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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.
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.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing