The Perfection 4990 is housed in an attractive, rounded metallic gray case with a strip along the top that indicates sensor location via a moving blue light. The scanner occupies a small footprint on your desk and weighs less than 15 pounds. Physical controls consist of only the power button and a light, since most functions are handled by software.
The 4990's 8-by-10-inch scan area is larger than the 4870's and accepts both prints and film. It scans film using an extra light in the unit's top. Plastic frames hold the film securely, helping maintain good focus. The frames accommodate 35mm slides, 35mm strips (as many as 24 frames), medium-format film, and 4-by-5-inch film.
The scanner's basic software includes LaserSoft Imaging SilverFast SE 6.0 (a reduced version of the powerful SilverFast AI) and Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, plus optical character recognition software and Epson scanning and copying utilities. The included software is capable and well designed, though, as it comes from several manufacturers, there is no single standard interface. And some features are duplicated in Epson's scanning utilities and in SilverFast SE, possibly stirring up unnecessary confusion in new users. Once you sort it all out, though, the multiple options let you set up the scanner to work the way you do.
The Perfection 4990 also offers automated options for those that want to get good results quickly and simply. There's Auto Exposure in both the home and professional modes of the Epson Scan driver, and SilverFast SE offers automated exposure settings, as well as automated controls for dust removal. In either application, you can opt for more powerful manual controls.
The unit includes a self-adjusting lid, which can shift horizontally to accept awkwardly shaped items, such as books. Another handy feature is the Epson Copy Utility, which lets you set up the scanner and a printer for one-button copy-machine capability.