Home users looking for a scanner for occasional use will find plenty of choice in the AIO and portable scanner market these days, but those who would look towards more professional application, or to scan larger documents such as newspapers and magazines, aren’t nearly as well catered for; especially at an affordable price.
Plustek aims to address this with the OpticPro A320, an A3-capable large format scanner with a maximum area of 12-inches by 17-inches and a maximum resolution of 1600dpi. It’s certainly a hefty beast, and while you wouldn’t expect an A3 scanner to be in any way portable, we were hoping for something a bit more modern. The chunky device is finished in a rather bland grey and off-white and features an array of seven rather cheap-looking control buttons that act as shortcuts to scan-to-file, email, OCR and more. The rest of the functionality is handled through the supplied software, and admittedly this is fairly comprehensive.
During the short setup routine the main configuration software is installed and you’re offered the option of adding Abbyy FineReader 6.0 for OCR, NewSoft Presto! ImageFolio for photo retouching and editing and Presto! PageManager to keep documents in order.
These are all fairly powerful and worthy packages in their own right, and while there isn’t anything particularly ground-breaking on offer, it’s reassuring to know that all the tools you might need to utilise such a device are provided.
Despite looking a little on the ‘cheap’ side, the A320 has been quite well designed and through the configuration software it’s possible to customise the behaviour of the controls to save images as various filetypes, at various resolutions, to various locations while applying various effects. The defaults provided will probably be suitable for most, but if any tweaking is required it’s refreshing to know that these settings can be saved under a custom control or tweaked on an existing control to speed things up.
In some instances the appropriate software must be installed (such as FineReader for the OCR control) before the function works correctly, though in most cases you can choose a preinstalled favourite (i.e. PhotoShop) as an alternative to those supplied.
We took the A320 for a spin with a range of documents including magazines, large photos and pages of text, with mixed results.
Despite being very fast, the device does take around a minute to warm up, but once it has done so we found that images appeared on our system in around 12 seconds at the default 150dpi resolution. At 600dpi this time increased to just under a minute, and though the maximum resolution is a massive 1600dpi (which should be far too high for most purposes), we didn’t have enough memory on our test system to render an image of this size.
Results were fairly good, but this judgement depends entirely on the task at hand. Professional use often demands pinpoint accuracy for colours and clarity, and this isn’t quite the case here. While decent enough, we did notice a slight grain/haze over images and colours weren’t quite as vibrant as the original, even at higher quality settings.
Text is fairly sharp through, and with decent contrast levels many of these issues could (and probably would) be fixed in an image editing suite, so professional users needn’t write it off altogether.
Perhaps a more effective use for the A320 would be situations where quality is important, but not the deciding factor. It’d be ideal for archiving newspapers and magazines, for example, and the supplied OCR software does an excellent job of recognising and recreating text, and is similarly fast to boot.
The OpticPro A320 is ultimately a fairly basic, no-nonsense device and while it’s cheaper than many high-end rivals, it’s also more expensive than budget offerings. This puts it in a rather questionable middle ground, offering benefits such as quick scan times and efficient operation but stopping short of really impressing with its performance, and carrying a rather dated, cheap-looking design.
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