Buying Guide for
a scanner used to be a fairly simple undertaking. There weren't many models
to choose from, and prices were consistently expensive. Today, scanners are
much more accessible to the average computer user, and the variety has greatly
increased. Bottom line: You don't need to be a graphics professional to benefit
from a scanner, and you don't need to be a technology wizard to use one. Think
about all the various uses for a scanner, from collecting business contacts
to reproducing and retouching old photosand then find a model that best suits
your personal projects and/or business requirements.
are the different types of scanners?
are five different types of scanners: flatbed, sheetfed, photo,
film, and handheld. The five kinds differ greatly, so choosing
the type you need is simply a matter of asking yourself a few questions about
how you will primarily use the scanner. Will you usually be scanning text
documents? Will you need to scan odd-sized pages? Do you only need it for
scanning pictures of the kids to your mother-in-law? Start with these questions,
and look at they types below.
The most popular type of scanner, because it comes in a wide range of prices
for an equally wide range of uses. Generally, flatbed scanners are best for
scanning regular-sized documents or photos. The only possible downside to the
versatile flatbed is size: if you are very limited when it comes to desk space,
or if you will need to scan legal-size documents or newspaper clippings (flat
bed scanners don't always have legal or tabloid settings), a sheetfed scanner
may be a better choice.
A generally inexpensive scanner, but as the prices drop on the faster flatbed
scanners, so does the demand for sheetfed models. Sheetfeds are unique in their
compact size and ability to accommodate larger, more irregular-sized documents,
such as legal papers and newspaper clippings. If you aren't concerned with
speed or volume, but your priority is scanning basic text documents that won't
fit the confines of a flatbed, this may be the scanner for you.
For those consumers strictly scanning photographs, a photo scanner may be a
good option. Also, if you aren't sure about making the leap from your old
35-mm to a digital camera, photo scanners allow you to stick with your old favorite
and still take advantage of high technology. Photo scanners tend to be very
compact in size, which is good for those with limited desk space; however, the
size of the scanner also limits the size of photographs you are able to scan.
(Most photo scanners limit size to 5"x7" photos.)
If you are obsessed with having crisp photographic quality, a film scanner may
be what you're looking for. Most film scanners rival digital cameras not only
in price (film scanners are less expensive overall) but also in image quality
(higher resolution). Because film scanners scan the negative itself rather
than the photo, they can scan at outrageously high resolutions, making images
cleaner and sharper. The main downside ? you can only scan film or slides,
not paper or photos. If you will need to scan more than just film, you may
want to consider a flatbed scanner with a transparency attachment that supports
35-mm film and slides. (It may be a more economical choice as well.)
As the name implies, handheld scanners are best if you're constantly on the
go. While portability is a plus, the downside to most handheld scanners is
that they can only scan a few lines at a time, and only in grayscale. Some
higher-end handheld scanners include special software that enables the user
to straighten out and connect the scanned lines of the document, but for some
consumers, this may seem like more of a hassle than a convenience. Akin to
the handheld is the business card scanner.
features should I be looking for in a scanner?
you've already narrowed down your search on what type of scanner to buy ? or
even if you haven't ? consider these features:
The number of sensors across the scanning head. The more sensors, the more bits
of detail the scanner can read. It's possibly the one feature that most consumers
associate with quality when purchasing a scanner. A lower dpi doesn't necessarily
mean bad qualitypictures that appear on some high-end professional web sites
are scanned in at a mere 150 dpi. So you may ask, if 150-dpi works for the
professionals, why would you need a 600-dpi scanner? The main reason is that
you'll be less likely to have to deal with image degradation if you go with
a higher dpi. Bottom line: if you can get a higher-resolution scanner for a
few bucks more, go for it. It's better to have more than you need if it will
save you money and time down the road. (Note: If a scanner boasts a
high interpolated resolution, such as 9,600 x 9,600, watch out. That is a signal
that the scanner uses its software to fill detail in images, and that can adversely
affect the image's integrity.)
Depth: Color depth is measured in bits. The higher the number of bits,
the more detail the scanner can recognize between colors. However, it isn't
necessarily true that you'll get better quality images with a higher-bit scanner.
