- ✓Easy to use;
- ✓good software bundle.
- ✕600dpi optical resolution;
- ✕very slow if you have to use the parallel connection;
- ✕no transparency adapter or auto-document feeder option.
Visioneer pioneered the concept of tying scanning into intelligent scanner software, allowing people to digitise their paper documents with the minimum of fuss. Although it's now more of a mainstream scanner maker -- mostly at the budget end of the market -- this concept still pervades much of what Visioneer does.
Alone among the six scanners in this group test, Visioneer's OneTouch 8600 is designed in 'landscape' mode. In other words, its controls are mounted on, and its cover hinges along, the long edge of its case. This gives plenty of room to mount big buttons and because Visioneer majors on convenience, it's fitted seven of them. The five central ones cover one-touch email, OCR, fax and copy functions, while the two outer ones offer a straight scan and a useful cancel function.
This automation is matched by the software supplied with the scanner, which centres around the Visioneer-developed PaperPort application (now owned by ScanSoft). This program links scanner-based tasks to applications of your choice and provides a visual record in the form of thumbnail images, showing the documents you've produced. Also included in the software bundle are ScanSoft's TextBridge OCR program and PhotoSuite 2 SE, MGI's image editing tool.
Although the OneTouch 8600 is billed as a dual-port device, the difference in scan times between the USB and parallel connections suggests you should opt for USB if at all possible. It's a quick USB scanner, completing our timed tests in under 20 seconds, but a slow parallel one, taking 50 seconds or more.
You can only connect one cable at once -- a clever shutter system hides the USB port when you connect a parallel cable -- and the scanning software is intelligent enough to work out which way the scanner is connected.
Scan quality is fair, although by default colours emerge somewhat dull and washed-out. There wasn't much colour in the cheeks of our sample portraits, for example. Greyscales showed a good RGB balance and regular tone gradation. The ScanManager software offers some control, but again there's no way of telling explicitly what colour depth is set for scanning -- you have to rely on 'colour' or 'b/w' settings and the full 36-bit colour depth is invoked by a little check box hidden away on an advanced settings pane.
The OneTouch 8600 is nearly silent in operation and supremely easy to use. If you require straightforward scanning of paper originals, but need to do a number of different things with the results, this well-priced device can be recommended.