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Microtek ScanMaker 4800

Microtek’s low-cost ScanMaker 4800 promises a big return on a small investment. It features 48-bit colour, a 2,400 by 1,200 dots per inch (dpi) maximum resolution, and a film/slide attachment. But our tests revealed that although some of the ScanMaker 4800's features are exceptional, others are just for show.

The £99.99 (ex. VAT) ScanMaker 4800's descriptive poster makes setup easy. The scanner connects via USB and supports Windows 98, 2000, ME and XP, as well as Mac OS 8.6 through 9.x. Installation of the Microtek ScanWizard 5 driver and additional applications – Abbyy’s FineReader for optical character recognition, Ulead’s PhotoExplorer for Windows Explorer-like file searching, Adobe’s PhotoDeluxe 4.0 (PC) or Photoshop LE 5.0 (Mac) for image editing, and Adobe’s Acrobat Reader -- was also fairly painless, although Microtek offers novices no guidance for deciding which ones to load.

The ScanMaker 4800 is also easy to use, thanks to the five buttons lining its face. The Scan button generates a preview of your image in the ScanWizard 5 driver that you can then tweak, scan as-is or send to another image-editing application. Three other buttons scan the image and transfer it automatically to your printer, your email program or your word processor. A fifth button sends your scan directly to a Web site of your choice.

The ScanWizard 5 driver itself has a host of satisfying features, including a pared-down control panel that lets you set the brightness, contrast and saturation; an Advanced panel extends these capabilities considerably. Unfortunately, you cannot switch between panel modes while working on the same pre-scanned image.

We usually criticise products for having insufficient documentation, but in the case of the ScanMaker 4800, it was just the opposite: its mélange of brochures and CD-based material actually left us more confused than informed. One brochure guides you through ScanWizard 5, while another walks you through the included LightLid attachment for 35mm film and slide scanning. However, the full-blown user manual is available in electronic format only. Microtek should collect all of this errant documentation into one convenient guide.

The ScanMaker 4800 displayed mixed results in our tests. The scanner's sigma-6 CCD (charge-coupled device) scanning mechanism (with six instead of the usual three rows of light sensors) produced good colour scans, but took 43.7 seconds per scan, making the ScanMaker 4800 among the slowest models we've tested. Its 16.4-second greyscale speed was a lot better, but scans looked slightly overexposed. Quality took a drastic dive with film and slide scanning using the LightLid attachment. You can't expect professional-level film/slide output from a sub-£100 scanner, but the particularly poor film scans looked as though they were made inside a fish tank.

Microtek’s two year Total Support cover provides a replacement scanner in the event of a failure and telephone technical support throughout this warranty period. The company’s Web site hosts email support, FAQs and driver downloads.

If you're on a really tight budget, the easy-to-use ScanMaker 4800 delivers good-quality colour and greyscale scans for the price. But if you have a box of photos that you want to digitise, plan on spending more money to get a scanner with a decent film/slide attachment.

            

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