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November 1996 Reviews TOC

11/96 Reviews HW:HEAD TO HEAD: Scanners

A Pair of Plum Scanners

By Serdar Yegulalp

Everyone demands something different from a scanner: artists and graphic designers want true-to-life color and image detail, while the office paper-wrangler needs speed for conquering mountains of documents, accuracy for OCR and high-quality reproduction for impact. Two new scanners at different ends of the cost spectrum, the flatbed ImageReader FB fromInfo Peripherals and the full-duplex Panasonic KV-SS25, will satisfy both user types.

A new player in the flatbed scanner market, Info Peripherals has introduced the ImageReader FB, a solid first entry and harbinger of good things to come. This 30-bit-color, single-pass scanner has an 8.5-by-14-inch scanning bed and 32-bit Windows 95 (but no Windows NT) drivers.

If quantity and speed, instead of color, are the criteria for your work, consider the Panasonic KVSS-25. It's designed to scale mountains of single- or double-sided pages, either in dithered black-and-white or 256-level gray-scale modes, at preset resolutions up to 300dpi. Its unique upright design also means it occupies a relatively small amount of desktop acreage. Speed comes at a premium price, however: The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $4,599, compared to $399 for the ImageReader.

Setting up the ImageReader is simplicity itself-plug it into any standard 50- or 25-pin SCSI connector, and the TWAIN driver installs in seconds. A jumperless 16-bit ISA SCSI card is in the box for those without SCSI. A second connector in the back lets you attach an optional transparency adapter. The hinged document cover is easily removed to accommodate larger material. The documentation, although a little thin on detail, is easy to follow.

I fired up the TWAIN driver within Adobe Photoshop and was greeted with a well-organized window of controls. All the common scanner settings were there: color curves, color balances, hue and saturation controls, input and output levels, and automatic and manual gamma adjustments. The automatic gamma control uses a selected area of the prescanned image to gamma correct the final image.

ImageReader comes with Ulead's ImagePals 2 GO, a rudimentary but useful image editing program, and InfoCenter, a quick launchpad-style program for scanning and limited image editing. You can configure InfoCenter to launch other programs as well.

Prescans are fast, but full scans at 100 dots per inch or above took much longer than those at lower resolutions. It took 49 seconds to scan a full 8.5-by-14-inch page at 75dpi. Because the drivers are fully 32 bit, you can use other applications while the scanner is working.

To test the ImageReader, I scanned a Ronchi test pattern at 600dpi, resulting in a reasonably good 0.34 (out of a possible 0.5) as the scanner's optical frequency response index.

The KV-SS25 couldn't be tested in this fashion because the TWAIN driver only permits predefined scanning resolutions at 150dpi, 200dpi, 240dpi or 300dpi. At test time, only 16-bit drivers were available for the KV-SS25, but they were stable and reliable. The TWAIN interface resembles the interface for a printer driver-there are controls for page size, resolution, brightness, contrast and image type (dithered black and white or gray scale), but no preview window. It also has an ISIS interface.

When scanning, the KV-SS25 acts more like a photocopier than a scanner. Drop a document (or up to 80 sheets at once) into the hopper and click Scan. The KV-SS25 inhales a maximum of 20 pages a minute, each page or page side delivered to the computer as a separate image. Unfortunately, no OCR software was bundled with the unit I looked at.

Documents scanned by the KV-SS25 were consistently sharp and readable, especially at 300dpi. Even low-contrast documents, such as items with faded print or on yellowed paper, came out satisfactorily.

While setup for the KV-SS25 was not as quick as for the ImageReader, it was straightforward. The most complicated processes involved attaching the provided document trays and setting the DIP switches near the SCSI connector for the correct termination and device ID.

These two scanners fulfill different needs. If masses of business documents make up your digitizing chores-and you can afford the price tag-pick the Panasonic. The ImageReader FB's solid performance for its price class makes it a good way to get images into the home or office PC, and it serves well for OCR if you don't mind feeding your documents one page at a time.

-- Info File --
Panasonic KV-SS25
Pros: Fast (20ppm); easy to use
Cons: 16-bit drivers; no OCR software
Platforms: 3x, 95
Panasonic Computer
Peripheral Co.
800-742-8086, 201-348-7000
WinMag Box Score 4.0

Info Peripherals ImageReader FB
Pros: 30-bit color; 32-bit drivers
Cons: Slow; no descreening functions; no NT support
Platforms: 3x, 95
Info Peripherals
800-775-7576, 408-538-2500
WinMag Box Score 3.0

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