
The Hero 5.1 showed brighter, more saturated colours, but also showed a slightly less glossy finish in the darker areas of the images printed. Both printers coped well with printing a black and white photo - and both give the option to print a colour photo as black and white. We were shown the printers ability to copy another photo, and at first glance the reproduction of colour was excellent, with it being difficult to see the difference between the original and copy without looking closely at the photos side by side.
Using the built in SD memory card slot, we marked the photos for printing on the camera (Canon Powershot S95 - this has a print button on the back), then the printer automatically found these photos and printed them. This worked very well, as trying to scroll through 500+ photos on the printer's screen seemed to be too slow to be worthwhile.
Overall, the new printers look promising, specifically with low ink costs, and we were particularly impressed by the 6 ink printers, especially as the colour cartridges for this still only cost £12.99. Although we won't be able to give a full verdict until we get the printers in for review, our initial impressions are positive.
Have a look at the news announcement, or for more information visit www.kodak.com