Through a scanner quickly

Speeds, color accuracy are improving, though maybe not at the same time

Epson GT-2500

Visioneer Patriot 470

Kodak Scan Station 100

While the steady increase of workgroup printer speeds has no doubt shortened lines in the mailroom, the same cannot be said about document scanners. But that may be about to change. Recent innovations in design let most document scanners achieve unprecedented speeds ' perhaps eliminating another queue in the office.

The upsurge in document-scanner speeds is due to the implementation of a second reader head that lets the device scan both sides of a page at the same time. This eliminates the need for complicated mechanisms to turn the page around for a second scan or even to manually turn the stack of pages over for a second pass.

Of the seven scanners we tested, all but one had this configuration, which tells us that this is rapidly becoming a standard for document scanners.

Another development is one-touch buttons and preset scanner settings. With these in place, you don't have to be an expert on the right amount of dots per inch, color balance or contrast to use the scanner; you don't even have to know how to access a network printer. Just the touch of one button or clicking through a menu list will start the scan and send it to the predetermined destination.

All but one of our seven scanners had some sort of one-touch or preset scanning capability. This ability alone may be responsible for shortening lines at the scanner.

What we did

We gathered scanners from Epson America Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Eastman Kodak Co., Panasonic Corp., Visioneer Inc. and Xerox Corp. We were looking for desktop configurations, although that turned out to mean quite a difference in sizes.

We set each of the scanners up in turn, noting how easy or difficult each step was. Then we scanned a variety of documents, keeping an eye on color accuracy and image quality.

To determine the scanner's speed, we used two 30-page one-sided documents. One was filled completely with black-and-white text, which we scanned at 300 dpi. The second was a mixture of text and graphics, which can give many printers fits. We scanned the second one at 600 dpi. In each case we used scanner software that came with the scanner and downloaded the most current drivers.

Kodak Scan Station 100

Pros: Key drive port, built-in display screen

Cons: Image processing stage slows down scanning speeds

Price: $2,995

B/W scan speed B-

Color scan speed B+

Color/image quality B+

Ease of Use A

Features A

Value B

Kodak's Scan Station 100 is a self-contained document scanner that connects directly to the network without needing to connect to a computer. In the box there were no less than seven power cords for domestic and international use, as well as three USB key drives.

Yes, we said USB drives. The Scan Station 100 has a USB port so you can scan to a flash drive. This feature is unique among the scanners we tested. Oddly enough, a USB drive is actually required to be in the port in order to scan, whether you are saving to that drive or not. This is because the Scan Station reads a scan profile that is stored on the flash drive. This profile takes up a minimal amount of space on the drive and can be developed using the provided software, which can be installed on any computer.

We decided to find out what would happen if the USB drive were removed while the Scan Station was in the middle of a scan. We were pleased to note that the scan continued as normal, and because we had chosen to save it to a network location, it managed to save it there without a problem. Of course, if the scan is to be saved to the flash drive, it would have to stay connected.

This scanner was also unlike any other in this roundup because it had an RJ-45 Ethernet port instead of the USB 2.0 device port possessed by all of the other scanners we tested. This let us save a scan directly to a network drive instead of a folder on the local drive of the connected computer. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Not needing a dedicated PC means less necessary desk space and lower cost. However, it also means that selecting network locations as output options may require a bit more network knowledge.

Fortunately, the display screen on the Scan Station is large (about 4 by 5 inches) and it accepts touch input for everything. The preview the screen shows during scanning is very good considering the limitations of its size and resolution.
Other than the scan profile creation program, the Scan Station doesn't come with any other software. But because it doesn't need drivers to talk directly to a PC, and since the operation is all from the control panel, it doesn't really need anything else.

In our speed tests, the Kodak would have been at the head of the pack, but it insisted on going through an image processing step that we couldn't seem to get it to skip. For the text document it took 2 minutes, 33 seconds (12 ppm) to complete, but it would have been closer to 25 ppm if not for that additional step. The color document was the same way, taking 8 minutes, 15 seconds (4 ppm) to complete when without the additional step it would have been about nine ppm.

The color and image accuracy was very good, except that some of the blues came out a bit light. The detail in shadow was one of the best in this roundup, but light areas tended to wash out a little.

At $2,995 we found the Scan Station to be on the pricey side, but not totally unreasonable considering the money you could save by not needing to put a computer aside for it. This is a good choice if counter space is at a premium or if the office scanner is heavily used for a variety of reasons: staffers could each have their own flash drive.

