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In order to prolong the memories of my recent magnificent travelling adventure and to share some of my experiences with friends and family, I returned home determined to construct a website describing my time away. Obviously to give a real reflection of my time away the site would have to be plastered with my photographs, but having returned with a remarkable number of films, 17 to be precise, I was faced with the prospect of shelling out an extra £85 on top of processing costs to get my photos put onto C.D’s. This seemed an extortionate amount of money so I decided to investigate how much good quality scanners would set me back.
The number of scanners on the market makes it quite a daunting prospect, especially for the less technical minded as USB, Dpi and msec/line are just a few of the terms bandied around by manufacturers. In addition the price ranges from an almost laughably cheap £30 to £20,000 plus for the professional print quality gear that weighs in at a hefty. My needs, for both my planned travel website and my fledgling web design company, required an inexpensive scanner that would give me excellent picture quality for use on the web. Using my time-honoured method of deferring judgement to a more knowledgeable source I visited www.computerbuyer.co.uk to see what they recommended.
The Top 50 Scanner of choice was none other than CanoScan N670U and a quick glance at the specifications told me it would be more than suitable for my needs. Further leg-work enabled me to find my desired choice at the impressive price of £68.14 plus postage and packing at www.dabs.com, minutes later I was informed that I would receive my scanner within three days.
What’s in the box?
Within the advised time period a parcel arrived and I adopted Brad Pitt’s inquisitive line and wondered what my box of goodies would produce. The answer was: -
1. The scanner 2. A USB Cable 3. Two Installation C.D.’s (Different language versions) 4. A Tacky plastic stand 5. A Velcro pad 6. Installation instructions 7. A Guarantee Certificate 8. Other Nefarious Documentation with no real purpose
The scanner itself produced only one response a most definite – “…cool”. Long gone are the days when scanners shared the dimensions and weight of an average pub pool table, this little beauty weighs in at an impressive 1.5kg and has the slim line dimensions of 256 x 383 x 34mm. Not content with being such a convenient size, Canon has also added a graphic designer or two to their team, as it looks impressive too. The bottom half is grey in colour and is complemented by a stylish blue lid that gives it a modern trendy look.
Ease of Installation
The beauty of USB is evident in the installation. In the past installing scanners involved connecting them up to one of the ports in the back of your computer and then trying to sort out where the plug would go in the myriad of cables, extension leads and multi-plug adapters, with the almost certainly result that one or more expensive pieces of equipment would come crashing to the floor when the wrong wire was inadvertently pulled. USB is simply though, one end in the scanner, the other in the USB port on the main box (or keyboard, monitor etc where they often appear). The one cable links the equipment and supplies power avoiding the necessity for that troublesome extra power lead.
Once connected switching on the computer will lead to the automatic hardware detection that Windows performed. Rather than bore you with every step of the installation I’ll just comment on the installation instructions supplied with the scanner. Obviously being a man I threw them dismissively aside without so much as a glance as machismo demands, having now looked at them they are surprisingly concise and comprehensive, so much so that they come in a remarkable 16 languages, and will enable any technologically challenged individual to install their scanner. Follow the procedure, which is essentially just popping the installation disc in your disc drive, and the scanner is ready to go.
The installation disc also contains the inevitable software bundle that is useful if you don’t have any similar programs but not the latest or greatest available. The following is included: -
1. ScanGear Toolbox – The simple interface that allows you to scan- but more on that later. 2. ArcSoft PhotoStudio 2000 – An image editing program based on the market leading Photoshop but with a significantly reduced number of features. 3. ArcSoft Photobase – An Photo Database that is effectively a digital photoalbum. 4. ScanSoft Omnipage Pro – A so-called OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Program. 5. Adobe Acrobat Reader – An electronic document reader that you’ve probably already got on your machine.
Not a mind-blowing package but useful enough especially if you don’t own Photoshop.
Ease of Use
On the whole the scanner is impressive, the ScanGear Toolbox is well laid out and intuitive, allowing you to alter a range of options, the media that you are to scan, the the quality (dpi) that you require, where you want to save the scan etc. Once the setup is selected simply clicking on the Scan button will then open the software that you wish to edit pictures in. After an uncomfortable, almost strained noise, the scanned image will appear on your screen, obviously the higher the image quality you requested the longer this will take.
At maximum quality of 1200dpi a page of A4 takes around 10 minutes, although generally a setting of 150-300dpi is more than sufficient to produce a good quality image of a suitable size and this takes less than a minute. To give some idea of what to expect, a computer monitor can only achieve 72dpi so setting the scanner to 50dpi the image will appear over twice the size of the original on your screen, hence above 300dpi is rarely necessary.
The two other options are to email or print the image directly, good if you’re in a hurry I guess, but otherwise more of a gimmick in my eyes as I’d prefer to look at the image first. I suppose it might have a more practical use in an office situation. As well as having these options on the software interface they also exist on the front of the scanner that might be useful for people who aren’t confident on computers.
Overall the ease of use is good and whilst the speed is not blistering it is comfortably quick enough for the home user. Where this scanner comes into its own is the quality of the scans, which are much clearer, sharper, and faithful to the original colours than many more expensive scanners I’ve used. I’ll soon be putting up some pictures in my profile that will hopefully demonstrate the quality.
Just a couple of other things I should mention. The scanner come with a little stand devise that allows it stand vertically if desk space is a premium, it can also be used whilst vertical. It is also equipped with a little gimmicky “Z-lid” that is designed to put less pressure on the spines of books that you may wish to scan. An interesting idea that is more impressive theoretically than practically.
For an inexpensive scanner the CanoScan N670U is a highly impressive piece of kit, purely in terms of aesthetics it is superb and is a welcome addition to my desktop. Its performance is certainly impressive too; admittedly it makes an irritating noise when in operation and is not the quickest scanner on the market, but the most important aspect of operation is the end product and the scans produced are exceptional for the price. Easy to install and use, excellent scans and only £68.14, definitely advised.
The Technical Bit
Scanner Type Flatbed Scanning Element CIS (Contact Image Sensor) Light Source 3-Colour (RGB) LED Optical Resolution 600 x 1200 dpi Selectable Resolution 25 – 9600 dpi (ScanGear SC-U) Scanning Depth Colour: 16 bit input / 8 bit output for each colour (RGB) Grayscale: 16 bit input / 8 bit output Scanning Speed Colour: 16 msec/line (600dpi) Grayscale: 5.3 msec/line (600dpi) B&W: 5.3 msec/line (600dpi) Preview Speed 15 sec (approx) Interface USB 1.1 Maximum Document Size A4 / Letter: 216 x 297mm (8.5 x 11.7 in.) Scanner Buttons 3 Buttons: SCAN, COPY, E-MAIL Operating Range Temperature: 5° to 35°c (41° to 95° F) Humidity: 10 to 90% RH(without condensation formation) Power Requirements Supplied via USB Port Power Consumption In operation: 2.5 watts maximum Stand-by: 1.25 watts Maximum Exterior Dimensions 256 x 383 x 34mm (10.1 x 15.1 x 1.3 in.) Weight Approximately 1.5 kg (3.3lbs)