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7/96 HOW TO BUY: A Scanner

Scanners are an essential business tool, whether you're converting a flood of paper to tidy stacks of editable text files, grabbing images for presentations, laying out a desktop publication or dressing up a Web page with graphics.

Your needs will dictate whether you want a compact, sheet-fed scanner, or a flatbed that can also handle thick originals. If you're using your own SCSI card and Windows 3.1x, you'll need advanced SCSI programming interface (ASPI) drivers. If you're using Windows 95, ask the vendor if 32-bit drivers are available.

Many scanners include 'lite' versions of popular image-editing and OCR software, and you may be able to get the full package as an option. Since you'll want to upgrade eventually, think about buying the full version now.

You may also want to expand your scanner's capabilities with an automatic document feeder for OCR work or a transparency adapter (each costs between $400 and $700.) There are a few scanners that can be made accessible to multiple users over a network.

Top Resolution vs. Interpolation Flatbed Factors Purchase Plans

Resolution vs. Interpolation

A scanner's true resolution is measured in two directions: horizontally (across the width of the scanning bed) and lengthwise (in the direction of the scan). While vendors sometimes fudged a little in the past when giving these specifications, today a scanner's sharpness is usually expressed in terms of optical resolution. For example, a 600x1200dpi scanner would have 600 individual charge-coupled device sensors per inch horizontally, and would move the device sensor lengthwise in 1/1200-inch increments.

Whenever a scanner operates at something other than its optical resolution, using 100 percent (1: 1) scaling, some interpolation takes place. The scanner creates estimated values for pixels based on the actual information scanned. When scaling down-say, from a scan of 600x600dpi to the equivalent of 300x300dpi-you may scarcely be aware of the conversion. The change becomes more noticeable going the other way, however, because the scanner can produce simulated resolutions much higher than the unit's actual capabilities.

Smart interpolation algorithms can boost apparent resolution, so you'll find that an image scanned at 2400x2400 (interpolated) will actually be visibly sharper than one that was scanned at 600x600 and enlarged four times in each direction.

Top Resolution vs. Interpolation Flatbed Factors Purchase Plans

Flatbed Factors

Product: ES-1000C
Company: Epson America 800-463-7766, 310-782-0770
Price: $799 (street)
Optical Resolution: 400x800dpi
Color Depth: 30 bits
Warranty: 2 years

Product: ScanJet 4c
Company: Hewlett-Packard Co. 800-752-0900, 208-396-2551
Price: $1,179
Optical Resolution: 600x600dpi
Color Depth: 30 bits
Warranty: 1 year

Product: ScanMaker E3
Company: Microtek Labs 800-654-4160, 310-297-5000
Price: $399 (street)
Optical Resolution: 300x600dpi
Color Depth: 24 bits
Warranty: 1 year

Product: Vista-S12
Company: Umax Technologies 800-562-0311, 510-651-4000
Price: $895
Optical Resolution: 600x1200dpi
Color Depth: 33 bits
Warranty: 1 year

Top Resolution vs. Interpolation Flatbed Factors Purchase Plans

Purchase Plans

Make copies of this checklist and fill it out
for each scanner that you are considering.

Product Name ____________

Manufacturer ____________

Price ____________

Scanning Bed Dimensions ____________

Color Depth ____________

Windows 95 Miniport/Twain32 Drivers Available ___ Yes ___ No

Optical Resolution ____________

Top Interpolated Resolution ____________

Software Included ____________

Third-Party SCSI Cards Supported ___________

Warranty ___________

Transparency Adapter Price ___________

Automated Document Feeder Price ___________

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