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Despite the many advances in video digitising systems, a scanner is still the fastest and most efficient way of getting a high quality still picture into a PC. Until recently Hewlett Packard have mostly been associated with high-end and office-oriented models, so how does their latest entry-level colour flatbed scanner rate against the competition?



Flatbed colour scanners used to be an expensive luxury, that few outside of the publishing industry could afford or justify. However, over the past year or two prices have plummeted. A quick trawl through the ads in computer magazines reveals plenty of models selling for less than £200, but many of the brands may be unfamiliar. Thatís not to say thereís anything wrong with them -- some of them are very good indeed -- but only recently have some of the bigger names in the computer industry started to take an interest in the budget end of the scanner market. You can be sure they intend to grab a slice of the action and in this highly competitive environment, and that means offering more than just their good name.


Hewlett Packard shouldnít have any problems with brand awareness, and with a street price of around £250 the Scanjet 5p could tempt quite a few people to think about trading up from bargain basement models, but is it worth the extra?  To answer that you must first decide why you want a scanner. The two principle applications are to acquire images on a PC, for incorporating into documents, web pages or digital video productions, and to import documents and convert them into text files, using optical character recognition (OCR) software. If youíre mostly interested in the latter then you could probably get away with a cheaper model but if image quality and flexibility are important, then something a little more substantial is required.


At first glance the Scanjet 5p appears to have quite a modest specification. Resolution -- itís ability to capture fine detail -- is rated at 300dpi (dots per inch), which is fairly average these days. It has an enhanced mode, which increases resolution to a maximum of 1200dpi, though this is a largely academic. It is dependent on software interpolation, which basically means the computer guesses at what colours might lie between the scanned picture elements or pixels. Scanning at this sort of setting saps PC power, it can take ages -- even on a fast Pentium PC --  and on-screen and printed images can end up looking soft.


The Scanjet uses a SCSI (Ďscuzzyí) interface, it comes with a connecting cable, plug-in mains power supply and a suite of software, including image manipulation and OCR utilities. Heading up the feature list though, is one-touch operation. On the front of the scanner thereís a green button; this automatically launches the scanner software, so thereís no need to mess about, searching through directories and menus to get it up and working.


Design and layout are conventional, itís reasonably compact, measuring 125 x 306 x 485 mm, the only minor ergonomic niggle is the on-off switch, which is tucked away down the side. Installation appears to be fairly straightforward. The plug-in SCSI card occupies a spare ISA expansion slot. Operating software is normally supplied on CD-ROM but we ended up using floppies -- 14 of them -- as the CD-ROM had mysteriously disappeared from our review sample. All went swimmingly until the system fired up for the first time on our Pentium test-bed PC. A device driver conflict locked up the mouse, and this took some time to resolve, by manually changing IRQ settings, even then it wasnít happy. In theory this shouldnít have happened, but like a lot of supposedly Ďplug-and-playí peripherals used under Windows 95, new hardware can run into trouble when it is installed on anything other than a plain vanilla PC with no baggage, or remnants of from previous installations. You have been warned.


Itís mostly good news from now on, though. The green button is big plus. Pressing it brings up the HP PictureScan task manager window. Once click and the scanner makes a low-resolution preview-scan, so you can size the image area and change any of the default settings. Click on the accept button and away it goes. Itís fast, an A4 sized colour picture takes between ten and twenty seconds to acquire, then itís automatically pasted into HPís PaperPort programme, where you can decide what to do with it. Options include saving it to a different file format, to copy across to another application. This includes PhotoPaint, where you can mess around with all key picture parameters -- down to pixel level -- to your heartís content.



Without doubt the most impressive feature of the Scanjet is speed, not just the scanning rate -- which is fast -- but how quickly it can be put to work. HP havenít sacrificed quality and raw images look very good indeed on the default settings. Colours are accurately rendered colours, brightness and contrast levels rarely need adjusting. The bundled software includes a fairly routine selection of image and text handling applications, but they are generally better presented, and more fully integrated, than most of what the budget competition has to offer.



We like it. Itís quality peripheral, with quality software, itís easy to use, sensibly priced, and it performs well. Hopefully our difficulties with the installation wonít be typical, though weíve got a nagging feeling that others,  with well-used PCs might run into the same sort of problems.   



Make/model                  Hewlett Packard Scanjet 5p

How much?                   £307 (£250 typical street price, inc VAT)

System             colour flatbed scanner

Features                       single button application launch, energy saving facilities, supplied with HP Picture Scan, Paper Port, Corel PhotoPaint, Caere OCR software on CD ROM


Interface                        ISA SCSI card        

Resolution                     300dpi optical, 1200 dpi interpolated

System req.                  Apple MAC system 7, IBM PC or compatible with 486 or better, Window 3.1 and 95, 


Contact             Hewlett Packard, telephone 01344 360000




Scan quality                  4

Build quality                  4

Ease of use                   5

Value for money            4


Overall rating            85%



R. Maybury 1997 2805



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