Unlike the majority of scanner manufacturers’ products, which are heading towards ever slimmer and sleeker designs, this USB-connected ScanMaker 5600 is more chunky than most scanners of its type. That’s partly because it’s not aimed at the entry level, style-conscious buyer. Instead, this device is intended for use by people solely concerned with image quality. That’s reflected in the price.
As well as 48-bit colour depth, which you’d expect with a scanner of this type, this scanner also has a true optical resolution of 2400 x 4800dpi. This is higher than most entry-level scanners and helps to enhance the detail from scanned photographs. The scanning speed is reasonable given the resolution of the stepper motor and the output quality is excellent, particularly when scanning photographs. The default colour balance and contrast settings are good and you can adjust them easily if necessary.
The ScanMaker 5600 comes with both Mac and PC software, with roughly similar tools included for each operating system. At the heart of the package is the scanner controller software, called ScanWizard, which acts as an interface for the rest of the tools. It includes options for adjusting the scanning properties (resolution, colour depth, colour correction and so on) as well as the usual preview window.
You also get a copy of Abbyy FineReader 5.0 Sprint to handle OCR work, plus Ulead Photo Explorer 7.0, a capable image manipulation package that’s designed to let users publish and share their photos on the Web. A second CD contains Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.0 and PhotoShop 5.0LE, so there’s plenty of scope for image editing. Buttons on the front of the scanner offer short-cuts to scanning, copying, e-mailing, OCR processing and Web publishing, although you can launch all of these from the main software menu too.
The build quality of the unit is good, although the construction is mostly plastic, and there’s a detachable lid for scanning larger objects. For faster processing, particularly OCR work, there’s an optional automatic document feeder available which will handle up to 50 A4 sheets at a time. Microtek’s Transparent Media Adapter, for scanning slides and other transparencies, is also supported.
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