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-- by Serdar Yegulalp
Everything has its price. And if you don't mind shelling out $899 for a scanner, the Epson Expression 636 will deliver high speed and even higher quality.
It offers 600-dot-per-inch optical resolution and 12 bits per channel; with a bidirectional parallel port and SCSI-2 interfaces, you'll get 36 bits per channel. Epson provides a 16-bit SCSI card; the software program automatically detects and configures it or an existing SCSI controller. Both 16-bit and 32-bit TWAIN interfaces are included. Textbridge Pro, Adobe Photoshop 3.0.5 LE and NewSoft's Presto PageManager LE come bundled with the scanner.
The Expression 636 has an automatic scan exposure control, which allows optimal-quality scans from a page preview. You can also create, save and recall scanning profiles with scan size and type, and perform any post-processing that needs to be done. Though the TWAIN interface is useful, it's missing expert touches, such as the ability to specify a custom scan resolution or extensively reconfigure the almost-hidden descreening function.
The scanner's document lid can easily be popped free when you want to install the transparency unit or scan oversized documents. With the SCSI-2 interface, a full-page preview took under 5 seconds, and a full-page scan at 300dpi (of a 24MB image) was completed in just 45 seconds-much faster than other scanners in the same resolution and output range.
To test the scanner's accuracy, we used a Ronchi photo test target, with a resulting average transfer-accuracy score of 0.385 out of a possible 0.5, above average in this class. Scans of Pantone swatches and a color photo test target turned out well, with good variations and strong reproduction of difficult spot colors, such as fluorescents.
Although speed and clarity are this scanner's high points, its $899 price tag keeps it from toppling the Agfa SnapScan-which has similar features but costs less-off our WinList.