GPSolo Magazine - December 2003
You’ve decided you need a scanner in your office. As with any piece of hardware, knowing what you want it to do and how you plan to use it will help you make the best possible decision about which model to buy. But first, as with most technology, scanners have a language all their own, and you should be conversant with at least the basic terminology.
- Color depth. This somewhat misleading phrase refers to the number of possible colors. Manufacturers generally advertise the internal or input color depth, typically 48 bits, rather than the output color depth, which is what you’ll actually see and is limited by the 24-bit maximum most applications (apps) can handle. Adobe Photoshop is among the apps that can handle up to 48 bits of image data. As internal color-depth numbers rise, generally so does the quality of the image, but the real test of an inexpensive scanner is how well it converts the scan to 24-bit output. This can be determined only by viewing the results.
- Scan element type. The technology used to capture an image can make a difference in the quality of the result. Most ordinary flatbed scanners use a CCD (charged coupled device) scanning element, but some compact scanners use the smaller CIS (contact image sensor). Scanners using a CCD typically produce better results.
- Optical resolution. Optical resolution refers to the maximum number of dots per inch (dpi) a scanner can capture with the imaging hardware. With commodity flatbed scanners, the optical resolution typically ranges between 600 x 600 dpi and 1200 x 2400 dpi. A lower optical resolution, for example 300 x 300 dpi, generally works, even for scanning and printing photographic images the same size as the original. If you want to scan small originals—photographic slides, for example—and enlarge them, however, look for the highest possible resolution you can afford. Scanners with optical resolution greater than 1200 x 2400 dpi are generally professional grade and are expensive.
- Interpolated resolution. Interpolated resolution results from software processing of the scanned image that fills in spaces between scanned dots with other, artificially generated dots. Interpolated resolution is important only if you plan to scan line art and enlarge it dramatically—to produce trial graphics, for example—or send it to a phototypesetter, because interpolation in some cases will eliminate jagged fine lines. Commodity flatbed scanners usually offer interpolated resolutions of 9600 x 9600 dpi, and some claim as much as 19200 x 19200 dpi.
- Maximum supported media size (maximum scan area). Low-cost flatbed scanners, now commodity items, scan media up to 8.5 x 11 inches (letter-sized) or 8.27 x 11.69 inches (A4-sized). Few inexpensive scanners can handle 8.5- x 14-inch (legal-sized) media. Photo scanners generally max out at 5 x 7 inches, but ordinary flatbeds can produce scans of equal quality to use-specific photo scanners. Film scanners, designed for slides or negatives only, generally do better than flatbeds with slide adapters. Scanners capable of handling large media, such as 11- x 17-inch paper, are substantially more expensive.
- Flatbed scanners. These function much like copiers, with a glass platen over a scanning element or a lens. Some are equipped with an automatic document feeder (ADF) or offer this as an add-on. If you plan to scan books or other bound volumes, photographs, film, or slides, you will need a flatbed scanner.
- Sheetfed scanners. These have no platen and work like a fax machine to scan the original images on a page. Many also have the capability of scanning both sides at once (duplex). They can be significantly more expensive than flatbed scanners but are useful for high-volume scanning (e.g., document productions).
- Duty cycle. This refers to the number of scans per month the unit is designed to handle. Because this number can affect the frequency of machine failure, be sure your choice matches your anticipated scanning volume. (As a practical matter, if you expect a high duty cycle, you’ll do best with at least a flatbed with an ADF, or a high-capacity sheetfed scanner.)
- Compatibility. Not all machines work with every operating system. Some units are compatible only with Windows-based computers or with recent versions of Windows. Others are compatible with a wide selection of operating systems, including Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Unix.
- Warranty, service, and support. Most major scanner manufacturers offer a one-year warranty on parts and labor. In addition to thorough printed and electronic instruction manuals, the manufacturer should offer technical support via telephone, e-mail, or a website. Toll-free numbers and 24/7 telephone support are less common.
How Will You Use It?
- What will you be scanning (single sheets, photographs, film or slides, books or other bound materials, files, incoming and outgoing documents, etc.)?
- What is the size rage (business cards, standard letter, A4, legal)?
- Will you scan two-sided materials? You may want a scanner with built-in duplexing.
- Will you need to enlarge the scanned images or portions of them? A high-resolution scanner will give the best results.
- Will you want color output (a step up from black-and-white models)?
