Plustek's OpticBook 3800 scanner doesn't look particularly innovative or interesting, and its appearance can be politely described as functional. The control panel is simplicity itself, with four buttons, three of them (all very generously proportioned) allocated to colour, grayscale and black and white scanning. The rather large and blocky casing lacks the delicate curves and modern styling of today's scanners, but although the design looks heavy, the scanner itself is very light.
The scanning glass comes right to the front edge of the Plustek OpticBook 3800. You can scan within 2mm of the spine. This allows you to open up a book and place one half (that you want to scan) on the glass itself, letting the other half protrude from the scanner and rest on the tabletop.
See also: Group test: what's the best scanner?
A clever idea, but the system isn't fool-proof, and the lid is so flimsy and lightweight that you have to exert a substantial amount of pressure to stop the book popping into the air, creating exactly the distortions on the page that you're trying to avoid. Not a perfect situation then, and one that a much heavier lid or some form of adjustable lock could have fixed. Provided you're prepared to hold down a hand on the lid while scanning, the Plustek OpticBook 3800 is capable of creating very accurate results from all but the thickest stiffest books.
We didn't like having to wait almost a minute for initial warm up, but appreciated fast times during use. Using the Book Pavilion interface, for instance, it takes 6 secs to preview your picture, and then another 11 seconds to scan it in 300dpi, or 21 seconds to scan at 600dpi – irrespective of whether you're scanning in colour or not.
The scan can quickly be converted to a PDF or other file. It took an extra 5 seconds, for instance, to convert a scan into a PDF. These speeds are fairly swift, and the level of quality was pretty impressive. Even at a moderate 300dpi resolution, colours are reasonably accurate - if just a touch on the pale side. Up the resolution and the results are stronger still.
Many users will be buying this for its OCR capabilities, and ABBYY FineReader 9.0 Sprint does a fine job. We were pleased with the accuracy of text recognition, and even our fiendish dictionary test produced surprisingly flawless results.
Getting the software to perfectly mirror the page layout is trickier – particularly on complex magazine articles - and the software wasn't totally at ease with switching between foreign languages. Serious text users will be looking to upgrade to the full edition – FineReader 10 – and this software release will make a superior job, fixing the problems of version 9.0.
Other interesting software packages bundled include NewSoft's Presto PageManager document management application, and Presto ImageFolio, for editing and managing graphics files.