Plustek OpticBook 3800 Flatbed Scanner Reviews
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Plustek OpticBook 3800 Flatbed Scanner

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Basic Book Scanner, software needs work

Jun 2, 2012 (Updated Jun 20, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

  • Ease of Use:

Pros:Good for bound materials, cost

Cons:Utility needs work, lots of work

The Bottom Line: You won't find a cheaper book scanner for bound materials works well enough for most of us.


I have a need to scan bound materials for everyday usage so I can protect my precious originals.  I have some rare and out of print shop manuals for motorcycles that I use nearly every day.  Scanning those to pdf keeps them out of the grease and grime and prevents sticky fingers from walking off with them as well.  I do this for personal usage only, unless the copyright is expired it would be illegal to scan whole books this way to share with others.  It really helps to be able to keep an old laptop on the workbench instead of fifty bound shop manuals.  A pdf file also lets you blow up that diagram if you scan in a high enough resolution.

I have a regular flat bed scanner but the big difference between this and a flatbed is how close the scanning bar goes to the edge of the glass.  A book scanner is designed so that you can lay the book or magazine etc. face down with the spine hanging off the front of the scanner.  There are some fantastically expensive book scanners out there but for my budget $200.00 was about my limit.  I looked at the 3600 model which is apparently discontinued to be replaced by this unit.

What's in the box:
A4/letter sized scanner
power supply
USB cable
software dvd

Software:
scanner utility 
ocr package

Warranty:
One year, RMA required, proof of purchase required

Setup:
Install software/drivers
Unlock the scan bar via switch on the bottom
Turn on the scanner via switch on the side and windows should find it.

I am using windows 7. For awhile there scanners that would work in 7 were a bit hard to find but not anymore.  Apparently 8 is coming soon, I would hope that it will support this unit as well.

Technology:
First thing you'll notice when you turn it on and start up the utility is the "warming up" message.  This unit uses the older "bulb" technology over the newer tech.  Bulbs burn out eventually but they last a long time before they do.  The unit will automatically sleep after a bit to save bulb life.  Like most things these days this unit is mostly plastic.  The lid is hinged to handle very thick books and will actually come off completely if it needs to (just lift up, metal hinges in the corner with a bar that slides into the scanner).  There are three huge buttons on the right side that make it easy to hit them while holding your project.  These work in the native software driver.  This scanner supports two native resolutions, 300 and 600 dpi.  The native utility defaults to 300, if there's an option to change that then I haven't found it yet...might be another win 7 quirk, don't know.

Operation under windows 7:
I don't know if it's because their drivers and software under 7 are still a bit immature or if all the functions don't work properly in other OS as well.  I normally use Nuance Paperport 14 for my scanning utility but some of the options available in the native utility are not available or just don't work right under Paperport.  Paperport has updateable scanner profiles but as of right now they either don't have any or their update portion of their software isn't working right.  I stopped scanning under paperport in favor of the driver that comes with the scanner, more works properly but it still has functions that don't work, or don't work properly as well.

When scanning, you may want to wear cotton gloves to avoid getting fingerprints all over the scanner glass as you scan your materials. Obviously when scanning a book one page will be properly oriented while the second page will be upside down, paperport's rotate doesn't work right with this scanner.  The native scanning utility can be told to automatically rotate odd or even scans 180 degrees; this works great.   The native scanner utility also allows rotate after the scan and generally as long as the size of the page doesn't change, you only have to crop once; if you put the book in the same spot every time you won't have to preview/crop each page before the scan.  The only thing so far that paperport has over the native utility is auto deskew...that box is always grayed out in the native utility.  I don't think I'm missing any settings anywhere I think it just doesn't work or just doesn't work under windows 7.  

For most books laying the book/spine completely flat gets your subject up to less than a quarter inch of the spine, but, if you need to you can push the spine up a bit..on most scanners that results in unreadable text on the edge but not here...even if you have to push it up a bit and get a slightly shaded line on the edge the text will still be clear enough to read.  

Scanning a lot of pages at once:
The trick is of course getting the book consistently straight on the scanner, there is enough of a lip around the glass that you can generally feel if the bottom of the page is flush against it and straight.   The "rotate on odd or even" option works great and you shouldn't have to software rotate anything.  If the scan is a bad one you just delete it with the x in the upper right and try again (and it won't affect the "odd or even" setting either).  There is an option in the native driver to continuously scan every (user settable) time period...so if you can quickly change pages it would in theory just keep scanning and you'd never have to touch the button...haven't tried this..don't know if it works.  The great thing about those huge buttons on the right side is it's easy to hit them while holding your item in place so it doesn't shift.  The hinged lid is great, however I've find that if your room is darkened you can pop the lid off and still get good scans unlike most other scanners I've used (a time saver).

