Umax Unveils Budget FireWire Scanner

SAN FRANCISCO (07/17/2000) - Scanners that connect to a PC via the fast IEEE 1394 standard typically carry price tags of around $1000, placing them out of reach for most consumers. But Umax Technologies Inc. brings IEEE 1394 (also called Firewire and ILink) into the mainstream with its $249 Astra 6400 scanner, due in stores next week.

The 6400 sports a maximum resolution of 600 by 1200 dots per inch, and offers 42-bit color. Those are pretty typical specifications for a better-than-entry-level personal scanner in today's market, says Michael Weizer, product marketing manager. Umax hopes the speed of 1394 will help differentiate its 6400 product from the pack.

The 1394 standard offers transfer speeds of up to 400 megabits per second. Most consumer scanners today use a Universal Serial Bus connection, which offers a maximum transfer rate of 12 mbps.

But will consumers notice the difference? Weizer says yes. Umax performed tests comparing the 6400 with the 1394 connection and its own Astra 2200 with USB, he says. Scanning an 8.5-by-11-inch image took 24 seconds with the 6400; 49 seconds with the 2200.

Oops, No 1394 Port

Apple Computer Inc. developed the 1394 standard and calls it Firewire, and most of the company's new products include a Firewire port. However, few PC vendors have jumped on the 1394 bandwagon, so most computers lack a 1394 port. Umax thought of that: The company throws in a 1394 port on a PCI card.

"About 80 percent of our business is PC, so we had to include the PCI card in there," Weizer says. And the company managed to do that without increasing the $249 target price, he says.

Of course, having to open the PC and install a card is likely to scare off some newer computer users. But they're not the users Umax hopes to win with the 6400.

"This is not a scanner for everybody," he says. People looking to buy their first scanner might want to stick to a sub-$100 USB-based scanner such as Umax's 3400, he says. The 6400 is for people interested in a more advanced product, with a faster connection and a nicer software bundle, he says.

The 6400 ships with Adobe Systems Inc.'s Photoshop LE, Caere OmniPage LE OCR, NewSoft Presto Pagemaker, and an electronic book called "Scanner Solutions," by Winston Steward. To run the scanner, you'll need a PC with Windows 98 Second Edition or Windows 2000 (both support 1394). Umax is also offering a $299 version of the product, called the 6450, which includes a universal transparency cover for scanning slides and negatives. The company sells the accessory for $69 for use with the 6400.

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