However, if you're a graphics professional or if you're into scanning slides
or negatives, be sure to look for 30-bit or more. Color depth can range up to
42-bit and beyond, but keep in mind that most eyes cannot distinguish between,
for instance, 30-bit and 36-bit scanned images. New scanners being introduced
are up to 48-bit.
Levels: If you plan on scanning black-and-white images, such as photographs
or sketches that contain a wide range of gray shades, you should make a point
of looking at the scanner's gray levels. Similar to color depth, gray levels
indicate how your black-and-white image would be interpreted by the scanner.
The standard is 256 gray levels, but if black-and-white image scanning is a
priority, you may want to shoot higher. Some scanners can now boast up to 4,000
levels of gray.
Types: Not that long ago, the choice was simple when it came to sensor
types in scanners, since there was only one type: CCD (Charge-Coupled Device).
Recent advances in technology have yielded a second type, called CIS (Contact
Image Sensor). Which one is better? Well, the old favorite, CCD, has enjoyed
a reputation of quality over the years. The only downside to CCD applies if
you were particularly concerned with saving space. CCD scanners tend to be
bulkier and require more power. The new CIS scanners tend to be smaller and
more lightweight, but the technology is still fairly new, and the scanning quality
isn't as great as CCD ? yet. In the near future, CIS may become the contender.
Area: The size of scanning area you'll need depends wholly on the size
of the documents you'll need to scan. Many affordable flatbeds max at 8.5"x11.7",
so if you need to scan legal-size papers, you're out of luck. If longer documents
are what you'll be handling, sheetfeds work better ? but keep in mind that the
width of the feeder limits the width of the paper you'll be able to scan.
Handling: Will you need to scan more than one page at a time? If you
are in the practice of scanning multiple-page documents, paper handling is a
feature you'll need to consider. Many sheetfeds can scan several pages at a
time, but if you need to do high-volume scanning, you may want to look at flatbed
scanners with an automatic document feeder (ADF), an optional attachment that
can range from 10-page to 100-page capability. Note, however, that the price
can range accordingly.
If you are concerned about scanning speed, the specifications on the product
description of the scanner may lead you astray. This is not to say that the
description lies, but you should realize that speed can vary depending on the
document you are scanning. Overall speed performance is also affected by the
interface your scanner uses.
The interface is how your scanner is connected to your computer. The most common
is a parallel port connection. This setup often allows your printer to be simultaneously
connected, and while it isn't necessarily the fastest, it is the most convenient
and widely used interface. A faster option for most newer computers is USB
(Universal Serial Bus), while the fastest interface is what most professionals
use: the SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), also referred to as "scuzzy".
Scanners using the SCSI interface usually come with their own controller card,
which makes it easier if you don't have a computer with a built-in SCSI interface.
Software: Many scanners come packaged with software to allow you to
get the most out of your scanner. Sheetfed scanners are generally marketed
towards businesses or home offices, and often come with fax and copying utilities,
as well as OCR software (OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, which
enables the user to convert scanned images into text documents). Photo editing
software is often included with flatbeds and some sheetfeds. An exceptional
software package can greatly enhance your scanning experience.
Software: Having the right driver software can make scanning a breeze.
There's a standard among drivers called TWAIN that smoothly bridges any gap
between your scanner and the scanner-ready application you are using. Be sure
to look for a driver that is flexible and easy to use. A nice plus offered
by some drivers is a preview window, which shows you a view of the scanning
area and enables you to specify the part of the area to be scanned. This feature
allows you to save time by automatically adjusting the scan size to fit the
image being scanned, thereby eliminating any extra white space surrounding the
image. Some drivers also present options to adjust the settings for brightness,
contrast, color levels, color depth, and resolution. Look for a driver that
gives you more control.
do I need to be able to hook up my scanner?
scanners include the cables needed to connect to the computer. Be sure to check
the product description to see if the cables are included. If cables don't
come pre-packaged, then you should check the specs to see what type of interface
works best for the scanner (i.e. parallel, USB or SCSI). If you are still
unsure about what you will need, contact Frys.com customer service and a
representative can help you determine what would be best for your system.
that I know what different types of scanners there are and what features to
look for, I have an idea of what I want -- but I'm still undecided. What can
you still need a little help deciding which scanner is the one for you, Frys.com customer service is very knowledgeable on the products offered on the web site.
Taking a few minutes to let one of our representatives know what you're looking
for can save you hours of research.