Panasonic KV-2048C

Pros: Fast text scans

Cons: Flimsy design, bad image quality

Price: $3,795

B/W scan speed A

Color scan speed B+

Color/image quality C

Ease of use A-

Features B-

Value C+

The KV-2048C from Panasonic is one of the smallest and lightest scanners in the review. This is due to its unusual configuration.

Unlike most of the other pass-through-only scanners, the Panasonic has sensors that are positioned for a vertical pass-through, which means that the output tray is positioned below the input tray. In order to give the document room enough to scan, the alcove where the output tray resides is oddly cavernous, allowing for significant paper flyaway.

In order to minimize the KV-2048C's footprint, both the input and output trays have slide-out shelves. We found these shelves to be flimsily built.

While the installation of the scanner was simple, the Windows Device Manager popped up when we connected it to the computer, even after installing the drivers.
Loading documents was a unique chore as well. There is a tab that we had to use to lift the roller out of the way as we inserted the pages. Having a single-feed roller in the middle also meant that pages were always skewed to one side by the time they got to the sensors.

The KV-2048C was one of the fastest in the review in our text document scan test, finishing in 1 minute, 5 seconds (26 ppm). The color document scan time was one of the fastest as well'7 minutes, 18 seconds (4 ppm).

Unfortunately, for all its speed, the KV-2048C's image quality left something to be desired. While the text images were good and the reds were vibrant, any shadows were completely washed out, and in many places images came out pixelated.

The KV-2048C does not come with a lot of software. In fact, the only included software, other than demos and the drivers, was a scan program called RTIV. We found that it did the job just fine, and even liked the fact that the preview pane updates as a multipage document is scanned.

We were pleased to see that the scanner had a pre-imprinter unit installed. This let us print a small piece of text vertically in the upper right hand corner of every page just before it scans. This sort of thing could be invaluable to an office that scans many documents and needs to keep track of which ones have been scanned.

Even with the imprinter unit, we found the KV-2048C's price of $3,795 to be far higher than we felt it should be. This is too much to be paying for a low-volume scanner such as this.

This scanner would do all right in an environment that scans text only and where automatic tracking of scan jobs is necessary.

Panasonic KV-3065CL

Pros: Fastest scans in review, large ADF capacity

Cons: Color and image quality not great

Price: $5,995

B/W scan speed A+

Color scan speed A+

Color/image quality C+

Ease of use A-

Features B

Value B-

The KV-3065CL from Panasonic is the heaviest and largest among the non-flatbed scanners we tested. This is partially due to the large 300-sheet capacity ADF, which holds three times as much paper as the next-largest in the roundup.

Even though we followed the directions for installation carefully, the Windows Device Manager popped up when we first connected the KV-3065CL to the computer, even after installing the drivers. While this extra step did not involve a lot of effort, some users may get confused as to whether the scanner is completely installed.

In addition to the USB 2.0 port that most of the other scanners had, the KV-S3065CL also had an Ultra SCSI port. The area in the back of the scanner where the ports are located was actually a removable card. This card had one empty dual in-line memory module slot in case you want to add memory.

The only program other than demos and the drivers that came with the KV-3065CL was the RTIV scanning software. This program functioned just as well for basic scanning purposes as any other program we saw in the review.

We were pleased to find the capability for straight-through scanning, allowing for long banners or accordion-folded pages to be scanned, provided that they are no more than 11 inches wide. The documentation says that the length can be up to 183 feet, although we never needed to approach that limit in testing.

The KV-3065CL outstripped the other scanners in the review when it came to the speed tests. Its time for the black and white text document was 42 seconds (43 ppm), which was the fastest time.

Also, for the color document it finished in 1 minute, 52 seconds (16 ppm), which was the fastest by a considerable margin.

While its speed was superb, the scanner's image quality was not. We experienced washout in shadow and even a little in lighter areas. Images occasionally came out pixelated, even to the point where text was sometimes fuzzy. We found color accuracy to be pretty good, however, and line art was good.

The KV-S3065CL sells for $5,995, which is more than we would have liked, especially considering the image quality. However, it does have many extra features, which makes that price a bit less unreasonable.

Visioneer Patriot 470

Pros: Great color accuracy

Cons: Slow color scan speed

Price: $1,195

B/W scan speed B+

Color scan speed B-

Color/image quality A

Ease of use A

Features B+

Value B+

The Patriot 470 from Visioneer is one of the more portable scanners that we reviewed. While the 50-sheet capacity of its automatic document feeder input tray was less than we'd hoped, if it had been able to take more, its portability would have suffered.

