Umax Astra 6700
At a Glance
Like many recently tested value scanners, the $119 Umax Astra 6700 handles both prints and film. However, in many of our categories of comparison, this flatbed fell short when pitted against similar models, relegating it to also-ran status.
The Astra 6700 comes bundled with a separate transparency adapter that fits over the glass, but it's no workhorse: You can scan only one 35mm slide at a time, or up to three frames in a filmstrip. By comparison, the Epson Perfection 3490 Photo (which costs $20 less) lets you scan three 35mm slides at a time, and up to four frames in a strip.
Tested using its Hi-Speed USB 2.0 connection, the Astra 6700 earned a rating of Very Good for its overall performance. It scanned our 2-by-2-inch color photo at 1200 dpi in about 39 seconds and reproduced a color magazine cover at 300 dpi in just over half a minute. But while those are decent scores, they're also a tad slower than those of the Epson Perfection 3490, which took only 36 and 23 seconds (respectively) to complete the same tests.
In our image quality tests, the judges found the Astra 6700's scans lacking in color accuracy and sharp details, both on-screen and in print. It fared poorly on our grayscale photo tests, too, showing little detail. The Astra 6700 did much better in its black-and-white line art scans, although its scores for capturing complex geometric patterns and small text were only average overall.
The Astra 6700's front panel has three shortcut buttons: scan, copy, and e-mail. Its bundled software includes an image editor (MGI PhotoSuite III SE), a document manager (PaperCom Document Manager), and an optical character recognition application (ABBYY FineReader Sprint 5.0). It also comes with two separate scanning drivers: Umax Scanner provides basic options for beginners, while SilverFast SE--made by LaserSoft Imaging--offers more advanced options, such as a dust-and-scratch removal tool.
However, what's missing from the basic driver--which most novices will probably use to operate the unit--are options for automatic color restoration or color-fade correction, something most of the other scanner drivers on products we've recently reviewed now provide. Although the basic driver includes other automatic options for color adjustment and highlight/shadow levels (Auto Level), I found that I had to rely more on making manual adjustments (using the Color Balance and Hue/Saturation/Lightness dialog boxes) to best restore color and correct color-fade problems.
Unfortunately, Umax also skimps on its warranty for this scanner, which is limited to 90 days instead of the standard full year that most manufacturers provide.
The relatively speedy Umax Astra 6700 can scan both photos and film, but other inexpensive models offer better image quality and more robust features.
Umax Astra 6700
Hi-speed USB 2.0, 2400 by 4800 dpi, 10.7 by 3.4 by 18.8 inches (width by depth by height), 7.5 pounds, 8.5-by-11.7-inch scanning area, transparency adapter included, no automatic document feeder. 90-day warranty, 8-hour weekday technical support (calls are not toll-free).