The Astra 6700 is an inexpensive, 2400-dpi, flatbed scanner that connects to your Mac via USB 2.0. It does a good job of scanning photos and other reflective media, but when using the included external transparency adapter, film and slide scans were noisy.
Reflective scans of photographs and test charts came out well. Our standard Picnic test image was a little bit on the red side and some of the shadow detail was lost—but it was really not bad for a low-end scanner. The transparency scans were not quite as good as I expected.
Without using any of the included filters, the transparency scans looked noisy, especially in darker areas of the image. In addition, the software’s Auto Sharpen setting is on by default, which contributed to the noise. SilverFast’s noise reduction tool, GANE, helped remove some of the noise, but also removed some detail, giving the scan a slightly blurry, unfocused look. Handwritten text on a menu card, for example, was not legible.
The scanner ships with a decent collection of software for Windows, but with the Mac it ships only SilverFast SE 6, a light version of its software that has fewer features. For example, SilverFast SE can’t output 48-bit color or 16-bit grayscale files (otherwise known as high-bit files). The software can scan at a high-bit rate, but it either gives you a raw, uncorrected image (SilverFast calls these High Dynamic Range, or HDR, scans, but the resulting files are virtually unusable by this scanner’s target audience) or downsizes the image to 24 bits before saving the file.
Not all image editing applications can work with high-bit files, but Adobe Photoshop and Elements 3 can and, though it may not be a huge deal for some entry-level users, almost all flatbed scanners in this category and at this price now offer high-bit scanning. In fact, the Windows software included with this Astra can output high-bit files. For 48-bit, non-HDR scanning, Astra purchasers can upgrade to SilverFast Ai for $99, which includes this ability among others.
While SilverFast is well documented and even includes QuickTime tutorials for most of the controls, the software is not quite as intuitive as Epson’s or Canon’s scanning software.
Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable
|8-by-10-inch photo, 600dpi scan||1:22*|
|4-by-6-inch photo, 1,200 dpi scan||1:38*|
|Transparency, 2,400 dpi scan||0:55*|
Times are in minutes:seconds. * These results cannot be compared to other scanner benchmarks.
|Highest Optical Resolution||2,400 dpi|
|Max Bit Depth||48-bit (HDR only)|
|Dimensions (width x depth x height in inches)||10.7 x 18.8 x 3.4|
|Transparency Adapter||Separate unit|
|Max Scan Size (in inches)||8.5×11.69|
|Included Software||SilverFast6 SE|
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The Astra 6700 does a good job of scanning reflective media (photos and magazine pages), but scans of slides, using the included transparency adapter, were noisy. Umax offers Mac compatibility by including a light (SE) version of SilverFast 6 software, which works well, but does not support the scanner’s 48-bit capabilities. Folks looking for an inexpensive flatbed scanner with basic transparency capabilities would be happier with Canon’s CanoScan 8400F ( January 2005 ).;
[ EDITOR’S NOTE: This review was updated on May 12 to clarify information on 48-bit scans. ]UMAX Astra 6700