Epson Perfection 4490 Photo
Epson's flatbed scanners are no strangers to PC World's ranked charts, where both small-office and corporate-level models have earned positions of honor over the years. Now, with the debut of its new Perfection 4490 Photo, Epson has another winner on its hands. Although the 4490's $249 street price makes it expensive for a value model, it also provides powerful features ideal for photo enthusiasts and other advanced users to justify its premium cost.
The dual-format 4490 scans both paper and transparencies at a reasonably fast pace. Numerous options--such as color restoration--help improve image quality during the scanning process. The 4490 also incorporates Digital ICE (Image Correction and Enhancement), an efficient hardware-based technology that automatically repairs image defects such as dust and scratches, reducing the need for tedious manual corrections in an image editor. The 4490's Digital ICE scanning feature can be applied only to film, however, and not to photos.
Among the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 value models we've recently tested, the Perfection 4490 was the second-fastest, nipping at the heels of the top-performing HP Scanjet 4890 Photo Scanner. In our 4-by-5-inch photo tests, for example, the Perfection 4490 took 15 seconds to complete a 100-dpi color scan and 23 seconds to finish a 600-dpi grayscale scan, making it only about 4 and 5 seconds slower, respectively, than the Scanjet 4890's scores for the same tests.
The 4490 performed well overall in PC World's image quality tests. It especially impressed our jury with its on-screen displays of a color photo (scanned at 100 dpi) and black-and-white line art (at 4800 dpi). In the on-screen photo test, our judges rated the 4490 second only to the Epson Perfection 3490 Photo for its color accuracy, contrast, and detail in both shadows and highlights. And in our on-screen line art tests, the 4490 won a first-place rating for its crisp details in reproducing small text as well as complex geometric patterns. In our print tests, however, some of the 4490's images--including a 2-by-2-inch color photo output in 48-bit color--were just a tad dark. Although this kept the 4490 from earning a superior rating for its overall image quality, its merits earned it a respectable rating of Good.
With its ultrahigh optical resolution of 4800 dpi, the 4490 is an ideal choice for those who want to make huge enlargements from small originals such as 35mm film frames. And with its built-in transparency adapter, you can productively batch-scan up to a dozen 35mm negatives or four 35mm slides at a time. The 4490's lid also houses a secondary light source that moves when scanning film to provide uniform illumination behind individual frames. In our informal tests, the 4490 produced excellent film scans, with bright colors and sharply focused details. Its Digital ICE feature also did a stellar job at reducing scratches and unwanted specks when scanning film.
The 4490 has four front panel buttons for jump-starting various scan jobs (scan, copy, e-mail, PDF), and a talented scanning driver (Epson Scan) that offers easy and advanced user modes for novices and veterans. Using the driver's Professional mode, for example, you can manually control the settings for brightness, contrast, saturation, color balance, tone curve, and more. With the driver's Full Auto mode, the scanner will determine the type of image, scan it, and save it for you. You can even conveniently scan multiple images using the Full Auto mode. Bundled software includes a proficient image editor (Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0) and a capable optical character recognition tool (ABBYY FineReader 6.0 Sprint).
An optional 30-page automatic document feeder, a handy tool for voluminous OCR scanning, is also available for an extra $199.
The Epson Perfection 4490 is a powerful scanner with versatile image-enhancing features, but its premium price makes it best suited for serious photographers and other detail-conscious users.