Cervical smears are traditionally taken with the aid of a metal or disposable plastic bivalve speculum. Many women complain of discomfort with these specula. This study compares the efficacy and women's experiences of a new 'dilating speculum' called the Veda-scope, with a conventional metal bivalve speculum (Pederson). The aims of this study were: to determine whether the Veda-scope provides adequate visualisation of the cervix and vaginal walls and an adequate cervical cytology specimen; and to compare user acceptability and women's levels of comfort between the Veda-scope and the bivalve speculum. Sixty-four women were randomised to be examined with the Veda-scope and 60 with the bivalve speculum, by one of two operators. Each woman completed a questionnaire that included subjective views of their previous cervical smear experiences, and acceptability of the examination at the study consultation. Cytologists were blinded as to which speculum was used for cervical sampling. Of women examined, 7-83% of women found Veda-scope examinations comfortable, compared to 38-62% of women who found examinations with the bivalve comfortable; 94% of the women preferred the 'comfort' of the Veda-scope. The Veda-scope was as good as the bivalve speculum in providing samples for cytological analysis following the initial learning curve, and also provided markedly superior magnified views of the cervix and vaginal fornices.