Pros: Easy to use; manual included; good range of range of connection options; reasonable printing costs
Cons: No good for artwork; slow printing times; overly dark blacks; old-fashioned two-cartridge system
Kodak's ESP Office 2170 falls squarely into Kodak's Office range. You wouldn't buy it to printer artwork or photos, but it provides a cheap way to knock out business documents. It can also do scanning and copying alongside general printing.
Kodak's panel is intuitive and easy to use. We're not keen on the 1.5in screen, though. Although it's quite colourful, it does feel very small, and those with poor eyesight will have to peer closely at it to see the menu options. And while it works well from some angles, it's less clear from others. Given that it's located on the front of the Kodak (rather than, as with the C310, set into the top) and impossible to move, this means you'll have to be careful about where you position the Kodak, in order to make it easy for users to see the screen. Thankfully, the good array of buttons makes this otherwise very easy to operate.
As with the C310, the universal software is nice, and the installation process is convenient. And again, the provision of a proper printed (albeit not particularly comprehensive) manual is very welcome. The software drivers are carefully designed, and the ability to check exactly how much ink is left in the machine before printing is a pleasing touch. The rear paper tray is bulkier and more robust than on the C310, and you can store more than 150 sheets in it, or as many as 40 sheets of photo paper – between half and twice as much capacity again as the C310. No dual paper trays are included though. And the depth of the 2170 is fairly significant – you'll want a reasonably deep desk to place this on.
The 2170 has an even greater range of connection options than the C310. Again you get, alongside USB 2.0, the extremely effective Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n facilities, and support for iPhones, iPads, iPod touches or BlackBerry devices. You can read from memory cards, and the Kodak also has a PictBridge port for printing directly from cameras etc. We're still a little surprised this was featured here but not in the more home-friendly C310, but we're not going to quibble about the 2170 having this feature.
The 2170 can stretch its 1,200x1,200dpi text resolution to a maximum of 4,800dpi, using a series of optimization techniques. And the quality of its text is decent. The characters are very dark, although slightly too thick. The definition is very reasonable though, and while this won't match the output of the best inkjets out there – even in the highest 1.8ppm mode, it doesn't manage that - the quality is certainly competent. In truth though, the ink doesn't need to be quite as dark as it is, and that might partly account for the slow printing times. Almost identical to the C310's, the 2170 produces figures of 10.9ppm and 3.9ppm for draft and normal modes respectively. This means that it probably won't be quite fast enough for important print jobs. The 2170 fares much better on graphics. Strangely, while it more than matches the quality of the C310, its operating speed here is significantly improved – 7.3ppm and 2.7ppm for draft and normal modes respectively, which compete well with rival printers. Colours are well delineated, and the prints are dark and intense. Some may prefer the lighter more balanced palette of the C310, but the 2170's output is strong nonetheless, with only the odd hint of banding. The results with photo paper are excellent, offering bold shades and vibrant images.
The expanded design also allows for improvements to the scanning facilities. A 25-sheet ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) will make it far more convenient for scanning multiple documents, and the in-built Perfect Page technology is quite effective sharpening the colour, improving legibility and increasing the visibility of, for example, pencil marks. For serious use, you'll still want to snap up a dedicated package, but the 2170's software is very decent as a starter, while the scanning is efficient and faithful to the source material.
The 2170's cartridges seem very basic. At a time when most printers are coming with separate tanks for each colour, the 2170's old-fashioned two-cartridge system seems a retrograde step. The costs, though, are very good. The quoted figures for the cartridges are 1.8 pence for a page of black and white text (very much in keeping with other inkjets) and 3.3p for a page of colour. The latter is around half the price of competing printers, and while our realworld comparisons using the starter cartridge suggested it wouldn't quite make these figures, the 2170 still seemed to have a lot in hand over its rivals. It should cost you only around three quarters of the price of other inkjets in everyday costs.