Out of the Box Impressions and Experience
The Kodak EasyShare all-in-one printer is aimed at the Small or Home Office user, or those people who need to do a little bit more than average. As far as your paper-related needs go, this device can handle just about anything — printing (double-sided), scanning (up to 600 dpi), copying, faxing (complete with phone book), and photo printing.
Most of these things it can even do without a computer attached. Moreover, it features some advanced on board software, with an interactive LCD panel, which allows you to tweak the settings. This means that you can do things like set the print quality, zoom, number of copies, or even the duplex settings of a copy job without even using a computer at all. Frankly, this device is probably worth it just for those features alone, and the fact that it can also act as a printer is just a bonus.
There only technical problem with the 5500 is that while it does have a scanner/copier document feeder, the document feeder can only scan one side of a piece of paper. So, while you can print out documents in duplex, you can’t scan them back in without some manual intervention.
I also would have liked to see a network port on the back in addition to a USB port. This would allow you to put the printer further away from your computer, and also make it easier to share with all the computers in our house or office. With all the features that the 5500 provides, you won’t be the only one wanting to use it if there are any other computer users on your network.
The trade off for all these features is that the EasyShare 5500 is a reasonably large device. This is probably not something you want to stick next to your monitor, unless you have one of the larger desks out there. You also won’t be able to put it on most shelves in a bookcase or desk, as it is pretty deep. The paper feeder for the multi-page copier/scanner, while an excellent feature, means that the top of the printer is delicate, and you won’t want it to be anywhere that things can fall on it (like some messy home offices I’ve seen).
Also, out of the box, the 5500 is one of the most intimidating printer’s I’ve had to set up, with lots and lots of tape to remove from delicate parts, and some reasonably forceful installation of the printer head marked “DELICATE” all over. However, Kodak does provide a nice and easy 9-step “getting started” guide. While the pictures make it very straightforward, you don’t even get to the software until step 9.
The Printer Experience
When first powering on, the 5500 lets you choose a language for its on-screen menu, and goes through a calibration routine. This involves it printing out a photograph, and then scanning it back in to check its work. This is much better than single-purpose printers, for which you have to manually correct the heads.
Another interesting note is that this printer didn’t come with a USB cable in order to connect it to a computer. This was a pretty glaring omission, as they couldn’t include an inexpensive cable on a several hundred dollar product.
The computer-less operation is really a breeze. You can print or scan items to a built-in compact-flash or SD-card slot, utilize the Fax or photocopy features without missing a beat. You can also connect your digital camera to one of two USB ports on the front.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to like the 2 GB SD-card I tried with it. It seemed to hang on “Reading. Please wait…” whenever I inserted it.
The OS Experience
I’m generally not a big fan of vendor-supplied software. I personally think that they tend to be quite bloated, and every vendor seems to want to load up their software in the System Tray.
So, I plugged the printer in without installing the provided CD. I let Windows check the “Software Update” site for the driver, and it found it and installed without problems. It shows up as 3 devices in Windows XP: A still camera, a scanner, and a printer.
Printing worked totally fine on the first try. One interesting thing to note, though, is that the printer will try to print on photo paper if the photo paper tray is pushed in — regardless of what you are trying to print. To print on 8 1/2 x 11, just pull out the photo tray.
Printing double-sided is a wonderful feature on a printer, and its entertaining to watch the printer spit out a completed page, only to suck it back in so that it can print the reverse side.
Although Kodak claims that the 5500 can get up to 32 pages per minute in black-and-white, I found that using the default settings (medium quality, “normal” ink drying time, double-sided pages), it was more like 6 or possibly 8. Even at “medium” print quality, however, the 5500 did an excellent job. I was unable to see any pixels or artifacts in printed Word document fonts with the naked eye. Ink Jet printers have come a long way — the quality of the 5500 easily rivals laser printers, and the ink was completely dry by the time it finished — no smudges.
Unfortunately, the Linux experience with the Kodak EasyShare 5500 was not as smooth. I tried it on a fully updated Ubuntu 7.04. Linux only recognized a digital camera, with no photos on it it import. It did not recognize it as either a scanner or a printer.
This wasn’t an auspicious start, and frankly, I haven’t run into a product which isn’t supported on Linux this blatantly in nearly 10 years. After some Internet searching though, it looks like Kodak just couldn’t care less about Linux support. Shame on them.
On the Mac, iPhoto comes up as soon as the 5500 is plugged in. That “digital camera” USB profile is pretty annoying, as each OS thinks there is actually a camera hooked up. I’m not sure what value it adds.
Although the Mac does recognize the printer from the print-menu, it doesn’t have a driver for the 5500 specifically. Installing the supplied Kodak CD will allow you to print and scan using Mac OS X.
For Home / Home Office
For personal use, there really isn’t much Kodak could have done to improve this printer. Especially in the home, the 5500 really can do everything you could possibly want from a printer, copier, or fax machine. The print quality is superb. Although I wasn’t able to confirm it, Kodak claims that this printer only uses half the ink of its competitors, driving down the cost per page. Whether that’s the case or not, the EasyShare 5500 will most definitely suite your needs, as long as you don’t use Linux.
For Small Office / Business
The 5500 is easily at the top of its class for a home printer. However, when looking at business printers for a small office (of more than 1 individual) it would have been nice if it had included a network port, so that it could easily be shared between workers (which the name “EasyShare” would seem to implicate). Unfortunately, with only a USB connector, the printer must be dedicated to one computer. Although Windows software can be used to share it on the network, this means that if the computer is shut down, no one else will be able to print. Further, the fact that this device isn’t supported under Linux means that you won’t be able to use a cheap Linux computer as a dedicated print server.
However, for the price of the all-in-one 5500, you could only get a very basic networked printer, without most of the color and scanning capabilities. Ultimately, if the issues related to sharing and Linux don’t dramatically affect your office environment, the Kodak EasyShare 5500 is the printer to get.