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July 15, 2004|By Kevin E. Washington

Xpower Inverter 175 lets your car be your source of electricity

I like to use my car as an office, and having access to a laptop or being able to recharge a cellular phone is critical to making sure my day goes smoothly.

That's why a device that converts electricity from the cigarette lighter in my car for use by my laptop is terribly valuable. Xantrex has an excellent 175 watt DC-to-AC inverter for all manner of uses. The Xpower Micro Inverter 175 ($45) can make life much easier, especially if you're driving somewhere and shooting images with a digital camera that has a proprietary battery that needs to be recharged.

The device will provide 175 watts for five minutes and 140 watts over much longer periods of time.

On quite a few occasions, I've even printed pictures on the hood of my car with a mobile printer attached to my laptop. Picnics and other outdoor gatherings tend not to have generators available, but if you've driven to the location, you've brought your electricity.

The nice thing about the Micro Inverter is that it has a three-prong AC outlet that will handle camcorders, gaming consoles, video-cassette recorders and televisions up to 13 inches.

Xantrex claims it will shut down if it gets too hot or you have low battery voltage. It also has a changeable 20-amp fuse inside and will shut down if it is overloaded. I didn't need to test any of these features, though.

Information: 800-446-6180 or www.xantrex.com.

Epson 4870 scanner provides quality images

The Epson Perfection 4870 ($450) is probably one of the best desktop flatbed scanners that a consumer could want. It is a spectacular device that provides wonderful images when importing pictures, slides and negatives into a computer.

This solidly built 15-pound scanner uses Digital ICE technology that helps it to get rid of dust, scratches, tears and other mishaps that your film or pictures may have undergone. You can also effectively restore faded prints and film with the Easy Photo Fix software, a real boon for anyone who has been trying to save old family photos as I have for the past six months.

You get an optical resolution of 4,800-by-9,600 dpi with 48-bit color. The flatbed will handle images up to 6 inches by 9 inches and will accommodate up to 24 35-mm negatives or eight 35-mm slides. A front power button and Universal Serial Bus port 2.0 and Firewire connections round out this package.

Epson is kind enough to have put the LaserSoft Silverfast SE 6 scanning program inside. It is superb, although you can certainly use the interface with the three settings for automatic, home and professional levels of control.

The 4870 is reasonably fast and the images you'll get on screen, when the programs are properly tweaked for the best results, are breathtaking, to say the least. This is what super sharp, colorful images should look like when scanned at home. The images here come relatively close to those of a drum scanner - which will still put out a better scan, but a nonprofessional would be hard-pressed to point out the differences.

You need 128 MB RAM and 275 MB of hard drive space with a computer running Windows 98 SE or later or a Mac running OS 8.6 to 9.2 or OS X 10.2 or later to enjoy Epson's perfection.

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

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