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Welcome to the Scan-A-Rama edition of "Wise Buys." There's a world full of flatbed, sheet-fed, portable and professional production scanners out there, priced from less than $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. We'll be exploring low-priced to midpriced color scanners for the SOHO (small office/home office) market, with one stand-alone scanning appliance thrown in to spice up the soup.
Heads up: Two specs to look out for include resolution and color depth. The resolutions we've listed are all hardware resolutions, meaning the scanner's actual resolution without software enhancement. If you need very high-quality, smooth images, you'll want a scanner with higher resolution capability, like the Epson Expression 800 Executive. (Just remember that those high-res image files are going to eat up disk space faster than you can say "Windows 2000.") As for color depth, the more bits the scanner can see, the higher the image quality. All these scanners have at least a 30-bit color depth, which translates to billions of colors.
If you're planning on scanning text documents, you'll want capable Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. OCR programs convert the scanned image of words into actual editable text documents. The accuracy of these programs can vary greatly depending on the type of font being scanned in or the color of a document's background. Nonetheless, it's better than typing it all in by hand!