You might enjoy this article where Ken Rockwell compares the Minolta against Nikon, Imacon, etc. I previously had a Nikon scanner, and also did experience the banding problem in sky areas.
Personally, I found the Epson comparisons at galerie-photo.com a little under-whelming. It makes me wonder how Epson can claim a substantial increase in resolution between the two models. It looks more like a change in tonality than actual detail.