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It's so easy
The $99 BearPaw 1200TA is easy to install using the included setup poster. It connects via USB and works with Windows 98, 2000, Me, and XP but not Macs. In addition to drivers, the installation CD bundles ABBYY FineReader for optical character recognition, Adobe Active Share for image transfers, and a couple of very simplistic games that let you incorporate your scanned images. The BearPaw 1200TA also comes with the Ulead Photo Express image editor on a separate CD.
In keeping with its name, the scanner's front edge contains five buttons in the shape of a bear paw. Hit the center button to scan and save an image immediately to your hard drive. Three smaller buttons automatically scan your image at an adequate 600x1,200dpi (dots per inch) maximum resolution and send it to your printer, fax machine, or e-mail app. The fourth button launches an onscreen panel for controlling the scanner's functions, where you can also change an extremely limited list of scan settings such as color/grayscale mode.
It is possible to edit the BearPaw 1200TA's images before the final scan--with a whole lot of patience. The machine includes a decently intuitive TWAIN driver that lets you preview the image and perform the usual edits, including brightness, contrast, cropping, and more. But the setup poster explains only how to access the driver; it doesn't describe the driver's purpose. Oddly, the electronic QuickGuide also fails to discuss anything but the scan buttons and the onscreen panel. A second electronic user manual makes small-print mention of the preview capabilities, but it doesn't deal with the scan buttons at all. This inefficient smattering of information is sure to exasperate inexperienced users.
So-so scan quality and speed
The BearPaw 1200TA scanned at average speeds in CNET Labs' tests, but quality varied. Color scans looked fair, with clear black-to-white gradients, accurate geometries, and saturated colors, but the latter also appeared somewhat dingy, dark, and flat. Grayscale images looked a bit underexposed but showed overall accurate shades. The machine's included film/slide/transparency adapter produced some surprisingly solid slide scans, including fairly crisp colors and lines. But film scans were an entirely different story; grainy and distorted, they were hardly worth the bother.
Mustek's support is minimal. The company offers a typical one-year warranty and toll-based tech support. Technicians are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. PT. You can also e-mail a tech-support rep, but don't rely too heavily on the short list of obscure Web-site FAQs for help.
Down to its teddy bear icon, the Mustek BearPaw 1200TA targets kids and casual users who might be satisfied by simply pressing a button and accepting an automatic scan. But the mediocre-to-worse scan quality, confusing documentation, and skimpy support are not worth the trouble.
Time, in seconds, to scan in image (shorter bars equal better performance)
|The Mustek BearPaw 1200TA displayed better performance than image quality in CNET Labs' tests. While its color and grayscale scanning speeds weren't bad, the BearPaw's scans often appeared dim, dark, and underexposed.|