USB, SCSI, or parallel port scanner-what to get?

Would someone please explain the difference between these types of scanner plug-ins?  I'm looking to buy a new scanner and will be uploading lots of photos.  I had a Visioneer paperport one touch that died after a year.  It was a parallel port.  I did not like not being able to use my printer at the same time.  I guess I need and SCSCI card to run that type.  How do I check my computer to know if I have one?
I need something easy. Will all of these likely work?  I run Windows 95 and my computer is a Packard Bell Pentium MMX that is a little over 2 years old.
tomarcaAsked:
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Asta CuTechnical consultant & graphic designCommented:
This is quite a subjective question, since we all come from our own experiences, mine being a SCSI environment.  I did have some SCSI interface problems with Windows 95 that I didn't have once I upgraded to Windows 98.  For that, though, you'd need a SCSI adapter card.  Furthermore, it would be to your benefit to check your motherboard documentation and BIOS information to see what is supported.

You had a parallel-port attach scanner before and didn't like having to share your printer port; there are options to add second printer port (LPT2), but again, check your motherboard documentation.  You may also benefit by checking the web site for your motherboard/bios to see if perhaps a new BIOS update would be helpful.

Perhaps listing more about your hardware, motherboard, bios version will make this process smoother.

USB sounds easiest, but haven't personally moved to that environment yet.
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tomarcaAuthor Commented:
Consider me computer illiterate as you are talking mostly above my head.  I don't know what an interface is.  By checking BIOS I don't know how unless you mean by watching all those words flash by on a black screen when my computer starts.  I'm not apt to add anything to my computer at all (like a port) and you never mentioned what is USB and why it might be easiest.
I wouldn't begin to know where to look for motherboard documentation.

I kind of want to just plug in my new scanner and install the software and go with that.  
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Asta CuTechnical consultant & graphic designCommented:
I can appreciate your desire to "plug it in and use it easily".  Normally, when you purchase your computer system new, you receive documentaiton with it that tells you about your hardware (computer), and includes information on your motherboard, etc.  Since that doesn't always happen, you can try depressing the PAUSE key when your system first boots.  This will let you jot down information about your BIOS; when done reading what you want, just hit enter to resume (true for most system types I've used).

The thing is this, if your computer has an old motherboard and/or BIOS, it may not support the stuff you want or are considering buying.

Do you know if your computer supports USB?  

 .... perhaps someone else will respond that is familiar with the information you've posted; I've not used nor worked with a Packard Bell pentium specifically.

Just took a quick look at a shopping comparison on scanners; perhaps will help you in your efforts.  Here's the link (cut/paste to your address bar) if you're interested.

 http://www.freeservers.com/cgi-bin/shopbot?description=scanners&list=%2F&html=%2Fmarketplace%2Fresults.html

Best of luck,
Asta
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bparnesCommented:
I'm going to make some assumptions about your system, and try not to get too technical on you.

USB is a relatively recent advance, and there are few computers that support it that are over approximately a year and a half old. If you bought your computer off the shelf (as you most likely did if it has a Packard Bell name) and it came with Windows 95 it is most likely not able to support USB. Most versions of Windows 95 DO NOT SUPPORT USB, so since you have Win95 I'm going to assume you can eliminate USB from your set of choices.

The choice then comes down to SCSI and parallel. There are tradeoffs. For parallel the pluses are that parallel scanners are cheaper than SCSI, and they are much easier to set up. For SCSI the pluses are that SCSI scanners are much faster than parallel, and don't require you to share your printer port.

In general, SCSI are somewhat more challenging to get set up. They require you to open your computer, install an interface card into the computer, and get the card properly identified by the operating system. It isn't rocket science, but it can be somewhat daunting to someone who is a relative novice in this area. (Just remember that everyone was a relative novice at some time in their lives.)

Having said all that, I can tell you that I much prefer the performance boost of a SCSI scanner, but I have many clients who are quite happy with a parallel scanner, especially if they think of themselves as "recreational" users.

If you don't have easy access to someone who can help you install the SCSI card and you are somewhat hesitant to undertake the job on your own, then go with a parallel scanner. It might be useful to check to make sure that your printer won't start throwing a tantrum if you make it share the parallel port with the scanner. Most will do just fine, but a few of the more expensive sophisticated ones (it seems) get their advanced two-way communication between printer and computer messed up by having the scanner there too.

