CanoScan FB 636U

I keep an open mind about virtually nothing, so Canon’s claims that its CanoScan FB 636U USB colour flatbed-scanner is “the world’s smallest and most stylish” had me on the edge of my sleeping bag. More bouffant PR silliness, I decided – before even opening the box. But, that’s the beauty of being narrow-minded – surprises are always much bigger and much better. Before USB, scanners were like glass-topped flagstones – yet here’s one you can misplace under a sheet of A4. And – just like the PR says – the metallic-silver CanoScan FB 636U is as sleek as you like. Also, it runs off the 2.5W supplied via its USB cable, so requires no mains supply – making it a truly portable model. Less is definitely more. Under the hood, the CanoScan shouldn’t disappoint. It’s pitched at SoHo users, and punches its weight comfortably at this level. It has an optical resolution of 600dpi – which is the number of Charge Couple Devices (CCD) per inch of scanning head. The scanner is automatically colour-calibrated and the results are pleasing – whether you are scanning at 72 dpi for Web-site use, or at 300 dpi, or over, for images that will be printed. If your stills are sub-standard, CanoScan’s ScanGear CS-U scanning software offers adjustment facilities for colour and contrast, and highlight and shadow. However, these are fairly basic and you’re better off using the bundled software. Low-end scanning used to involve little more than image-placement, but now, it’s fun for all the family. This is down to modern image-editing software. The CanoScan comes bundled with Adobe PhotoDeluxe 2.0 and CanoScan Toolbox CS. The latter is quite handy. When you press the Start button at the front of the scanner, Toolbox CS displays a toolbar on your desktop. This allows you to scan an image without starting up another program, to send images to a printer, or to send them to your fax or email apps. But it is Adobe PhotoDeluxe 2.0 that adds real value. The small brother of Adobe Photoshop, it offers Photoshop’s core image-editing capabilities: you can delve as deep into image-manipulation as you’ll probably ever need to. But there’s also plenty of fun to be had – from pasting pals’ heads onto bogus bank notes, to creating greetings cards and calendars.

OUR VERDICT

For the money, you can’t go far wrong with the CanoScan FB 636U. It looks good, is utterly unobtrusive and – unless you have mid- to high-end scanning requirements – will perform well, whatever you demand of it. Being graphite, it will also complement the new Power Mac G4, and the iMac DV Special Edition.

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