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-- by Serdar Yegulalp
Sheetfed scanners are becoming more like their flatbed siblings. Color, 300-dot-per-inch minimum optical resolution, and powerful page-management software are all now more or less standard. We looked at two scanners that offer these benefits.
To test image quality, we scanned a Ronchi photographic test target and performed a histographic analysis on the scanned images in Adobe Photoshop 4.0. The results range from 0.0 to 1.0, with higher numbers meaning more accurate image transfers (see chart)
HP ScanJet 5s
We had the HP ScanJet 5s up and running quickly, thanks to its well-illustrated documentation. This unit measures 4.73 by 12.44 by 4.49 inches, weighs 3.58 pounds and provides a parallel port pass-through connection. Using its curved paper feed path, you can scan documents one at a time or load up to 10 pages in the provided document feeder attachment. It supports paper sizes up to 8.5 by 30 inches.
Unlike the simplistic drivers for HP's flatbed scanners, the ScanJet 5s TWAIN driver is intelligently designed, allowing you to control many scanning parameters such as resolution and gamma correction. You can also create and save your own custom scanning configurations. The ScanJet driver set loads memory-resident programs to ensure that scanner drivers pop up instantly when a page is inserted.
The HP was the faster of the two scanners we tested. A full-page (8.5 by 11) color scan at 300dpi took 70 seconds, with 45 seconds for warm-up time. The unit also scored the better result (0.72) on the transfer test.
The ScanJet 5s comes with Caere OCR and Visioneer PaperPort software, as well as NT 4.0 drivers.
Microtek Color PageWiz
The Microtek Color PageWiz measures 5 by 10.25 by 4.75 inches and weighs 3.3 pounds. Like the ScanJet, it also has a curved paper path. The unit supports document sizes ranging from business cards to 8.5 by 14 inches. The provided documentation is immensely easy to follow and offers useful details on configuring the advanced Windows 95 drivers.
Microtek made the Color PageWiz a SCSI scanner and provided a driver that allows the parallel port to serve as a SCSI controller-and still function as a normal parallel port.
The TWAIN interface has presets for black-and-white photos and color clip art, and lets you add, modify and save customized settings. Although the Microtek scanner lacks a descreening function for cleaning up photo-offset material, it has many other standard controls, including contrast/ brightness, sharpening and color correction-helpful for improving dark or low-contrast images.
This scanner sacrifices speed for high image quality. A full-page color scan at 300dpi took 2 minutes, 30 seconds, but it was worth the wait. No warm-up time was required because the unit uses a different illumination technology. Despite a slightly lower transfer score, (0.68 on the histographic analysis), the Microtek produced more attractive looking scans, due to its post-processing options.
Software bundled with the Color PageWiz includes Ulead iPhoto Express and iPhoto Plus (functionally similar to Adobe PhotoDeluxe), plus Xerox Pagis SE and TextBridge Classic OCR software.
Hewlett-Packard's ScanJet 5s was the fastest and easiest to use, while the Microtek Color PageWiz exhibited the best image quality.
Still, our current WinList product, the Logitech PageScan Color Pro, which features 400x800dpi resolution, a 10-page automatic feeder and a detachable base, outshines them.
The Microtek Color PageWiz uses either a SCSI port or a parallel port with a special driver.
The HP ScanJet 5s sheet feeder lets you supply up to 10 pages at a time.