Scanners can be purchased nowadays for as little as 49 GBP, but the old saying 'you get what you pay for' is particularly appropriate for this type of peripheral. Budget models tend to produce low quality scans and are generally not much fun to use.
Epson's new line of scanners comes under the Perfection banner, and the 610, aimed at first time family buyers, is the entry level model at £119. It has the same rugged quality feel as the similar-looking Epson GT-7000. Also like the GT-7000 it has a USB interface which makes for easy installation and incredibly quick scans.
We were particularly interested in the new 'simplified' interface after installing the software. Epson has done a good job here, as there are very few options in the driver to confuse you, and list boxes let you choose resolution and image type. By default, when you open the TWAIN driver from an image editing package such as the bundled Adobe PhotoDeluxe, the 610 performs a pre-scan of the A4 bed, and then you can make your settings and hit the Scan button to complete the process.
We ran our usual tests on the 610 and it passed with flying colours - literally. A full A4 pre-scan took just 6 seconds and scanning a page of text in line-art mode at 300dpi took a further 21 seconds. Our 7" x 5" Agfa IT-8 colour target also took 21 seconds to scan at 300dpi, which is one of the quickest times we have seen. Colours were accurate, and looked faithful to the originals on screen. When measuring greyscale purity, we found the 610 detected more shades than other, more expensive scanners we have seen.
Overall, the Perfection 610 far exceeded our expectations and performed as well as the GT-7000. With so much emphasis on ease of use, even novices can't fail to get great scans.