Hope this helps, and wasn't too over your head. I can offer specific brand and model recommendations once I have a better sense of which way you want to head and what kinds of tasks you want to accomplish with your scanner.
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brunoCommented:
go to CompUSA, pay to get them to install the SCSI scanner.  you don't seem like someone who would be able to do it yourself (sorry to assume).  the SCSI is faster, and you didn't seem pleased about sharing your printer port, which you would have to do with a parrallel port scanner.
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tomarcaAuthor Commented:
You said you could offer specific brand and model recommendations--I would appreciate that.  I was thinking strongly about the CanonCanoScan FB620P or FB320P as I saw them highly rated in about 3 different reviews-I want them mostly for pictures but for some text as well once in awhile.  The price is right too.  What do you think?
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Asta CuTechnical consultant & graphic designCommented:
Excellent information, hats off to you, bparnes, for your detailed explanation.

Asta
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bparnesCommented:
Thanks Asta. It's refreshing to have another expert offer a nice compliment once in a well. I appreciate it.

Plan on spending about $100 (prior to any promotional rebates or markdowns) on what I think is the minimum acceptable unit. The stuff below that is just too flimsy for my tastes. Remember that the heart of the scanner is a motor that has to move the sensing device quite precisely in order to yield a good scan. Too much compromise on the motor (i.e., cheap) and the scanner won't yield good scans and will tend toward premature failure.

There are two major types of flatbed scanners these days. Those based on CCD sensing technology and those based on Contact Image sensing technology. You can tell which is used in a scanner by the thickness of the device. A Contact Image scanner is much thinner than a CCD scanner.

Again there are tradeoffs. Contact Image technology (that's what those Canon's are) is the new kid on the block and much more compact, and that is its principal benefit. They tend to be somewhat cheaper because they don't need the fancy light imaging system that is part of CCD. On the other hand, CCD has been around for a long time and is well proven. Most people seem to agree that the images from a CCD scanner are "better" than from a Contact Image scanner. Personally I would go with a CCD scanner unless I really needed the compactness (e.g., portability).

So now we come down to a specific recommendation. Let me start by saying that the under $100 scanner market is fiercely competetive this year, and there are many good choices. I often decide at the last moment based on what happens to be heavily promoted in the stores at the time I need to make a recommendation for a client. I'm not going to do that here since I have no idea what is being promoted in your area.

Instead let me point you to the UMAX Astra 2000P. It is a terrific scanner in its price range, connects through the parallel port, and comes from the largest scanner maker in the world. If you were looking for an office scanner I might point you in the direction of HP. Other manufacturers I consider respectible in the inexpensive scanner area include Microtek, Acer, Visioneer, and Canon.

As you might imagine, I could go on for many more paragraphs, but I don't want to overwhelm or bore you. I'll just conclude by saying that you should purchase your scanner from a place that will make it easy for you to get it replaced should it prove d.o.a. A small proportion of the scanners from any manufacturer won't work out of the box (that's a necessary consequence of the fierce price competition), and so you might get one of those units and have to replace it. Enjoy your scanner, and we'll see you back here when you want to know about calibration, filters, and gamma curves, etc. <smile>

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Asta CuTechnical consultant & graphic designCommented:
Bparnes:

Praise well deserved; you not only expounded with pertinent details but patiently and objectively laid out pros/cons.  Lastly, you already received points/grade and went out of your way to further help the client (tomarca) after the fact with additional information.  Does the heart good.  Glad others care as well.  Best wishes and :~>,

Asta
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bparnesCommented:
Thanks again, Asta. As you might imagine I'm too old now to be motivated primarily by the points. (That seems to work best in grade school.) I haven't figured out what they can be used for besides ego inflation.

For your information, go with SCSI where performance is critical. Otherwise USB if the computer can handle it, and finally parallel if ease of installation is the primary factor and USB isn't available. We'll see fewer and fewer parallel scanners now that USB is available on most every new computer being sold. SCSI will be the "high end" interface until something better comes along.
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