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How To Buy
How To Buy A ...Flatbed Scanner

Optical Resolution

Consider not only the resolution of your scanner, but also the resolution of your output destination (printer, Web page or monitor). An inexpensive entry-level scanner offers 300x600 dots per inch (horizontal resolution by vertical resolution), a midrange unit provides 600x1200dpi, and a professional-level scanner is rated for 1200x2400dpi. If you plan to print the image with a color printer, you'll need a higher resolution than you would just for viewing the image on your monitor.

Bit Depth

A low-end scanner provides 24-bit color, a midrange unit supports 30 bits and the most sophisticated equipment gives you 36 bits. A 24-bit scanner allocates 8 bits of data for each pixel in each color channel (red, green and blue). Higher bit color depths result in better shadows and finer detail.


A scanner may have either a parallel or a SCSI interface. Parallel is generally slower, but offers easy hookup to any computer. SCSI scanners require a SCSI interface card (which might not come with the scanner)


A scanner bundle should include an OCR package and an image-editing program. Entry-level scanners may come with an easy-to-use image editor, such as Ulead's PhotoImpact, while high-end scanners will usually add a copy of Adobe Photoshop. Ask whether the included programs are full working versions or limited versions that you can upgrade for a few extra dollars.


Scanners can cost as little as $199 or as much as $3,000 or more, depending on resolution, bit depth and bundled software.

Falling prices and a growing demand for digitized graphics spurred growth in the scanner market and made flatbed scanners a more mainstream peripheral choice. Scanning is essential for creating Web pages, for graphics-intensive business presentations and for OCR conversion of paper-based text. The consumer market includes entry-level, midrange and high-end scanners. Each offers a different combination of resolution, bit depth and price.

Although flatbed scanners take up more desktop space than page-feed scanners, flatbeds offer more flexibility. For instance, with flatbeds you can scan 3D objects or pages bound into books and magazines. You can expect a one- to two-year warranty. Ask about toll-free service and support lines.

Windows Magazine, August 1997, page 243.

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