The Patriot 470 comes with PaperPort and OmniPage Pro, as well as Kofax VirtualReScan. This collection should be sufficient to handle most scanning needs.

The Patriot also uses One Touch technology to make scanning easier. Setup was simple but we did find one unusual thing. At the beginning of the install, we were shown three versions of the same image of a flower, one darker, one lighter and one midway between. We were asked to 'Pick the image you like.' It was like something out of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The image we would have liked to have picked would have been the one closest to the original image, but we had no way of knowing what that was. So, we picked the middle one, hoping that our choice would not throw off our color tests.

Fortunately, the Patriot 470 produced some of the truest colors in the roundup. The medium and darker colors were spot on. Text scans were a bit fuzzy, but it was nothing a good OCR program couldn't handle. Text over images was rather legible and solid.

During operation we had to open up the cover and we noticed that the light does not go out. Scanner lights can be extremely bright, so this is a safety issue.
The Patriot scanned our 30-page text document in 1 minute, 22 seconds (22 ppm), which put it in the middle of the scanners we tested. Unfortunately, our color document took 11 minutes, 27 seconds (3 ppm) to scan, which puts it toward the back of the pack.

Epson GT-2500

Pros: Very good reds, fast text scans

Cons: Simplex sensor

Price: $599

B/W scan speed A

Color scan speed B

Color/image quality A-

Ease of use A

Features B

Value A

GCN Lab Reviewer's Choice logo The Epson GT-2500 has a good form factor for a passthrough-scanner combination model. While its flatbed is only A4-sized, having the option of both types of scanning is definitely a plus. Unfortunately, the automatic document feeder had only a 50-page capacity, which may be adequate in some environments, but is something to look out for when choosing a scanner that will meet your needs.

Once the driver was installed to our PC and the scanner was connected to it via a USB cable, the device was ready to go. Setup was about as easy as it gets. The GT-2500 one-touch button sent a scanned document (whether flatbed or ADF) straight to the PC's default printer. Since this is probably the most common use of a scanner in a general office environment, this feature is good to have.

When we scanned some two-sided documents, we found that the GT-2500 had only one sensor for pass-through scanning. To scan duplex, the automatic document feeder had to pull the page back though, turn it over and pass the second side across the scanning head. This made duplex scanning significantly slower, but did not seem to impair its single-sided speed.

The GT-2500 powered through our text document in 1 minute, 7 seconds (which works out to 26 pages per minute), which was the fastest in the review. While the 9 minutes, 31 seconds (3 ppm) it took to scan our monster color document is about in the middle of the pack, it is right on par with Epson's marketing promises.

While we had some difficulty getting the Epson to interface with PaperPort from Nuance Communications Inc., the Epson Scan software that comes with it is more than adequate to the task of managing files. During those multipage scans, we were pleased to see that Scan provided a status bar for each individual page.

With regard to color, the blues ended up being a bit grayer than we liked but the reds were right on the nose and were among the best we had tested. Text quality was very good, which would make an optical character reader's job that much easier. Detail in both light and shadow was good.

One of the best features about the Epson GT-2500 is the price. At $599, it is significantly less expensive than any other printer in the review, yet the scanner holds its own in many areas.

This scanner would do well in situations in which most of the document scanning is single-sided.

Xerox DocuMate 632

Pros: Near-perfect color

Cons: Slow scan speeds

Price: $1,995

B/W scan speed B+

Color scan speed B

Color/image quality A

Ease of use A

Features A-

Value B+

GCN Lab Reviewer's Choice logoThe DocuMate 632 from Xerox is a good, all-around scanning device. Its legal-size, flatbed plate is about as big as it gets for desktop models, with a 100-sheet capacity ADF.

Xerox gave the DocuMate 99 programmable One Touch settings. The only setback of this configuration is that the display on the scanner only shows the setting number.

In addition to the drivers and One Touch software, the DocuMate comes with ScanSoft Paperport, OmniPage Pro, as well as Kofax VirtualReScan.

Setup of the DocuMate was quick and easy. Just install the drivers on a computer, connect the scanner and power it up. The colors produced by the DocuMate 632 were the truest we experienced in this round of testing. Both the reds and the blues were right on the mark for most brightness levels. On the very lightest end of the scale, we noticed a tiny amount of washout in contrast, but this not big enough to affect image quality for most purposes. The level of contrast in shadows was very good. Black and white text was slightly pixelated, but it is easily good enough for OCR. We found text over image to be some of the clearest among those we reviewed.

