Kodak ESP C310 review

The first model we've seen from Kodak's new range of MFDs, the C310 is an enticing starter that, depending on your needs, may sit very nicely indeed. Kodak promises a 'sleek design', which we're not too sure about. Some of today's printers are a blur of curved edges and polished surfaces. The C310, in contrast, is a little sober, with its matt black casing leavened only by the bright orange strip that runs along the front of the Kodak – complemented by the yellow ring circling the Start button. The overall effect isn't unattractive, but in these times of carefully crafted multifunction devices, the Kodak seems a little dull and oversized. However, it is possible to overstate the importance of looks, and in terms of the rest of the C310's presentation, the results are highly commendable. The control panel is sparse, but the buttons that are there do their job well. Our only small complaint is the 1.5in screen. This is quite cute, but small, and not always very easy to read, particularly given that the colour varies according to where you're standing. Thankfully, the screen is located on the top of the printer, so you'll generally be well placed to view it from a good angle.

The new printers come with universal software, so if you install more than one model from the latest series on the same Mac or PC then you won't have to load up the software twice. The setup process was very convenient, and besides the usual helpsheet on setting up the printer, you also get a full manual in a petite easily-portable size - very much preferable to simply receiving a disc containing a PDF of the instructions. As is typical of inkjets, the paper is fed from the tray at the rear of the C310, and finished prints are pushed onto the front support. Kodak claims the rear paper tray is easy-to-use and very quick for changing paper type. Truthfully, we can't see why it's any easier to use than those found on the majority of printers and MFDs. You can put in up to 100 sheets of plain paper, or you can take them out and drop in 20 sheets of photo paper. It's by no means an onerous system, but it does lack the flexibility of those models with dual paper trays.

The C310 has a strong range of connection types. Besides the obligatory USB 2.0 you also get Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (which is very straightforward to get working) and additional options for those with iPhones, iPads, iPod touches or BlackBerry devices. The ESP C310 isn't the very cheapest in the series. For this you'd want to look to the C110, which comes without the Wi-Fi connection. This printer generally retails for £10 less than the C310, although it is worth noting that the C310 isn't as widely available as its cheaper sibling. We found the C310 only at Currys and PC World and – for an extra £10 – at Tesco too. Should the C310 be costing you more an extra £20 or more over the C110, you might want to question whether you'll be needing the Wi-Fi connection. You can browse images loaded onto a memory card (although not a USB stick).

Speed isn't the C310's greatest asset, sadly, and its text performance is rather average. The two bottom quality modes produce figures of 10.7ppm and 3.9ppm. You'll really need to look to the second of the two modes in order to get good quality text. Admittedly the output is pleasing, and while the characters aren't perfectly formed, the text is nice and dark. In the top mode, the speed of 2.1ppm is palatable, although the results still don't match those of the best inkjets. The general turn of speed isn't perhaps good enough to want to churn out too many batches of text. And the performance, sadly, doesn't accelerate when you get to graphics, producing figures of 4.4ppm and 1.9ppm in the draft and normal modes. The output is very nice, with a balanced and considered colour palette that's neither too pale nor too intense. We didn't find many faults with banding, although colour gradients aren't perfectly rendered. And the results with photo paper are fizzing with life. We quite like the quality of the C310, if not the speed.

The scanning component is strong, with the C310 producing colourful scans with good attention to detail. The rigid lid isn't great for fitting in bulky material though, and an Automatic Document Feeder would also have gone down well. The C310 uses the same cartridge system as the office-oriented 2170 – a simple two-tank system covering black and colour cartridges. However, given the 2170's great running costs, that's very much a good thing. The C310 is astonishingly cheap for colour output, costing around 3.3p for a page of colour. Our tests on the starter cartridge suggested it should get very close to this figure, making it fantastic value.

The C310 comes with an additional fun feature – 3D printing. This allows you to create three dimensional versions which can be viewed using any cheap 3D spectacles – no need to spend £60-£100 on eyepieces here. Indeed, Kodak even provide a couple of low-end pairs. The results aren't stunning, and the process of creating your own shots is by no means easy. In all honesty, this is more of a neat gimmick than a ground-breaking departure. However, we can see the more resourceful and patient users squeezing a few hours of fun out of shooting their housepets in full 3D.

OUR VERDICT

Like the 2170, the C310’s speed is its biggest downfall. However, it packs in a lot of features (Wi-Fi, for example) for the reasonably modest price tag, and has a very capable scanner built in as well. If you’re using this primarily for graphics, and speed isn’t crucial (in a home environment, a few extra seconds rarely matter), then you’ll find the output balanced and the running costs exceptional.

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