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Plustek OpticPro A320

>> Friday, January 9, 2009

Although it's easy to find a letter size scanner for under $100, it's hard to find a tabloid size scanner for less than $1,000 at least it was before the OpticPro A320. This super tabloid (12 by 17 inch) flatbed scanner comes in at only $600 (street). More important, it makes large format scanning far more affordable than it was, particularly for small offices that need to scan large documents.

A big flatbed implies a big scanner, and the A320 measures 5.2 by 24.5 by 16.75 inches (HWD). As the measurements suggest, the Plustek is meant to be placed sideways relative to most scanners, so the top edge of a scan target goes along the right edge of the flatbed. The cover opens toward the back, with seven clearly labeled scan buttons conveniently placed just to the right of the flatbed.

Aside from needing more flat space than most scanners, the A320's installation is standard fare. Plug in the power cord and supplied USB cable, then let Windows install the drivers and software from the program disc. I tested the A320 using Windows XP. Plustek says that the disc also includes drivers and a full set of software for Windows 2000 and Vista. As with any flatbed scanner, you can use the A320 for photos, too, but the software lacks some photo friendly features.

In particular, it can't batch scan (scan multiple photos at once and put each in a separate file), and it doesn't include options for either scratch removal or color restoration for faded photos. All of these are increasingly common features, even on inexpensive flatbed scanners. On the plus side, the claimed 1,600 pixel per inch (ppi) optical resolution is more than enough for a scanner that doesn't scan transparencies (slides and film).

Even if you crop your scans substantially or print them at a larger size than the original, 1,600 ppi leaves plenty of headroom beyond the resolution you'll actually need. The A320 comes with a reasonably easy to use utility for defining the scan setting for each button on the scanner. In addition.

Twain and WIA drivers let you scan from most Windows programs with a scan command, and the software bundle includes a photo editor (NewSoft Presto! Image Folio 4.5), an optical character recognition (OCR) program (Abbyy FineReader Sprint Plus 6.0), and a document management program (NewSoft Presto! PageManager 7.1).

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