- Will your daily output require an automatic feeder?
- What will your monthly output be? Check it against the machine’s duty cycle.
- l Do you want scanned text to be searchable? Optional optical character recognition software can be added to do this automatically for final PDF or word-processing documents.
- Do you want scanned material available to all office workstations? If so, consider getting a scanner that will connect directly to your network, instead of running your scans through a dedicated workstation.
- Will you want scanned materials transferred directly to CD-ROM? Some models, such as the Canon CD-4050, offer this feature.
- Will you want the scanner to directly fax or e-mail scanned materials?
- What connective capabilities will you need to interface with workstations? Some scanners use SCSI interface, others use USB. (See the sidebar “Making the Connection” on page 43.)
Making the Connection
There are basically two options for connecting the scanner to the computer: Universal Serial Bus (USB) and Small Computer System Interface (SCSI). Both USB and SCSI come in varying standards that transmit data at different rates. USB 1.1 moves data at the rate of 10 MB per second, whereas the newer USB 2.0 transfers data at the theoretical rate of 480 MB per second. SCSI, an older technology, has more standards and rates; the original SCSI-1 standard moved data at the rate of 5MB per second, whereas the current Ultra160 SCSI moves data at the rate of 160MB per second. Some scanners can be connected directly to a LAN by way of a built-in network interface card (NIC). Here the choices are standard Ethernet with a capacity of 10 MB per second, fast Ethernet rated at 100 MB per second, and dual-capability 10/100 MB per second NICs.
Scanners come with as few or as many bells and whistles as imaginable, and they are priced accordingly. Higher prices generally mean increased functionality and productivity, but these must be balanced against your real-world requirements.
Flatbed scanners cover a huge range, from single-sheet standard-letter models to 200-sheet ADF-fed legal-size duplexing workhorses. At the low end of the price spectrum is the 48-bit Epson Perfection 1260 color scanner for PCs or Macs ($89, www.epson.com), featuring 1200 optical dpi (1200 x 2400 hardware dpi) and optional slide adapter but no ADF. The Canon CanoScan 5000F CCD and Canon CanoScan LiDE 80 CIS 2400 optical dpi (2400 x 4800 hardware dpi), also for PCs or Macs, color scan and are $169.99 and $179.99, respectively (www.canon.com).
The HP ScanJet 7400c ($499 “street” [online or brick-and-mortar] or $319 to $469 direct from HP, www.hp.com) 48-bit color scanner can scan photos, text, and graphics at 600 optical dpi, and at 2400 optical dpi for high-resolution materials such as slides, negatives, and other images requiring enlargement. It also handles legal-sized documents and photographic media from 35mm film to 5- x 5- inch prints. HP Precisionscan LAN software (included) lets you connect to your network via USB (included) or SCSI (optional). It features an optional 50-page ADF ($250) that enables 15 ppm scanning. This model includes preset buttons for setting number of copies according to output type: e-mail photo, e-mail document, fax, copy, file, and OCR.
Farther up the scale are devices such as the Fujitsu Fi-4340C 600 optical dpi 24-bit color flatbed CCD scanner with a 100-sheet ADF capable of handling 100 sheets of legal paper at up to 48 ppm. Using a Fast SCSI interface, this Windows-only scanner (street $2,976-$4,071, www.fujitsu.com) has a duty cycle of 3,000. The fancier Fujitsu Fi-4750C also offers duplex scanning.
The Canon DR-4580U (street $5,024-$5,772) 400 optical dpi color scanner offers one-pass duplexing with a CCD element for the “front” and a CIS scanning element for the “back” of each sheet. Working from a 200-sheet ADF, the DR-4580U can scan up to 56 ppm in simplex and 92 sides per minute in duplex mode. Scanning resolution is adjustable from 100 to 600 dpi in one-dpi steps. The platen will accept ledger-size (11- x 17-inch) documents.
Corex Cardscan Executive
If you accumulate a substantial number of business cards, as I do, a nifty solution for getting the information into your personal information manager (PIM) without having to re-key it is the Corex CardScan 500 Executive (www.cardscan.com). This paperback-sized device scans cards, automatically identifies the information on them, enters it into the correct fields, and even generates a database you can export to your favorite PIM (such as Microsoft Outlook). It’s available online for under $150, including associated software. The more advanced CardScan 600 ($249) scans color and monochrome cards and connects via the included USB cable.
