WHAT'S NOT: Tested using its USB 1.1 interface, the BearPaw 2400TA Plus was as slow as molasses. For example, it took the 2400TA Plus 123 seconds to complete the 1200-dpi (2-by-2-inch) color photo test, compared with the average speed of 84 seconds for all the USB 1.1 scanners we've tested recently. (The fastest USB 1.1 model at this task--the Microtek ScanMaker 4900--finished the same test in 39 seconds.)
This BearPaw has a maximum optical resolution of 1200 dpi, but unlike other 1200-dpi scanners, the 2400TA Plus can't always use its maximum resolution. Specifically, photos wider than 6.6 inches can be scanned only at resolutions as high as 600 dpi due to the scanner's transfer buffer limit, according to Mustek. (There is, in fact, no compelling reason to scan a large photo at 1200-dpi, even if the BearPaw was capable of it. The results printed on a typical ink jet wouldn't be noticeably better than those from a 240- or 360-dpi scan.) More problematic, you can only scan black-and-white line art at up to 600 dpi, in contrast to the higher resolutions that other 1200-dpi scanners support. Mustek says it is working to finish a driver update that will let the 2400TA scan line art at 1200 dpi. Very detailed images that you plan to enlarge or line drawings that you want to reproduce at high resolution would call for 1200-dpi scanning. No automatic document feeder is available for this model.
Images from the 2400TA were a mixed bag, as color scans had average quality but monochrome images looked lackluster. Black-and-white photos, for example, needed higher brightness and lower contrast, and resolution higher than 600 dpi for line art would have produced better details in small fonts and geometric patterns. Both on-screen and printed, the BearPaw's color scans showed adequate color accuracy and details, but their mediocre contrast and brightness made some tones appear a bit flat and dull. In our informal look at scans of color slides, we saw results similar to those in the color photos: acceptable color and details, but some tepid tones.
WHAT ELSE: To save desktop space, you can store the 2400TA Plus on its side using the included stand. A helpful demonstration tour and thorough on-screen and print documentation also help make the 2400TA Plus easy to use. The software bundle includes the image editor Ulead Photo Express 3.0 SE, which lets you save and edit 48-bit color images, in case you're interested in preserving the full amount of color data available from the scanning sensor. It also includes a capable optical character recognition tool (Abbyy FineReader 4.0 Sprint), but no document manager is provided. Mustek's Web site offers additional games and skins for BearPaw Panel, plus a Web-page builder as downloads.
The 2400TA Plus's driver lacks separate modes for beginners and advanced users, unlike many competing scanners. However, the scanning controls that are provided are straightforward, easy to use, and geared to home users. If you don't like the results you get from the default settings, you can apply two different enhancement options--called Color Match and Color Balance--and rescan the image. When testing these options, we found that they generally improved scans' overall color, brightness, and contrast. The driver also has a batch scanning function that lets you specify up to ten regions to scan using different settings, which is handy for scanning several photos or multiformat documents (with both text and graphics).
UPSHOT: A bargain-priced, home-user friendly scanner, the Mustek BearPaw 2400TA Plus lets you create passable digital images from film negatives. This model is not quick and it produces only so-so images. By Richard Jantz