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Home > Computer Buyer's Guide > Computer Scanner

Computer Scanners

Flatbed ScannerScanners, like the printer, are another add-on device separate from the computer itself. A scanner will allow you to scan physical photos and documents into a digital format for storage on your computer's hard drive. A scanner allows you to safeguard such photos and documents from damage or loss, and you can even copy them onto a CD-ROM to take anywhere.

The best thing for users of Cheap Computers in this case is to buy a printer / scanner / copier / fax all-in-one. This is a low-cost option for people who aren't going to make use of their scanner all that often.

Recommendations: A 24-bit color flatbed scanner with up to 600 dpi scanning resolution.

Two Main Types of Scanners

The two primary types of scanners are flatbed and sheet fed.

Flatbed scanners are, by far, the most versatile, capable of scanning individual sheets of paper, slides, photos, and even small three-dimensional objects. Expect to pay between $100 and $600 for a scanner of this type. A flatbed scanner looks and functions much like small business copy machine — you manually place each original on the scanner's bed and start the scan.

A sheet fed scanner, which runs from $150 to $350, automatically feeds the originals, but as the name implies you can scan only sheets of paper — no books, no photos or slides, and certainly no objects. Unless your needs mandate special handling, stick with the versatile flatbed scanner.

Important Features

The two most important scanner specifications are resolution and color depth.

High resolution translates into smoother curves and lines, so look for a scanner with a high optical resolution of 600 dpi or better. Remember, though, for the Internet 72 dpi is all that you�ll need and for printing your limitation in dpi will generally be determined by the output device (the dpi of the printer).

Color depth (bit depth) refers to the number of colors that the scanner can electronically capture. The more bit depth, the more distinct the colors are in your scans. Try to get a scanner with at least 8-bit color depth up to 24-bit. An 8-bit scanner can identify 256 colors for each pixel; a 24-bit scanner can reproduce 16.7 million colors. Lower than 8 and your scan quality is poor; higher than 24 and your computer software probably isn't even capable of reproducing the depth of color, which is just a waste.

Don't forget that as you increase the color depth, you'll also increase the size of the resulting file. For each extra bit of color depth you use, you'll double the file size.

Another features is speed. If you are going to scan a lot, choose a fast interface, like SCSI or USB. Parallel may be easy to use, but it's slow.

SCSI offers the fastest data transfer, but unless it's already installed on your computer you may be looking at a difficult experience in setting it up. USB is the best combination of speed and simplicity, and USB is standard on most Cheap Computers. It is not as fast as SCSI, but a lot easier to use since it's already installed on almost every computer.

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