Sure, you can buy all-in-one (AIO) printers in the $100 range that have stronger feature sets than Kodak’s entry-level ESP machines. But you’d be hard pressed to find models that turn out better print quality for the money—especially at one of the lowest per-page operational costs, or costs per page (CPPs), in this class. Like the discontinued Kodak ESP 3 and the more recent ESP C310 (which we reviewed in March 2011), Kodak’s new-for-2012 ESP 3.2 delivers reliably good-looking output, and it does so without mercilessly flogging your wallet each time you replace the ink cartridges.
When you spend less than $100 for an inkjet AIO printer, you can’t expect a speed demon with a bunch of high-end ease-of-use features. In this price range, you’ll need to settle on a model with strengths that meet your specific needs. As a baseline, any entry-level AIO you’re short-listing at should at least print, copy, and scan at a quality level that meets your needs. Beyond that most crucial consideration, you’ll have to weigh and balance the rest of its features.
For example, several models in this price range come with automatic document feeders (ADF) for scanning, copying, and (on those AIOs that support it) faxing multipage documents. Canon’s $99.99 Pixma MX432, as well as Brother’s $99.99 MFC-J430w, for instance, both have ADFs, and they can fax. Like the ESP C310 before it, the ESP 3.2 has neither feature. But then again, you’ll pay more per-page—which, depending on how much you print, adds up quickly—with both the Canon and Brother models (especially the Canon).
Our primary complaint about the ESP C310 was its slower-than-average print times on our business-document benchmark tests, especially in Normal mode, the setting at which most users print most documents. This new ESP printed our test pages significantly faster overall than the ESP C310, and, on most documents, it churned them out quicker than some other recent models in this price range. Not that we’d call the ESP 3.2 fast—hardly. But, for the most part, it meets or exceeds the print times of most comparably priced competitors.
Because it lacks an ADF, this model is less than ideal for small-business environments. It’s much better suited to home use. We always give a printer high marks for low CPPs, though, especially when most everything else—document print quality, photo print quality, ease of use, reliability, and so on—is equal to or better than competing models. The ESP 3.2 delivers in these areas, and it does so at a relatively low daily operational cost.
We are seldom enthusiastic enough about low-cost AIOs to award them our Editors’ Choice nod, but, like the ESP C310, this one is an exception. We have no qualms recommending it as a low-volume consumer-grade machine. If you do use it to print a lot of documents and photos, though, it will do so less expensively than nearly every other multifunction device in this price range.
See the review at Computer Shopper.