Contex IQ 449020 Jun, 2013 By: Curt Moreno
First Look Review: High-quality 44" wide-format scanner makes it fast and easy to digitize documents.
If you grew up in the age when personal computing was coming into its prime, you probably remember the huge promises of the "paperless office." Although that promise hasn't fully materialized, thanks to advances in scanner technologies, it is easier than ever to digitize mountains of paper and clean out the old filing cabinets.
The IQ 4400 wide-format scanner series is a new offering from industry veteran Contex. The product line includes the IQ 4450 and IQ 4490 high-performance wide-format scanners. Each model can be used standalone or in tandem with a wide-format printer to make copies.
The professional market offers plentiful options in wide-format multifunction printer (MFP) devices, which typically include an integrated scanner. But like their smaller MFP counterparts intended for small office/home office (SOHO) use, the scanners on these devices are designed first as input devices to the printers (to enable copying) and second as a convenient way to make that occasional scan. For high-volume, high-quality scanning, standalone scanners are the way to go. They are built for scanning and produce the best results consistently. In the case of Contex standalone scanners, the devices easily connect with all leading wide-format printers, including HP, Canon, Epson, and others. They support native print drivers and connect with a simple USB or to the network.
For this First Look, I examined an IQ 4490 scanner equipped with its stand and NextImage software.
The Contex IQ 4490 scanner has a maximum scan width of 44" (1,118 mm), a maximum media width of 47" (1,194 mm), and maximum media thickness of 0.08" (2 mm). With an optical resolution of 1,200 dpi, a maximum interpolated resolution of 9,600 dpi, and accuracy of 0.1% ±1 pixel, the IQ 4400 series is designed to reproduce the smallest details. In my tests, all D-sized sheets were scanned with fine detail in black and white as well color. The IQ 4400 series follows the newer convention of feeding sheets by aligning them with a center mark rather than using a physical guide, but it was not difficult to align sheets for straight scanning.
The IQ 4490 captures data in 48- or 16-bit color mode and stores it in Adobe RGB, sRGB, or Device RGB color spaces. It has a maximum scanning speed of 3.0" per second in 400-dpi turbo RGB color mode. To compare, the Contex IQ 4490 is twice as fast as the IQ 4450, with a maximum color speed of 3" per second — in fact, that is the main difference between the IQ 4490 and its less expensive cousin. For both models, these speeds jump to an impressive 10" per second in a 400-dpi turbo grayscale/monochrome mode. Contex reports a maximum capacity of 198 D-size scans in 200-dpi RGB mode over a period of 60 minutes for the IQ 4450 and 336 scans for the IQ 4490. Both models are rated for an impressive 744 D-size scans per hour in 200-dpi monochrome mode. All these speeds are measured in start of scan to file save which is very important as it is a measurement of the true through-put of the scanner not just the mechanical speed.
Data transfers from the scanner to the host computer should be lightning-quick, as both the built-in gigabit Ethernet connection and USB port feature extended data transfer rate (xDTR).
The Contex IQ 4450 has a sleek industrial design, measures 60" x 19" x 6.3" (L x W x H), and weighs in at a hefty 66 lb (30 kg) without the stand — the latter being a bit of an obstacle during setup. Energy conservation is a key feature of the IQ 4490 series: It is Energy Star compliant and draws 22 W while scanning and only 8 W and 1 W while in Ready and Power Save modes, respectively. Power requirements are flexible: 110, 220, or 240 V at 60, or 50 Hz at 50 W, and the scanner ships with a variety of internal plugs to adapt it for use in just about any country.
The Contex IQ 4490 is a sturdy and versatile wide-format scanner
designed for producing high-volume, high-quality scans.
Contex IQ 4400 series scanners use the company's proprietary Nextimage software to manage image quality. This software has a very straightforward interface offering several scan functions, including saving to multiple file formats such as PDF, TIFF, and more. The scanners offer ICC/ICM color management and can embed ICC profiles in scanned files. Closed Loop Calibration (CLC) helps you manage colors when making copies. The software also features a nice real-time, full-image scan preview, making it easy to adjust resolution, sharpness, and color settings on the fly. The smoothing filter helps you clean up and sharpen blurry edges. Out of the box, Nextimage comes ready for use with more than 100 different plotters from Contex and other manufacturers — a welcome feature for anyone who has ever made a scan for copy only to run into driver issues in the midst of a production rush!
The Contex IQ 4490 was very straightforward to assemble as well as to operate. The main drawback I experienced with this unit was during product registration. Operating the hardware required first obtaining an activation code online, then submitting that code for approval before proceeding. This may be a necessary precaution on the part of Contex, but could create problems in some IT network situations. Once activated, the scanner hummed along quietly, producing scans quite effortlessly and occupying a small footprint among other, larger units.
I would be remiss not to mention the scanner stand. In a world dominated by cheaply made, disposable device supports, Contex ships a milled aluminum stand that exhibits a level of craftsmanship equaling that of its scanners. Other scanner and printer manufacturers should note the quality of this stand and follow suit.
Pricing and Support
The Contex IQ 4490 retails for $8,995 and includes the Nextimage software and stand. Parts affected by normal wear and tear, such as glass plates and calibration sheets, are not covered under warranty. Contex also offers a Spare Parts Support guarantee, ensuring that replacement parts will be available for purchase for five years from the date of product discontinuation. Contex's standard warranty covers parts for two years. Contact the company for any special promotional warranties.
Most resellers of large-format printers, CAD software, and document-management software also offer Contex scanners. Find your nearest reseller using the form on the Contex web site.
The Contex IQ 4490 is a versatile and agile wide-format scanner that could be at home in any engineering or architectural office. With its sleek industrial design, high-level performance, and sturdy stand, this is a scanner worth investigating. Highly Recommended.
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