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Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Review: The Road to Paper Liberation

The earlier S1500 model has been the best-rated sheet fed scanner for the past 10 or so years, and the new ScanSnap iX500 builds on and improves that reputation. By James E. Gaskin

Fujistu has been making scanners of various sizes to offer consumers and businesses the value of "paper liberation" (isn't that a great marketing phrase?) for years. We have one of their ScanSnap S1500 sheet-fed scanners and use it with outstanding results. The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 updates and replaces our trusty S1500, in the same form factor but with a bit higher performance and a new wireless option to scan directly to mobile devices. It also has sharper corners and comes in black rather than silver.

Setup and Configuration

The "quick start" guide is a single page printed front and back and includes 10 languages. Simply unpack, install the software from the enclosed DVD on your computer, connect the ScanSnap via the enclosed USB cable (with an unusual end, so you'll need to keep track of this particular cord), setup up the wireless support (or do it later), then start scanning. A DVD with Adobe Acrobat XI and Adobe Reader is enclosed as well.

The ScanSnap software includes ScanSnap Manager, ScanSnap Organizer (main hub for doing things with your scanned documents), CardMinder, and ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap. Standard software install steps – warnings about AV software running, the license agreement(s), and your choice of Typical, Custom, or Complete package installation followed. These all took a few minutes, but everything went well.

Then we connected our ScanSnap iX500 via the special USB cable to our computer. A window popped up saying the scanner is ready to work. A round blue icon with an S appeared in the hidden icon area of our Windows 8.1 test machine.

We decided to go ahead and configure the Wi-Fi. There's a switch on the back of the iX500 that turns the Wi-Fi on and off so we turned it on. The configuration utility appeared, found the local wireless networks, and asked for the security code on the network we chose. When confirmed, a little light beside the large rectangular blue scan button changed from orange to blue.

Next we downloaded the ScanSnap app from the Google Play store (free), started it, found the iX500, and gave the password which appeared on the PC setup utility (actually the last four digits of the ScanSnap's serial number, but you can change it). Once the password was confirmed, we loaded a page into the scanner, hit the Scan button on the phone, and immediately the paper slid through the scanner and the file appeared on the phone. Is this a critical feature people have been begging for? Probably not, but everybody loves tablets and smartphones, so maybe people have been begging Fujitsu for this. If so, they should be happy, because it works great.

Getting to Work

When we started the software to put the scanner to work we got a pop up demanding to upgrade all the software we just installed. 400MB later we were ready to test, so maybe skip the disk and download the latest from Fujitsu's site to begin with. At least the Fujitsu installer started on the first program while the downloader started fetching the second program, saving us a little time.

People still give out business cards but few people buy Rolodexes anymore. So the CardMinder app can become your electronic Rolodex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolodex) and provide two-sided scanning and searchable text. Feed a stack of business cards into the hopper and they slide through the iX500 like it was a card shoe in Vegas. In a few blinks the info on the cards populates the text fields, at least when the cards are readable. Fancy fonts and colored backgrounds can cause illegibility, but each field is editable to clear up the typos. There are cheaper card-specific scanners, but getting the CardMinder app for "free" as part of a high-speed sheetfed scanner is a nice bonus.

Fujitsu's ScanSnap iX500 and similar mid-level sheet-fed scanners all work the same way: stack some individual sheets in the ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) and two cameras grab the images from both sides of each page on the way through the scanner. Blank pages can be ignored, and the scanner will deskew, rotate, and clean up images automatically - although you can control these and other options. About 50 pages can be put in the hopper of the iX500, and Fujitsu says 25 pages a minute are processed. That seemed about right for our testing, although thicker pages will cut the feed stack a little.

Every step of every process offers alternative settings, but the defaults do a good job right out of the box. Image quality runs from 150 DPI (Dots Per Inch) to 200 to 300 to 600 in both color and black and white. Color modes include auto detect, color, black and white, gray, and color high compression. Simplex (single) and Duplex (both sides) scanning can be set in the configuration screens but also changed when starting each scan from the computer (click Simplex or Duplex to initiate the scan).

You can set the saved file name format using some version of a time stamp (yyyy_MM-dd_HH_mm_ss) or set a custom name and increment each successive scan. Save file formats are PDF (default) and JPG. You can decide to use marked text on documents as keywords for the PDF file for later searching, or convert the entire document in any of 11 languages into a searchable PDF, and expend the minimal extra processing time on the entire document or just the first page. Paper sizes range the gamut from business cards to long, long A4 documents (try grabbing an extra-long page on a flatbed scanner). Set the compression level from 1 to 5 with a nice sliding scale that shows the balance between compression and file size. Corporate customers with knowledge management systems will be glad to see PDF/A-1b file format, since that's the standard in high-end systems.

Each time a scan set completes, the ScanSnap Quick Menu appears to guide the handling of scanned images. The first option is the ScanSnap Organizer, which stores and allows image handling like OCR (Optical Character Recognition) processing. CardMinder is second, but it will refuse to load if there aren't business card images in the scan ready for processing. Scanning to folder or email are pretty self-explanatory, as is scan to print (handy if no copier is around).

The second row of icons allows the scanned documents to do some specific work for you. Scanning to Google Docs and Word work great if the scanned document is mostly text printed from a computer. The ABBYY FineReader software does a good job turning a scanned image into a Word document ready for editing, including making scanned hyperlinks active in the resulting file. No typos in our tests with clean text documents, but text blocks will be in frames like a desktop publishing program rather than a normal DOCX file. The right info can be fed into Excel or PowerPoint as well, or saved in a Pictures directory. If you use Salesforce, you can send docs to the Chatter section.

As mentioned, most of the ScanSnap work goes on in here. The file image with the little Microsoft Word icon (by the cursor) has been converted by ABBYY FineReader. Here you can add new "cabinets" (left over term from higher-end document management systems) to store files, scan a saved image set to another application, and double-click to open a viewer for a better look at your scanned images.

Summary

Once the configuration has been tweaked, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is a "Snap" to use for a variety of tasks. Scan documents to attach to email? Snap. Turn text on physical pages to Word compatible files? Snap. Search a set of documents for tagged keywords or churn through all machine-readable text? Done.

If your office or your customers are itching to experience "paper liberation" then the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 will help set you free. The earlier S1500 model has been the best-rated sheet fed scanner for the past 10 or so years, and the new ScanSnap iX500 builds on and improves that reputation. If you have more scanning volume than a handful of pages each week, this ScanSnap should be at the top of your list for sheet-fed scanner models. Hard to go wrong when you choose the upgrade of the leading sheet-fed scanner, and that's what the ScanSnap iX500 delivers.

Pricing and Availability: MSRP: $499.99 (Street: $415) | Availability: Now

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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