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Review: Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock Plus Series 3

Kodak's EasyShare Printer Dock Plus Series 3 features built-in Bluetooth, infrared, optional Wi-Fi, a USB port, a USB dock, and a Secure Digital (SD) card slot. This dye-transfer printer produces lovely, full-color prints that are waterproof, stain resistant, and will last a lifetime.

Glenn Fleishman

November 1, 2005

5 Min Read

Kodak might not have an ear for naming, but its latest compact printer has quite a knack at communicating. The ungainly moniker of Kodak EasyShare printer dock plus series 3 features built-in Bluetooth, infrared, optional Wi-Fi, a USB port, a USB dock, and a Secure Digital (SD) card slot.

The dye-transfer printer produces lovely, full-color prints with an extra lamination pass that protects the deposited dye. The prints are waterproof, stain resistant, and will “last a lifetime.” That last quoted bit is footnoted on Kodak’s Web site: in an album, it can last a lifetime, but it doesn’t define how long your life will be.

While it takes roughly a minute per print, this $180 (list price) printer delivers an item quite close to a photofinisher’s digital prints using 300-pixel-per-inch output with a continuous-tone–like result from the dye.

I used an early Kodak dye-sublimation printer in 1991 that was originally designed for tanks. While it could make 8-by-10–inch prints, it weighed over 60 pounds. This mobile printer weighs just over 2 pounds or about 1 kilogram.

Material costs add up: even the largest package of paper and ribbons -- four matched sets of 40 sheets and a ribbon for 160 prints -- comes in at 30 cents per print when buying it at the Kodak-offered 40-percent off list or $47. (The list price is shown as $80 in several places, but the price is typically at that offered on Kodak’s Web site.)

Still, the quality is high enough and it’s so simple to print to it from anything, be it cell phone, Macintosh, or camera, that convenience might win over online photo print prices. Those prices are now as low as 15 to 20 cents for 4-by-6–inch prints, but don’t include postage costs which can run as high as 10 cents or more per print in lower quantities.

I tested the Printer Dock Plus using every common print method and had good, repeatable performance each time. To use it with a Mac OS X or Windows XP host computer connected via USB or to configure its Wi-Fi settings with the optional $100 (list price) Wi-Fi SDIO card (Windows only), you must install EasyShare software that requires a reboot.

With a Wi-Fi card installed, the printer can either function as an ad hoc device, available through computer-to-computer connections, or can be connected to a wireless LAN, albeit only with WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security. WPA support is due in the future for the SDIO card, only then making this a reasonable option for a correctly protected home network or small business. I was also able to share this printer under Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) on a computer connected via Wi-Fi; that worked perfectly and gave me the best Wi-Fi security.

Bluetooth printing is a snap, and Kodak wisely puts a Bluetooth button on the top panel to make it easy to enable or disable printing. Since this is a highly portable printer, you might want to turn Bluetooth on only in certain circumstances.

I tried printing from a Sony Ericsson phone that has Bluetooth OBEX (object exchange), and it was trivial to pair using the default Bluetooth passphrase for the printer. Printing photos via Bluetooth is technically a file push from the device with the photo to the output device.

I snapped a picture with the camera phone, saved it, chose Send To, chose the printer, and a few seconds later, a print started coming out. Some cell phone operators, notably Verizon Wireless, disable OBEX, making printing impossible through this method, although files can be transferred in several other ways.

I also connected cameras to the conventional USB 2.0 port on the side and used the transparent PictBridge standard to push photos over. This worked fine with Kodak and non-Kodak cameras alike, as it should. The printer allows switching from single print to multiple-up photographs through a top panel button. It supports two (side by side), four (in a square), and nine (three by three) photographs per sheet. Kodak card readers can also be connected via the USB port.

With specially equipped Kodak cameras that come with a special plastic adapter, you can dock a camera on top of the printer, using it to navigate through print options. The printer can also recharge batteries. Kodak has labeled this technology ImageLink and calls it an “open architecture compatibility standard” -- but there’s no information about other vendor support at the Web site devoted to the top-mounted dock (http://www.imagelinkprintsystem.com/).

The printer also includes a video output port and cable for allowing only docked cameras to display their images via composite video; there’s also an audio cable for reviewing movies.

One quibble with the supported print media is that it’s sized to 4-by-6 inches, which works with 35mm analog prints, but doesn’t match the ratio of digital cameras, including Kodak’s own. This means that you have to crop and zoom the photograph or cut the print.

The print media is slightly longer than six inches with micro-perfected snap-off ends to make the output edgeless in all four dimensions. It would be nice if Kodak offered both digital-camera proportioned and 35mm proportioned paper, which could vary just by width by having the perforation moved to a different point on the same-sized paper.

There’s one model below this one: the plain old “printer dock series 3” which lacks infrared, wireless support (neither built-in nor optional), an SD slot, and a camera dock. It produces prints in 90 seconds. It’s otherwise quite similar for $30 less. It’s not worth the price difference for anyone interested in this kind and cost of printing -- the “plus” isn’t just marketing, but a good deal of added functionality.

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