What I think of it:
I wanted a book scanner but didn't have five thousand dollars for the cadillac version.  For two hundred dollars this thing will do what I need it to, albeit it's going to be a bit more labor intensive than a very expensive unit.  Because this is a bulb scanner you have to be a bit more conscious when you move it...always be sure to lock down the scanner bar to avoid damage.  The first "warming up" session is a little annoying but that's generally only once unless you let the scanner sit for whatever reason while still turned on.  The removable lid and hinge system that allows for fat objects is great and I've even found that as long as your room is a bit dark and you have cropped the scan, you can scan without the lid on it with results just as good as if the lid was down.  The scanner can get pretty close to the bound edge, but if you have to push it up a bit and press flat that generally will pick up that pesky stuff on the edge and it will still be readable.  At least in 300 dpi mode quality is quite acceptable and clear when zoomed upwards.  For my books I found I had to use grayscale, text only wasn't picking up the text properly. DPI is another spot that doesn't seem to work right in the native utility, there doesn't seem to be a way to change it to 600 dpi.  Scans in 300 dpi are quite fast, no complaints and it's not horribly noisey either.

Overall, I think I got my money's worth but their software needs a LOT of repairs and fixes.  When you get this scanner setup go to plustek's web page and grab the newest driver, it's a lot better than what comes on the DVD.  I don't know if things just don't work right under win 7 yet or if their utility is really that much in need of work.  You aren't going to find a book scanner for 200.00 anyplace else and if you need that function it's the cheapest way to get it that I've found.  This scanner can of course scan other things besides books but the "up to the edge" scanning capability makes this unit desireable if you need to scan a lot of bound materials.  I'd buy this again I just hope they fix the driver/utility issues.   While I haven't had to contact Plustek myself yet, those on forums report they don't get replies to emails, really not all that unusual. I hope I don't have to find out what their warranty service is like.

update 6-2012:
I just finished scanning an old out of print 250 page tech manual for a motorcycle. Once you're used to it, you can scan twenty or thirty pages in under 20 minutes.  I didn't have too much problem with skewed pages and it does an amazing job of picking up clearly readable text right up to the spine of the book.  While I've had to scan a few pages over once you get it in just the right spot the scans are very good even with something like wiring diagrams or other graphics with a lot of detail. 

I have the full version of acrobat 8, nuance paperport 14, and the utility that came with the scanner, between the three products I can make a very acceptable PDF of a big book.  I still haven't figured out how to get the deskew working in the scanner utility but Acrobat 8 has a function that will "optimize" the scanned document and it includes deskew, antispeckle, and a few other functions that apply more to photos and color scans.  Acrobat does a really good job of fixing up that page you just can't get to scan absolutely straight, it also gets rid of extraneous information that make the files bigger and lets you crop the black edges or rotate any pages that need it.  While paperport 14 has a pretty decent pdf manipulation utility it can't crop like acrobat 8 does.  What I did was scan with the optibook utility, then open the scan with acrobat 8clean it up and then dump it into paperport to join the separate scans. Paperport also makes it easy to cut out a single page if you need to (acrobat 8 can do that too--even easier because it has a replace function) to replace it if you made a mistake. 

I read one review where the purchaser said he only got a few hundred scans out of his unit, I haven't had that experience yet.  You seem to get more functionality out of the scanner utility using the buttons than if you preview and clik on the scan buttons on the utility, it will go straight to the final scan where you can rotate and even delete the last scan so you can try again and it keeps the scan perameters you set in the first preview for all subsequent pages.  With a little fiddling I have figured out how to assign the paperport when scanning to jpg.  The utility seems to use pdf output by default and can't seem to scan to an image file without help (I can't believe they put something this bad out, it's got to be win 7 issues but maybe not too). 

For a couple of hundred dollars this scanner does what I need even though it is stone knives and bearskins it's workable.  My next project is a tech book that's about four times as large and it's in a lot worse shape too.  The tough part becomes making those pages with the tattered edges lay flat, so far the lid can be used to keep it all flat...you get really good at doing things with one hand with this scanner fortunately the buttons are close enough I can usually reach out with the right pinky to hit the scan button.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 250.00


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