SmartWare — Buyers Guide ’06
Digital cameras, scanners, printers, and monitors are imaging
essentials, but how to choose from the countless offerings? Buying
more capability than you need can be a big waste of money; getting
less than you need can mean having to spend again before
recouping your investment. Here’s expert advice on how to sort
through the confusion and make smart purchases.
Mac versus PC? Nonissue. No matter what combination of CPU and software
turns your ideas into images and pages, the pieces of hardware that make it possible are peripherals—devices that attach to a computer for input or output. Take away your keyboard, mouse, and monitor, and good luck using your computer.
Some peripherals, such as keyboards and printers, were essential before PCs and Macs existed. Others, such as digital
cameras, are relative newcomers that have become requirements for imaging and design work. In this overview and in detailed guides in upcoming issues, DG will translate tech buzzwords and brief you on buying decisions for four categories of peripherals. Two—digital cameras and scanners—help you put data into the computer for creative manipulation and editing. Two others— printers and monitors—deliver the results.
Boon to photographers and poison to
Polaroid sales, digital cameras let you
snap a picture, see it instantly, delete
it and shoot again if an image doesn’t
please you. You can also make dozens
of prints before a one-hour photo lab
can, and even shoot low-res videos
suitable for web use. And digital image
quality has caught up with—if not
surpassed—35mm film, although film
cameras are still quicker on the draw
for startup and rapid shooting.
Scanners and digital cameras are technological
siblings (with a shared second
cousin, the optical mouse): Their
sensors look at real-world patterns of
light and convert them to digital data.
While a digital camera can transfer
its images directly to a PC, it takes a
scanner to turn a glossy print or paper
document into a computer file for editing,
use in a publishing project, or digital
archiving on CD or other media.
If you remember when creating text
meant typesetting and designers had
to send projects to a print shop to get
comps or transparencies, the output
quality of today’s $50 home printer
can boggle your mind … and even
design professionals can be happy
with a printer priced under $500.
The future is flat: Notebook PC-style
liquid crystal displays (LCDs), once
ritzy status symbols, are pushing aside
classic cathode ray tube (CRT) technology
in all sizes and price classes for
desktop monitors. That includes CRTs
labeled as flat screen or “flat square”
for their curveless front surfaces; these
are not to be confused with skinny flatpanel