Visioneer have made something of a comeback in the USA recently, and now the UK market will reap the benefits judging by their new range of scanners.
The Strobe Pro is probably the only stand alone sheet fed scanner on sale now, as prices of flatbeds have dropped even below that of sheet fed models. The Stobe Pro does have advantages though. It's only a fraction of the size of a flatbed scanner, and this makes it portable. You can take it with you, in your laptop bag and scan documents, business cards and colour images on the move.
The Pro connects to your parallel port, and has a pass through so you can still connect a printer. For more flexibility, the Strobe Pro NT comes with Serial and USB interfaces for an extra £xx. If you want facts and figures, the Strobe Pro has an optical scanning resolution of 300 x 600 dpi, and can interpolate up to 2400 dpi in black and white. Internally it can recognise over 1 billion colours, and can output 24-bit colour and 8-bit greyscale. All this technology fits into a wedge 285mm long and weighs a mere 570g. That's small enough to fit between your keyboard and monitor.
When you insert a document into the Strobe Pro, it scans it and launches the Paper Port software. You can then save images, print them, use the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to convert them into editable text and share them with others via fax or email. So, it's a useful tool, but for your £200 how does it perform?
After extensively testing the Strobe Pro we found that an A4 document was scanned in at 200dpi, 1-bit (black and white) in an incredible 3.4 seconds. Up this to 300dpi in 8-bit greyscale (256 shades) and it took just 34 seconds. There's no preview as such, you just put the document in and it scans according to the settings. You can choose from a number of presets like OCR, faxing/copying and colour photo, but for more control you only have to click the Advanced button to manually alter the settings. Scanning our Agfa IT-8 test target at 300dpi took just 36 seconds.
All of these scans are displayed in on the PaperPort desktop, and can be transferred to applications like Word. Excel, Photoshop, faxing and emailing software. Looking at the scans revealed that the Strobe Pro doesn't disappoint on quality either. Lineart text was perfectly readable - so our 3.4 second scan really was usable. 256-shade greyscale scans were a little dark, but text was sharp and easily good enough for OCRing. Visually, the colours on the IT-8 scan looked accurate and true to the original, which surprised us. Switching to a slightly more accurate method, the histograms in Photoshop revealed that the colours were indeed quite accurate for the most part, but very dark colours and greys were not as well recognised.