At 1 minute, 17 seconds (23 ppm), the DocuMate performs at the midpoint of the scanners in this roundup for the 30-page black and white text document. For the color document, the DocuMate's time of 10 minutes, 10 seconds (3 ppm) is in the bottom half of the review, but not a bad rate for this class of scanner.
The Xerox DocuMate 632 would be good for any operation where color and image quality were extremely important.

HP Scanjet 8390

Pros: Good software selection and other extras

Cons: Very slow scan times

Price: $1,499

B/W scan speed B

Color scan speed C+

Color/image quality B+

Ease of use A

Features A+

Value B+

The Scanjet 8390 from Hewlett-Packard was one of only two scanners in this review to provide a full, legal-sized flatbed in addition to its pass-through scanner.

Setting up the scanner and connecting it to a computer was simple. We were able to get a document scanned in about two minutes out of the box. In addition to its one-touch photocopy function button, it has four buttons, each of which could be programmed to scan at a particular setting and send to the desired output.

One of the more impressive aspects of the 8390 was the vast array of software that comes with it. In addition to the proprietary Smart Scan programs, HP included PaperPort, Readiris Pro OCR from I.R.I.S., Virtual ReScan from Kofax Image Products Inc. of Irvine, Calif., and even Photoshop Elements from Adobe Systems Inc.

The flatbed scanner also could be set up to scan transparent media. The white background can be removed to reveal a strip of reflective surface. Also, stored in the bottom of the scanner are three guide plates that will hold various sizes of film, photo negatives or slides in place for easier scanning.

Reds seemed lighter than expected, while blues were more on track. Images of text over graphics were solid looking and quite legible. Scans of line art turned out a little blurry, even at higher resolutions. The scanning speed was disappointing. Its time of 1 minute, 54 seconds (15 ppm) to go through our 30-page text document put it near the back of the pack.

This device would do well in an office that needs to scan a variety of media but doesn't already have a lot of scanning software.

At a Glance: Document Scanners

ScannerVendorADF CapacityFlatbedConnectionsPresetsIncluded software30-page B/W text scan time30-page color text and images scan timePrice (as configured for review)
Kodak Scan Station 100Eastman Kodak Co.
Rochester, N.Y.
Tel. (585) 724-5130
50 sheetsNoneEthernet 10/100NoneScan Station Configuration Organizer2 minutes, 33 seconds (12 ppm)8 minutes, 15 seconds (4 ppm)$2,995
Epson GT-2500

(GCN Lab Reviewer Choice)
Epson Corp.
Long Beach, Calif.
Tel (800) 463-7766
50 sheetsA4 sizeUSB 2.0One-Touch buttonEpson Scan, Captiva ISIS Driver1 minute, 7 seconds (26 ppm)9 minutes, 31 seconds (3 ppm)$599
HP Scanjet 8390Hewlett-Packard Co.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Tel (800) 752-0900
100 sheetsLegal sizeUSB 2.0One-Touch button, 4 programmable buttons.Hp Smart Document Scan, Kofax Virtual ReScan, Scansoft Paperport, IRIS ReadIris Pro OCR, HP Photosmart, Adobe Photoshop Elements1 minute, 54 seconds (15 ppm)16 minutes, 5 seconds (2 ppm)$1,499
Visioneer Patriot 470Visioneer Inc.
Pleasanton, Calif.
Tel. (925) 251-6399
50 sheetsNoneUSB 2.09 programmable One-TouchOmniPage Pro, ScanSoft PaperPort, Kofax VRS1 minute, 22 seconds (22 ppm)11 minutes, 27 seconds (3 ppm)$1,195
Panasonic KV-S2048CPanasonic Corp.
Secaucus, N.J.(201) 348-7749
50 sheetsNoneUSB 2.0NoneRTIV1 minute, 5 seconds (26 ppm)7 minutes, 18 seconds (4 ppm)$3,795
Panasonic KV-s3065CLPanasonic Corp.
Secaucus, N.J.
Tel (201) 348-7749
300 sheetsNoneUSB 2.0, SCSINoneRTIV42 seconds (43 ppm)1 minutes, 52 seconds (16 ppm)$5,995
Xerox Documate 632

(GCN Lab Reviewer Choice)
Xerox Corp.
Rochester, N.Y.
Tel. (925) 251-6399
100 sheetsLegalUSB 2.099 programmable One-TouchOmniPage Pro, ScanSoft PaperPort, Kofax VRS1 minute, 17 seconds (23 ppm)10 minutes, 10 seconds (3 ppm)$1,995

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