capsule review

Microtek ScanMaker i900

At a Glance
  • Microtek ScanMaker i900 Flatbed Scanner

Microtek ScanMaker i900
Photograph: Rick Rizner

The Microtek ScanMaker i900 is an industrial-strength flatbed capable of producing high-quality scans from both printed documents and transparencies. Though the i900 comes with a premium price tag, it's justified by the quality, versatility, and durability this well-engineered scanner offers graphic artists, photographers, and service bureaus.

The i900 is a worthy successor to the highly regarded ScanMaker 8700 Pro Design, a longtime favorite on the corporate list, and it provides many of the same outstanding features, such as its generous legal-size (8.5-by-14-inch) scan area, powerful scanning software, and unique tools. But the i900 also features major improvements over its predecessor, including a much higher optical resolution of 3200 by 6400 dpi (up from 2400 by 4800 dpi), the faster USB 2.0 interface instead of USB 1.1, and Digital ICE Photo Print Technology, which is a marvel at removing imperfections (such as scratches, cracks, and tears) from original reflective art.

In our image-quality tests, the i900 earned some of the highest scores among competing scanners, yielding realistic color images with distinct details. For instance, the i900 earned the top score for its scan of a 4-by-5-inch color photo (at 100 dpi), reproducing the most accurate color, brightness, and contrast, with discernable details in both the light and dark areas. It also accurately displayed the fine lines, small fonts, and arduous geometrics of a challenging monochrome test pattern, scanned at maximum resolution.

Tested using its USB 2.0 interface, the i900 rated only Fair for its overall performance, often coming in dead last compared with the other corporate models. In some cases, the i900 took nearly twice as long as the next-slowest model to complete a test. For example, the i900 took more than 26 seconds to scan a 4-by-5-inch color photo (at 100 dpi); its closest competitor, the Epson Perfection 4870 Photo, performed the same scan in about 14 seconds via FireWire.

Weighing nearly 25 pounds, the i900 is much heavier than competing scanners, but it puts its size to good use. Unlike most dual-purpose flatbeds, the i900 has an internal sliding drawer for scanning film transparencies, and it comes with several sturdy film holders that make it easy to place 35mm slides, filmstrips, and other film sizes in the drawer. The advantage of using the i900 to scan film internally is that, like a dedicated film scanner, it permits glassless scanning; this eliminates the possibility of introducing distortions such as Newton Rings, (an undesirable series of concentric circles). Using the film holders, you can batch scan up to a dozen 35mm slides or frames (from 35mm filmstrips). Other included accessories let you scan medium-format 120mm film and film transparencies up to 8 by 10 inches.

In informal tests, we found that the i900's Digital ICE feature did a fine job of repairing damaged photos. Scans of transparencies with artifacts from dust or scratches have to be cleaned up with LaserSoft Imaging's SilverFast AI 6, which also performs sophisticated color correction. The i900 performed well when scanning film and produced excellent-quality images from both 35mm slides and film negatives, with bright colors and crisp details. The Microtek TWAIN scanner driver (ScanWizard Pro), used for most of our tests, also includes a color-restoration option that did a good job of correcting color in faded originals. Other software bundled with the i900 includes an image editor (Adobe Photoshop Elements 2), an image manager (Ulead Photo Explorer 7), and an OCR package (Abbyy FineReader 5 Sprint), as well as color management and calibration tools (targets and profiles).

The Microtek ScanMaker i900 produces high-quality images from both prints and transparencies that will charm graphics pros, but its poky performance requires patience.

Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • Microtek ScanMaker i900 Flatbed Scanner

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