If you happened to notice the price before reading this review, you'll no doubt be thinking that £640 is a lot of money for a scanner. You'd be right. But the Expression 1600 is designed, in Epson's words, "to offer the ultimate in professional scanning power".
To this end, the 1600 has an amazing optical resolution of 1600 x 3200 dpi and a dual focus system to ensure the highest accuracy when scanning both relfective media and transparencies. You'll have to buy the transparency adapter separately, unless you go for the 1600 Pro, which includes one as standard.
It also features a Micro Step drive for high resolution, simultaneous RGB scanning for colour information gathering, precision optical lenses for enhanced focus, and Dynamic Range Control for improved transparency scanning. All this fits into a bland and rather large case.
Build quality, as with all of Epson's other scanners, is excellent. The chassis is made from die-cast aluminium, and it's this presicion construction that gives the 1600 the reliability and speed of a high-end scanner.
The Expression 1600 may not reflect the flair of your personality, but looking at the back reveals that this is a serious scanner. Two 50-pin SCSI connectors sit side by side, complemented by the SCSI ID dial and a terminator switch. A USB interface provides an alternative, but slower, interface option. For laptops or Macs, an IEEE 1394 interface (also known as Firewire) is an option. This is a faster connection than USB, useful where Ultra 2 SCSI can't be used.
A comprehensive software bundle can be found in the box, including Adobe Photoshop 5.0 Limited Edition, Xerox Textbridge Classic, Presto Pagemanager, Epson Twain Pro, Twain Pro Network and Scan Server software. Although this sounds impressive, practically the same selection is bundled with other Epson scanners of less than half the 1600's price. The difference is that you get the Pro version of the Twain driver, enabling 'power users' to have complete control over the scan. Also, the Scan Server allows the 1600 to be shared over a network, handy in small offices.
We ran our usual rigorous tests on the scanner to find out if it really is worth all that money. Comparing the scan of the greyscale histogram on the IT-8 to other scanners we have tested revealed that the 1600 is indeed an impressive beast. However, a direct comparison with the same scan on Epson's Perfection 1200 showed a similar histogram, but the 1200 only costs £240.
Of course, many other factors need to be taken into account for a proper comparison. Speed is one area, and we extensively tested the 1600 using both USB and SCSI interfaces. Overall, SCSI showed a significant speed advantage when the scanning resolution was set to 300dpi and higher.
We scanned in a page of text to find out how well the 1600 coped with varying font sizes, for Optical Character Reading. Not a problem. Even in RGB mode, tiny 4-point text was crisp and black on-screen with none of the colour sometimes introduced by inferior scanners.
When scanning transparencies or film, resolution is an important factor. Not only is the increased speed of SCSI handy, but also the high optical resolution of 1600 x 3200 dpi. This enables even small images to be scanned in with presicion and enlarged, perhaps for printing, without a loss in quality.