At first glance, HP's latest product could be mistaken for an oversized, landscape-orientated photo frame, or even a fancy document holder. But the Scanjet 4670 is, of course, a scanner, the like of which you've probably not seen before. The 4670 defies traditional categorisation, because while it relies on familiar scanning mechanics, they're employed in an unusual fashion.
A two-piece setup, the 4670 comprises a Perspex-backed stand and an equally transparent tablet-style scanner part. These pivot together to form a contraption that vaguely resembles an upended and tilted flatbed scanner, albeit one that, disconcertingly, is see-through. Although primarily an aesthetic feature, the translucency does have a couple of practical benefits.
In everyday use, the 4670 operates much like a traditional flatbed scanner, but with one distinct advantage: the transparent design means it's possible to view target documents or photographs sandwiched between the 2,400dpi scanner tablet and its stand before the scan begins. In other words, should the scan-in-waiting have been inserted skew-whiff, you can rectify matters before proceeding.
However, the Scanjet 4670's more unconventional ability only becomes apparent when the scanner tablet is employed independently of its stand. With OCR in mind, most flatbed scanners will take a stab at capturing digital images of text from the pages of books or magazines placed on their scanning windows, but the 4670 turns this procedure on its head. Remove the scanner tablet from its Perspex-backed base and it can be placed on top of any object you choose. Indeed, HP claims the 4670 could be used to scan, say, a wall-mounted photo without removing it from the wall. Sadly, though, the manual doesn't explain how to stretch the 4670's USB connecting cable in order for it to reach the wall-hanging you wish to scan. Conceivably, you could use a USB extension cable to further the scanner's reach, but then you'd have to find a convenient mains socket for the 4670's power adaptor.
In whatever manner it's employed, though, the 4670 is easy to operate and performs well. The device sports scan and copy buttons, which initiate the relevant functions in the supplied Photo & Imaging Director software. The Instant Share control also integrates with the host computer's email software and online digital-imaging services, allowing the user to order high-quality prints of scans.
A tad disappointingly, the scan speed wasn't up to our expectations, though. A scan of an A4 page of text took over 30 seconds to complete, while a high-resolution capture of a 6 x 4in photograph took almost as long - but neither tally amounts to a major criticism. In contrast, scan quality is beyond reproach. During our tests, resultant scans on text documents and photographs were suitably impressive, with the scanner's 48-bit colour depth exhibiting its resolving mettle on the gaudiest photos thrown at it.
However, the 4670 isn't limited to scans of documents and snapshots. HP includes in the price a transparency adaptor, which snaps handily onto the underside of the scanner tablet and accommodates 35mm slides, filmstrips
The Scanjet 4670 is a great scanner and, while it may be more expensive than much of the competition, its flexibility and high-quality output make it more appealing than its lesser-priced rivals.