Sheetfed scanners also offer a broad selection of capabilities, starting with the lightweight small-footprint Canon DR-2080C 600 optical dpi 24-bit color duplex scanner. This reasonably priced device (street $690-$790) will image up to 20 sheets per minute in duplex mode (i.e., up to 40 ppm) from a 50-sheet ADF with on-the-fly OCR-to-PDF conversion to generate searchable PDF files. This Windows-only scanner offers both USB 2.0 and SCSI-II interface.
Stepping up from here, the Canon DR-3060C 300 dpi color scanner has a 100-sheet ADF and images up to 43 sheets per minute in duplex mode (street $2,897-$3,295); and the Canon DR-5020 400 dpi model features a 500-sheet ADF imaging up to 90 sheets per minute at 200 dpi in duplex mode (street $4,416-$5,099).
If you’re going to be doing a lot of high-speed, high-volume scanning, the Panasonic KV-SS855D 400 optical dpi dual-CCD monochrome scanner with a 1,000-sheet ADF is for you (www.panasonic.com). This versatile unit accepts paper from business cards to ledger sheets. It will scan over 180 images per minute at 200 dpi in landscape duplex mode, and up to 160 images (80 sheets) per minute in portrait duplex mode. Speed and capacity at this level, however, come at a price—$13,600.
Multifunction devices are now available to the consumer market owing to the rise of digital copying. The devices incorporate a printer, copier, scanner, and fax machine into desktop or stand-alone models. Consider a laser printer rather than inkjet, because the printed images are more durable.
Xerox (www.xerox.com) offers the small-footprint (21 x 17 inches) WorkCentre M15i ($1,299) with 30-sheet ADF that prints at 1200 x 1200 dpi at up to 16 ppm (letter), copies at 600 x 600 dpi at the same speed, scans at up to 4800 dpi interpolated, and faxes monochrome and color over the built-in 33.6 bps fax modem at 300 x 300 dpi at 3 seconds/page. The M15i connects via either parallel (IEEE 1284) or USB cables or an optional external Ethernet print server.
Another small-footprint desktop device (22.4 x 24 inches) is the oddly shaped Lexmark X632 MFP ($3,749, www.lexmark.com). Ethernet 10/100 Base TX-ready, with both a bi-directional parallel port and a USB port, it has a 50-sheet up-to-legal-size ADF, prints at 1200 x 1200 dpi, copies (monochrome) up to 40 ppm, and scans up to 23 ppm monochrome and 14 ppm color at 600 dpi, with a duplex capability. It is equipped with a 33.6 Kbps fax modem. It comes with 64 MB of RAM, a 500-sheet paper tray, and a 100-sheet multipurpose feeder—and can be upgraded to 320 MB of RAM, paper drawers as large as 2,000 sheets, a 500-sheet duplexing tray, and an envelope feeder. It works with Windows and Macintosh operating systems and carries standard duty cycles of 200,000 pages per month for the copier/printer and 10,000 pages per month for the scanner. The X632 will work with Citrix MetaFrame terminal services; certain Unix, Linux, and Novell operating systems; and virtually any platform supporting TCP/IP. It even offers an optional 802.11b external wireless network port.
Xerox (www.xerox.com) offers a number of advanced multifunction systems for those of us wedded to traditional standalone copiers. Both the Document Centre and WorkCentre Pro series offer 4,800-sheet capacity, special finishing options customary to Xerox copiers, and a 350,000-ppm duty cycle. The Document Centre series starts with the Model 535 at $8,799 and 35 ppm capacity and includes units running as much as 55 ppm. All Document Centre units copy, print, network fax, i-Fax, e-mail, and network scan. The WorkCentre Pro series operate at the same page outputs or run as high as 90 ppm; all units copy, print, fax, i-Fax, network scan with e-mail, and offer fax server and accounting server integration. Xerox participates in the ABA Member Advantage program and offers special pricing options and discounts to members.
With courts moving steadily toward e-filing and even e-service, and with communication moving to e-mail (with attached graphic files for correspondence, court papers, attachments, exhibits, and the like), scanners are becoming more and more essential to the well-equipped law office. Choose wisely for your particular situation, and you can be on the way to a paper-less, if not paperless, practice.
J. Anthony Vittal is a business trial lawyer in Los Angeles, California. He speaks and writes frequently on legal technology topics. He can be reached at email@example.com.