Pros: Decent range of connection options; output to photo paper is decent; good image reproduction from scanner; cheap black ink costs
Cons: Slow printing times; overly dark blacks; output not good enough for many creative pros; old-fashioned two-cartridge system
Kodak's ESP 5250 is a tried and tested model that's been with us for some time. Now priced at around the £80 mark on Kodak's online shop (although you can shave another £5 or so from this tag by shopping around), the 5250 sets out to show that the old models aren't necessarily inferior. Given its age, it's surprising how seamlessly the Kodak slips into place alongside the C310 and 2170. Visually, it's very close in design to the C310. Not exactly a small printer, it nonetheless has the same modest black casing, once again enlivened by the gash of gold running along the front. The latter isn't complemented by a matching gold circle around any of the buttons, unlike the C310. Otherwise, though, the design is remarkably similar – a sign that there's a clear visual message that has been running through all of Kodak's printers and MFDs for some years now. There are even a few areas where the older model proves itself superior. This is most notable in the LCD screen. Not only is this larger (2.4in), but it can be folded up and down so that you can get a good view of the screen regardless of whether you're sitting in front of the printer or standing over it. The control panel itself is fully-featured but not overdone, with a clear navigation system aiding access.
The 5250 comes with the latest in Kodak's software, so, in a nice touch, you can plug it in alongside one of the newer printers without having to install different software. This consistency of approach is very commendable, and is carried through to the instructions – as with the newer models, you get a slick miniature manual alongside a bold quick installation sheet. In some areas the 5250 feels quite basic, though. The input (up to 100 normal sheets of paper (or 20 sheets of photo media) can be used, just as with the ESP C310) and output trays aren't physically separated, so the printed pages will be dropped into virtually the same tray that you use to store the paper. In practice, this isn't quite as messy as it sounds, and we didn't find that the paper from the trays got mixed up. Nonetheless, the ESP C310, with its separate input and output trays, is infinitely preferable.
The 5250 comes with many of the same connectivity options as the newer machines. Besides the USB 2.0, you also get Wi-Fi. However, this feature only covers 802.11b and 802.11g – no support is included for the newer and faster 802.11n. You are still able to print to the 5250 from iPhones, iPads, iPod touches and BlackBerry devices. As with the newer models, Kodak's free download, Pic Flick, enables this, so it's not strictly speaking a hardware feature. A memory card drive is included, although there's no PictBridge port for direct printing. Since you'd think this feature was more useful for home rather than business users, it is a bit strange that neither the 5250 or C310 offer this, yet the office-friendly 2170 does. Regardless, the 5250 has a decent range of connection options.
The 5250's 1,200dpi resolution isn't noticeably inferior to those of the newer models, and the quality of the text is very much comparable. Not as dark as on the 2170, it strikes a nice balance between being overdone and too light. Even in the normal mode, the characters are reasonably well delineated, although even the best mode doesn't produce results that get close to the best inkjets on the market. Most users will be satisfied with the output though. The times (from 10.9ppm and 4.1ppm in draft and normal modes, to 1.8ppm at best) are almost identical to those of the newer models. None of the Kodaks are at all fast, and this is one area where the company really needs to work. The colour output is inferior to that on the newer models, and although the speed seems better – the figures of 7.5ppm and 3.4ppm on draft and normal respectively are superior to those of both the C310 and 2170 – the actual quality of the colour palette is inferior. The shades and tints aren't as realistic, while banding is more of a problem. Output on photo paper is very decent, but both the C310 and 2170 are better choices for colour graphics.
The scanning component is very decent, with good image reproduction and a nice interface. The lid, though, is rather rigid, which will make it hard to use the 5250 for thicker material, such as books. As with the C310, there's no Automatic Document Feeder either. As with the new models, the 5250 also resorts to the seemingly old-fashioned two-tank ink system, and again the Kodak proves good value in terms of running costs – if anything, its black ink costs are the cheapest of the lot.