The Epson Perfection 640U

27 Jul, 2001

Okay, so a few months back, I bought an Epson Perfection 640U, based largely upon the review at CNET. This is the tale of that purchase, and the fun I've had since.

It started with me needing a scanner to scan some photos for a website we were building. I checked the reviews and found one that seemed to fit my needs, ordered it, and it arrived the next day.

Straight out of the box, there were a couple problems. The USB cable that came with the scanner seemed to be non-functional. Couldn't see the scanner on the USB bus, no matter what I did, and the cable wouldn't work with other USB devices. And when I plugged the cable from my USB hub into the scanner, there it was. So I call Epson Tech Support, and get someone who wants to talk me through their full troubleshooting checklist to make sure I'm not an idiot. Sigh. Yes, no, no, that cable still doesn't work. Yes, the other cable still does work. After about twenty minutes of this (including the mandatory tech-support-restart of the computer), we finally agree that the cable is bad.

Okay, so Epson's going to send me a new USB cable, and since I've got a ton of USB peripherals, I'll just always have one of them unplugged. As it turns out, it would take six weeks for the cable to arrive. Seems they have to mail it from Japan. Bleh.

Anyway, I'm plugging one of my other cables into the scanner, and discover that the USB connector is a little flaky. I need to wiggle the cable to get it to fully connect. Closer inspection reveals that the connector is mounted just a little bit too far into the scanner, so you need to get the end of the cable past the plastic that sticks out for it to fully connect. Back on the phone to Tech Support. Turns out there's a local service place that can fix the scanner, and I just need to take it (and the receipt) in. Oh crap, the receipt was glues to the box, which the recycling guy just picked up. Oh well, no real problem. A few minutes with the Dremel will get the extra plastic out of the way, and voiding the warranty isn't an issue anymore, since I don't have my receipt.

The scanner works pretty well. I'm scanning using Photoshop and the TWAIN plug-in, so I don't really look at Epson's software. Until about two months later, when I need to OCR a document. I launch the bundled software (actually from a company called NewSoft, who can't seem to develop web-pages either, but I'm getting ahead of myself). Fifteen minutes later, it's done launching, and there's no text visible. I click the icon for the OCR function, an another ten minutes later, am presented with some buttons, but again, no text.

Okay, it's time for my third call to Epson Tech Support. This time I get someone who's really into helping me. The slow launches of the application seem to be caused by thrashing, since when I crank up the memory partition for the applications, they launch only a little slowly. But still no text. Closer inspection (looking at the pile of shared libraries in the same folder as the applications) reveals that they're built with the Microsoft Foundation Class, which hasn't been supported on the Mac by Microsoft since Microsoft VC++ 4.0. It's been off the supported list since at least 1997, and probably longer.

After talking a bit, and replaying the problems I had with the USB cable, the tech support guy tells me that if I'd like to talk to someone in Customer Relations, he'd be happy to forward me along.

I retell the story, adding the comment that the software Epson is licensing is developed using unsupported Microsoft technology, explain to her what that means (they've written a Windows application and ported it to Mac using stuff from about the time Mac OS 8.0 shipped) and that I feel that if they're paying anything for this software, they're being overcharged. I suggest Epson find someone who'll do a real Macintosh application for them. After some more talk, it comes out that the most common complaint is the software and that they've been having a lot of troubles with NewSoft responding to tech support calls, so if I have a problem getting through, I should call back and let Epson know about my experience.

I reply that I really don't have time to deal with it now. I was trying to OCR a couple pages of text rather than type them in, and I've already burned more time than it would have taken to just type the text, and I'm either going to start typing or just go buy OmniPage Pro and move along. Calling NewSoft is likely to do little more than raise my blood pressure.

In summary

The Perfection 640U seems to be a nice piece of hardware. Aside from a few quality control issues with my unit, the hardware performs well, and is a pretty good deal for the money.

But if you're using a Macintosh, you're going to be frustrated by the bundled software. You'll end up buying separate scanning software, and that's going to add a good chunk to the price if you don't already own such software. I paid an additional $84 for OmniPage Pro, and I already had a copy of Photoshop. If I hadn't had that, I'd have ended up doubling the cost of the scanner in additional software I needed to buy.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:08:41.