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Scan The Difference With The Visioneer 7600 USB Scanner

Visioneer- what a great name. Kinda implies vision, which can be tied to scanning, right? I mean, what does AGFA imply? Even though this model has been out for over a year, it still manages to satisfy my speed and quality needs. No lousy SCSI interface here, we use USB! Parallel port? You must be joking; serious scanning requires bandwidth brudda, so throw those old parallel ports out, now!|

A Serious Scanner For Serious Scanners

How do you know that youíre a serious scanner? You want at least 600x1200-dpi resolution in hardware mode (not software interpolation) and you donít want to wait all day for it. Good, no, great quality is a must and, of course, you own a PC with USB ports. Unless recovering from system crashes and lockups are you forteí, I suggest having at least 128MB of RAM, preferably 256MB.

Iíve used the 7600 with 64, 128 and 256MB RAM configs and let me pass on that if 600x1200 24-bit color 8.5"x11" scans are your norm, grab at least 256MB.Why do you need all that RAM? Because this jewel screams speedwise. Turn on system monitoring (Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>System Monitoring) and look at the memory manager: unused physical memory. In Windows 98, which you need for this scanner, watch the amount drop to near zero when processing your favorite pics. Yeah, before all you nut jobs start holleriní that your swapfile can be virtual RAM, consider this: Do you want 800MB/s or 15MB/s processing speed? Itís simply annoying to click "acquire image" and then run off to lunchÖ

Setup And Installation

Because I tested the USB model, you could simply pop the cable into your case, but hold on, Visioneer likes a slightly altered method. First, upack everything and find an area that can accommodate the 7600ís footprint while still being close enough for the enclosed 6 foot USB cable to reach your box (or, buy a longer cable). Next, plug in the wall wart and then plug the wider, retangular end of the USB cable into your computerís USB port. Hold off on cramming the other end into the rear of the scanner.

With your machine up and runniní, put the CD-ROM into your drive and setup should automoatically start if "auto insert notification" is enabled on that particular drive. About midway through the installation, Visioneer will prompt you to connect the scanner. Shortly thereafter, installation finsishes and you are ready to go. A note to Windows 98SE owners: Visioneerís software doesnít have an installation patch for 98SE yet, so you will receive a message that says youíre not running a compatible operating system and do you want to continue. This freaked me out at first, but then I simply ignored the warning, told setup to continue, and the software and drivers installed normally. I have encountered zero problems since I upgraded to SE three months ago. Still, Visioneer should have a patch for this install "bug."

Drivers, drivers, drivers. Fully three sets of device drivers are mandatory if you have any hope of producing accurate scans. In addition to the scanner drivers, current monitor drivers and printer drivers must be downloaded and installed. Within the monitor drivers are ICM (Image Color Matching) files that assist in the WYSIWYG capabilties of the screen. Well supported photo quality printers have similar files within their drivers and of course, the ICM printing option must be activated. Consult your respective manuals, websities, and driver "readme" files for more information.


Scanner Type - Color Flatbed
Scanner Button Interface - Stop, Custom, Fax, Copy/Print, Scan
Resolution - 600 x 1200 dpi Optical
Software Enhanced Resolution - 2400 dpi
Scan Modes - 36-Bit Color (Internal), 12-Bit Grayscale (Internal), 1-Bit Black and White
Scan Area - 8.5' x 11.69' (A4 / Letter Sized)
Scan Method - Fast Single Pass
Interface - Universal Serial Bus
Dimensions - 10" x 18 1/2" x 4" Weight 6.6 lbs. (3.0kg)
Shipping Weight - 9.7 lbs. (4.4 kg)
One year limited warranty

Quantitative and Qualitative results

What are my requirements for a top quality scanner? Quality is surely first, but without speed, whatís the use? This time last year, the 7600 USB was undeniably the fastest on the planet. Now, itís still blazingly fast, but I suspect Visioneerís lead is slowly ebbing away to the competition.

Whatís of particular interest to me, is that a hi-res, full-size standard page can be acquired in 2 minutes. Just two years ago, this procedure could have easily wasted up to 10 minutes, especially if all you had was one of the parallel port genre. For the photo buffs out there, notice that in just a few ticks over 30 seconds, you can have hi-res scans of your favorite still snapshots. But the question is does anyone still use those old, non-digital cameras? J

The quality of these scans must be, ah, qualified. Prerequisites are many if the final results (printed or otherwise) will be useful. After proper setup and calibration of your monitor, printer and of course, scanner, then critical (or incremental) tweaks can be made. Only then, will any form of professional level work begin.

With the above out of the way, the 7600 captured very high quality images for its price class. This is not a photo negative 2400-dpi unit; it also costs hundreds less than those models. What I have managed to do with this model, the aid of a ViewSonic monitor and an Epson Stylus printer, is generate nothing less than photo reproducible 8"x10" prints that are nearly indistinguishable from the originals at a distance of 24 inches or more. On dozens of occasions, I have taken an old, beat up photographs (some B&W, some color), cleaned up aging spots, tears, splotches, and sent the results to my trusty Epson 900. If this scanner can satisfy the picky eyeballs of Grandmas and Aunts, imagine how happy the casual user will be-a great stocking stuffer. I would dearly love to upload a few 600x1200 dpi images for all to browse, but those files, even compressed, can be larger than 50-100MB, so Iím refraining for now.


Final Remarks

For about $120, the Visioneer 7600 USB is all but impossible to beat. An all-around great piece of gear designed for newer computers, this scanner beat out five other brands, such as UMAX, Mustek, Hewlett Packard, and AGFA for overall usability. A nice feature, which all scanners definitely do not have, is a power saving mode that turns off the cold cathode tube when not in use and thus, dramatically extends the life of the unit. Coupled with a reasonable price and excellent quality, 600x1200 dpi optical scans, this 10-lb. wonder can bring many hours of enjoyment and productivity to your life. Highly recommended.

An Update

To my dismay, a concerned reader emailed me to say that his 7600 USB didn't work on his AMD K6-2 setup. The "glitch" as it were, appears to be the VIA chipset. Today, December 2, I was able to verify that the 7600 USB scanner has zero chance of operating if your motherboard uses a VIA chipset. Therefore, I am amending my original "highly recommended" status and downgrading it to a "cautiously recommended" status. Visioneer should have support for non-Intel users, period.

William Yaple
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