These shortcut buttons can really speed things up if you’re churning out the scans, which is why the driver carries a full Auto mode that automatically previews the images and recognizes the document source and type. There are no settings or adjustments to worry about here and to be honest the 3170 rarely tripped up in tests using this mode. On the other hand, if a little more control is what you’re after, then the Home mode allows adjustment of the basic image settings. Lastly, there’s the Professional mode, which is essential for complete control over how the final image is produced. For instance, I could sharpen, correct or enhance the colour of images before scanning them in. Furthermore if you need to scan a large number of equal-sized documents an optional automatic document feeder is available and when fitted offers an ‘Office’ mode. This forgoes any form of preview thereby speeding up the scanning process.
In addition to these modes, several of the 10 programs mentioned earlier warrant a mention. For instance, PDA users may find the ‘scan to PDA’ feature a useful one for scanning and converting images quickly to a PDA-enabled file format. Other users with a million business cards floating around their desks could find the ‘business card’ application ideal for digitising and organising the contact details. That said be aware that it threw up some interesting postcodes and email addresses from the cards I scanned in.
Each applet is intuitive and the settings are thankfully held in memory ready for the next scan (you’d be surprised how many scanners reset the settings after each scan). However, it’s not all about software design, and the quality and speeds of the scans are of course the key issues.
As you can see from the graph there is a difference between the scan speeds stated by Epson and those I recorded under tests. That said, the difference is not huge and overall I am very impressed by the figures. Let’s face it, 12 seconds for a 48bit A4 colour scan is pretty nifty bearing in mind that the time was measured from the moment I clicked on ‘scan’ to the image being fully loaded into my photo-editing suite. The rest of the times are equally good although for colour negatives at 2,400dpi and 3,200dpi expect a longer wait due to heavier processing.
Quality-wise the 3170 surpassed what I expected from a flatbed scanner, especially when it came to scanning film. While it’s safe to say that a dedicated film scanner will almost always produce better results, the definition in the scans of my colour negatives and the colour accuracy in my transparencies are both splendid. The only tiny issue I had was the difference in colour saturation between the image scanned from a negative, and the one scanned from a professional print of that negative. Still, I am comparing different reproduction technologies and besides, the colour was easily corrected using Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, which came in the box. Lastly, I was also impressed by the overall quality of general A4 scans and the OCR accuracy when the 3170 is used in conjunction with the supplied yet limited version of ABBYY FineReader 5.0 Sprint software. No miss-read words were detected after scanning from a typical A4 letter typed with a 10-point Arial font.
After repeated test scans, close scrutiny of line resolution and greyscales, and a good amount of time familiarising myself with this scanner, the 3170 is without doubt one of the best I’ve come across. What's more, it comes with a solid range of software and looks the part with its translucent black and silver-grey chassis.
With good scan times and excellent image reproduction quality, there’s little to fault the Epson Perfection 3170 Photo. The 3170 successfully merges a high-quality flatbed with a decent film scanner that will appeal to home users and imaging enthusiasts alike. At £175 you’re getting a lot for your money and the 3170 clearly deserves an Editor’s Choice award.