Kodak Hero 9.1 £199.99
13th Dec 2011 | 14:50
Can this cheap-to-run touchscreen printer challenge its rivals on quality?
The Kodak Hero 9.1 is Google Cloud Print ready, can print from emails and also output directly from mobile devices using a free app. It offers Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB connectivity and has a 4.3-inch touchscreen.
Kodak claims that although its printers cost a little more than its rivals, low ink prices make them cost effective over time. This top-of-the-range Hero 9.1 all-in-one printer is packed with features and priced at £200 in the UK, or $250 in the US.
But with costs falling across the board, can it match the print quality of rivals such as the Canon Pixma MG5250, Epson Stylus Office BX625FWD, HP Photosmart 7510 and other multifunction devices in our Best inkjet printers list?
The Kodak Hero 9.1 is at the high end of Kodak's new Hero range of home and small office multifunction inkjet printers. The entry-level model, the Hero 5.1 (full price £99), offers wireless printing and scanning, a 2.4-inch display and automatic Duplex.
The more office-orientated Kodak Hero 6.1 (which has an RRP of £169) adds fax facilities, a 35-page automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning and photocopying and a larger 200-sheet paper tray that also holds 70 pages of photo paper.
The Hero 7.1 (which also costs £169) drops the ADF and fax facilities, and capacity is down to a 100-page paper tray with a separate 40-sheet photo feeder, but it adds a 3.5-inch colour touchscreen display.
This top-of-the-range Kodak Hero 9.1 is similar to the Hero 7.1 but has an ADF, fax facilities and a 4.3-inch colour touchscreen.
Kodak is keen to stress that its printers are more expensive to buy than its comparable rivals, but this is because it doesn't subsidise printer costs by raising the price of its ink cartridges. The company claims its printers are 30-40% dearer than rival manufacturers', which seems a little harsh considering this top-end model can be bought for around £180, or $200 in the US - not wildly pricier than others.
The inks can be bought for around £15 online for a complete set. Based on their RRP and stated yields, a black-only page costs around 1.25p and a colour page 2.15p (ink costs only), which is definitely cheap. The Kodak Hero range of printers is certainly worth considering if you want to keep your running costs down.
Specification and performance
The Kodak Hero 9.1 uses two ink tanks. A single-ink cartridge supplies pigmented black, which is ideal for printing text, and its colour cartridge holds five pigmented inks. Having all its colour inks in a single cartridge isn't ideal, because you have to replace the whole thing when just one of its tanks is empty, but the amount of ink wasted is usually small.
Kodak claims its premium pigmented inks won't fade over time like the dye-based inks used by its rivals, and should last around 120 years.
Setting the Kodak Hero 9.1 up is easy enough. Despite a few teething troubles, we soon got the printer up and running. You can connect it directly to your computer through USB, but some of its best features are only available when it's on your home internet network, through an Ethernet link or Wi-Fi connection.
Like the rest of the Kodak Hero range, the 9.1 model is Google Cloud Print-ready, and also has Kodak Email Printing enabled. After connecting your printer to your network and registering it online, it's given a unique email address. You can then print documents such as Microsoft Office files, PDFs, images and text by emailing them to this address from any internet-enabled device, regardless of whether it's on the same network as your printer.
If your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet is on the same network as the Kodak Hero 9.1, you can print from it directly using Kodak's free Pic Flick app. The range is not yet AirPrint-enabled, but Kodak hopes to add this feature at a later date.
The printer has automatic Duplex, so you can print on both sides of the paper without having to manually reload the sheets after the first page.
When printing photos, it automatically recognises when you're using photo paper, and adjusts the print quality accordingly.
It's PictBridge-compatible, and you can print images from USB sticks and memory cards without using your computer. Obviously, the 4.3-inch colour touchscreen is a great asset when doing this.
The Kodak All-in-One (AiO) Home Center application also has a fun - if gimmicky - facility for taking and printing 3D images for viewing with the cardboard glasses bundled with the printer, but it only works with Windows PCs.
The Kodak Hero 9.1 can't print on optical discs, and it doesn't have downloadable applications like those enjoyed by the Lexmark Genesis S815 and recent HP printers, but it does have facilities for printing simple forms such as music paper, graph paper, shopping lists and more.
Connect it to a telephone socket and it can send and receive faxes, both from the device itself and directly from your computer.
Photo printing is very good. Our professional A4 PhotoDisc image printed with crisp, clear colours, sharp detail and smooth gradient ramps. We have no cause for complaints here at all.
Unfortunately though, plain paper image printing is terrible, with dull, lifeless colours and noticeable speckling. Images that dominate the page can make the paper curl.
Its pigmented black ink makes for clear, vivid text printing, although it's not as vibrant as a Canon or HP printer's text output.
Although far from fast, the Kodak Hero 9.1 offers acceptable speeds. Our 20-page test document printed in five minutes, 27.6 seconds, which is too pedestrian for serious office use, but acceptable for home printing.
Scanning quality is excellent, although the scanner's a little noisy. You can scan directly from the printer at the push of a button, or for more options, use the bundled scanning application.
The Hero range replaces Kodak's entire premium multifunction inkjet line, and represents a step up in quality. The Kodak Hero 9.1 sits at the top of the range, and packs in features such as a 4.3-inch touchscreen, USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, Google Cloud Print, Kodak Email Printing and automatic Duplex.
With the Kodak Hero 9.1 connected to your home network, you can email documents to the printer from anything that can send an email with an attachment, from anywhere in the world. If your iOS or Android mobile device is on the same network as your printer, you can print from it directly, using Kodak's free Pic Flick application.
Photo printing quality is excellent, with vibrant colours and well realised detail. It's great that the Kodak Hero 9.1 automatically detects photo paper and adjusts the print quality too, so you don't have to change the settings.
Kodak is keen to point out that although the purchase cost of its printers is higher than its rivals, its running costs are lower because the printer isn't subsidised by overpricing the inks. It is indeed cheap to run, and at under £200, the printer itself isn't exactly overpriced either.
Plain paper image printing on the Kodak Hero 9.1 is horrendous, coming out dull, washed out and speckly.
Build quality could be better too - the output 'tray' (or more accurately, extendible arm) is especially flimsy, and the paper tray isn't exactly robust. We've seen better looking printers too. It's also a pity that its 3D printing feature isn't available on the Mac.
If you're looking for a home printer that prints great photos and text pages, but won't break the bank every time you need a new set of inks, the Kodak Hero 9.1 is definitely worth considering. It's not without its problems, but overall, it's a definite step up in quality for Kodak printers.