There are only two reasons you would want to spend over £1,200 on a flatbed scanner: you want to scan at very high resolutions or you want to scan at high speed. Given that the maximum resolution of HP's new ScanJet N8460 is 600dpi, it must be the second of these that's relevant here.
This is a business scanner, designed to scan up to 35ppm through its Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), and duplex-capable, so that both sides of each page can be scanned at once.
This has to be one of the most ugly, brutalist bits of industrial design to have come out of HP in a while. For a start, the ScanJet N8460 is huge; it measures 625 x 415 x 265mm, way bigger than the A4 pages it's designed to scan. It's deeper at the top than it is in the middle and the bottom of the scanner flares out again, so from either end it looks a bit like a Wild West caboose.
The ADF is 130mm high on its own, which seems much higher than it need be, given that it only handles up to 100 sheets at a time. The whole, heavyweight cover is mounted on massive, counter-sprung hinges at the back, covered by little plastic flaps. It's only saving grace in the looks department is its full-width control panel, running down the long edge of the scanner, where the buttons and small, 16-character LCD display are given enough room to make their purposes pretty clear.
From the left, there's a power button, four soft function keys, which can be set to specific scan or copy functions, and dedicated copy buttons to select number of copies and colour or black and white. The scanner obviously has to work in collaboration with a suitable printer for copying.
Next on the panel come three Scan To buttons, which work with the LCD display so you can select an application as the target of a scan. Finally, there's a Tools button, which leads into HPs Scanner Tools Utility, and a Cancel button which stops the current job.
There's plenty of heavyweight software supplied with the ScanJet N8460. As well as programs like Nuance's PaperPort 11 document manager and Readiris Pro 11 for OCR, there's a full copy of Kofax Virtual ReScan 4.1. This software does handy things like rotating scanned pages, so they're all the same way round, detecting colour and black-and-white images in mixed jobs and detecting and removing blank pages. It also cleans text characters up, so it's easier for OCR software to convert them to editable text.