Whether you need to scan an old film negative or an important new contract, the Epson Perfection 3170 can handle the job. Its optical resolution of 3,200x6,400 should be high enough to print a 35mm frame as large as 11x17 inches, and it does a credible job of scanning both positives and negatives.
At 9 pounds, the Epson Perfection 3170 isn't especially portable, but it's solidly built. Black-and-silver styling gives it a sleek and sophisticated look, and the lid opens and closes smoothly. Three buttons on the front control panel take you to frequently used functions: Copy, Scan To Web, and Scan To E-mail. At the back are three ports, one each for a USB 2.0 connector, a power adapter, and a connector for the Transparency Unit adapter (the TPU is built into the cover). The scanner also comes with adapters to hold slides and 35mm or medium-format film strips. You can scan up to four slides and as many as 12 frames of negatives at a time. If you want to use this scanner for business-oriented tasks, such as scanning a batch of legal files, you can buy an accessory document feeder for an extra $200--a little pricey for an accessory, in our opinion.
Installing the Perfection 3170 takes no time at all. Just load the drivers and Epson's Smart Panel software, and you're good to go. We had no problems installing the Smart Panel software, but we were less keen on using it. The interface could use some streamlining; instead of incorporating all of your scanning options in a main interface, Smart Panel serves up task-based windows, which we found annoying. The Epson Perfection 3170 also comes with , which helps offset our irritation with Smart Panel.
You can choose from three configurations: Full Auto (for the staunch newbie), Home, or Professional mode. Professional mode gives you the most freedom to make adjustments, such as applying Unsharp Mask. The Perfection 3170 automatically recognizes the type of original you want to scan, whether it's a photo or a text document--nice for beginners. We really like that you can save option presets, such as output resolution and target size.
The Perfection 3170's test scans of color graphics and photographs looked sharp, with pleasingly saturated yet relatively accurate colors. Our slides came out well, with very little noise, but they were a bit too soft. Text scans were right on the mark. Numbers and letters looked perfectly rounded and sharp. While the 3170 scanned at a generally reasonable pace, it did slow down considerably when scanning at the highest optical resolution: 3,200x6,400dpi.
All in all, our complaints about this scanner are fairly minor. For its street price of around $150, the Epson Perfection 3170's scanning talent is hard to beat.