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.