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March 04, 2004|By Kevin E. Washington

Epson's 3170 PHOTO pretty near perfection as flatbed scanners go

Scanners have always been solid peripherals for new computer buyers. But if you bought a cheap one a few years ago and want to upgrade to something that will help you to start digitizing all of those old family photographs, the Epson Perfection 3170 PHOTO scanner couldn't be a better choice.

For one thing, you get a lot of power for $200 - roughly $100 less for more in a scanner than you could have, say, two years ago.

In the box, you'll get some fine extras like Adobe PhotoShop Elements 2.0, a $100 program that is worth every penny you pay for it when it doesn't come free with your scanner. You'll also get Epson Easy Photo Fix.

I like the fact that most of the better scanners on the market provide different levels of scanning. I almost always skip the easiest level - here it is automatic - for more sophisticated control over my photos.

As flatbed scanners go, the Perfection 3170 PHOTO's software gives good, solid control over sharpening, color range and any other variables that are important to most photo enthusiasts who will take the time to figure out what they're doing.

The scanner software performed marvelously in helping me to restore a 1950s photograph of my mother and her friends from her senior year of high school. My mother was impressed with the photographs we scanned over the weekend. And this puppy makes very little noise.

The scanner itself performs admirably. It captures images at 3,200 x 6,400 dots per inch and is capable of 48-bit color work (although for Windows, you won't need to set the device to more than 24 bits).

This is a Universal Serial Bus 2.0 device. USB 2.0 is faster than USB 1.1, but I had a hard time distinguishing its speed from those of other scanners that I've tried recently.

Information: 800-463-7766 or www.epson.com.

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