A quick flick through recent issues of PC Advisor will tell you that standalone flatbed scanners aren't an item we review on a regular basis. While sheetfed document scanners still have an important job to serve in many an office (converting physical documents and articles to PC-usable file formats such as PDF and Word doc), the standalone flatbed has found much of its market consumed by MultiFunction Printers.
After all, if you can have a perfectly serviceable scanner built into your printer, why should you want to give up the extra deskspace that a standalone model will consume? Epson continues to pump out new models under its Perfection range, and the Epson Perfection V30 is only £70, so what can this offer you that a normal MFD can't?
Whatever draws you to the Epson Perfection V30, it won't be its looks. While some modern scanners (much of the Canon CanoScan range, for instance) are, slimline, nicely sculpted and attractive to the eye, the Epson Perfection V30 is rather less pleasing to gaze upon. It's fairly chunky, and its blocky styling and bland buttons fail to set the pulses racing.
The Epson Perfection V30 is at least functional though, and while those buttons may be plain, it's hard to miss them. In contrast, typical MFDs are so cluttered with buttons that just operating the scanner can prove rather cumbersome.
The Epson Perfection V30 looks robust from the outside, although the lid feels anything but. We'd suggest care when opening the scanner to insert materials. This is partly to do with the flexible design though, and the hinge of the Epson Perfection V30's lid can be extended so as to allow thick books and other publications to be scanned. Most MFDs won't allow you to do this.
The specifications of the Epson Perfection V30 are decent too, and the optical resolution of 4800x9600 offers vastly more detail then the 1200x2400dpi or 2400x4800dpi modes typically found on MFDs - even Epson's extravagant Stylus PX800FW only offers a straight 4800dpi resolution. The Optical Density (or Dynamic Range) is a fairly decent 3.2, and augers well for the Epson Perfection V30's ability to reproduce a greater range of shades.
You get a generous sampling of software titles with the Epson Perfection V30, from the standard Epson Scan software to ArcSoft's MediaImpression and ABBYY FineReader 6.0 Sprint Plus for OCR. The installation routine wasn't quite as informative as we'd like (we weren't even told when the Epson Perfection V30 scanner had been installed), and if you are setting up the Epson Perfection V30, we'd recommend that you first remove any software left behind by older scanners.
The Epson Perfection V30 software itself strikes a nice balance between ease of use and versatility. You can select from a number of modes, starting with the simple Full Auto that takes care of previews, and picks the settings for you (although you can, should you wish, change the resolution) - and then drops a finished scan into your lap.
At the other extreme is the powerful Professional mode. You won't find this level of usability on the typical MFD. The Epson Perfection V30 software can automatically take care of dust, touch-up faded colours and fix the lighting, so adding that extra dash of flair to your photos.
Scan times of the Epson Perfection V30 are good, with a 150dpi A4 scan taking just 12 seconds (9 seconds for a standard photo); 300dpi needed 15 seconds (10 seconds for the photo) and 600dpi needed only 33 seconds (18 seconds for the photo). These times are strong, and comfortably beat most MFD scanners. The quality available from the Epson Perfection V30 was impressive too, with the majority of the scans showing good detail. Perhaps the colour palette was just a touch too light in places, but the results packed plenty of life.
The V30 doesn't have everything – if you want a built-in transparency unit, for instance, you'll need to pay around £20 extra for the Perfection V300 – but the scan specifications and results are significantly ahead of those offered by most MFDs. For the occasional scanning job, most MFDs can still do an acceptable job. But should you need high-detail and vibrant colours, you'll still find it in your interest to buy a standalone flatbed like the V30.