Published on March 28th, 2013 | by Greg0
The Fastest Scanner Yet: Fujitsu’s ScanSnap iX500
The market for scanners is divided into a couple of categories: your photographers and artists need high-resolution scans, usually from a flat bed model, and then there are the office types that just want accurate, fast scanning of mostly text. If you’re a professional that deals with reams of documents- lawyer, accountant, doctor- then you want an effortless solution that will help you handle the mountain of paperwork. While other scanners, like the recently-reviewed NeatDesk or the light, portable Doxie line might be fine for smaller tasks, occasional stacks of paper and receipts, if you want something that can process major amounts fast or faster than shredding them, we’ve got the goods.
If you’re not already a fan, then the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 will convert you quickly. We’ve raved about previous models in the past- they are the best-in-class portable and desktop document scanners that we’ve tried, and though they definitely cost a fair bit, they hold up well over time. We’ve scanned thousands of business cards, and maybe a hundred pounds of paper, with the ScanSnap series models- like the S1100 and the S1300i, the portable models that we take on the road to conferences and conventions. While Fujitsu’s latest scanner is technically portable- it folds up pretty nicely- it’s definitely a desktop model and requires AC power like the S1500 (read our review from last tax season). As before, it doesn’t take up much room on a desk, and has a compact footprint.
What’s new? Well, the design is a bit cleaner, looking sharper and sleeker and a bit more modern. But the changes are cosmetic- the experience has improved too. On paper, these feature tweaks are relatively minor, but they add up to something more than they might seem at first. Everything is faster, from the physical scanning to the processing, enough that it’s hard to see how much room for improvement there could be. The iX500 literally scanned as fast as we could throw things at it, where previous models would require a fair bit of processing time and there would be delays for each page and each stack. All in all, the numbers speak for themselves: 25 pages per minute, double-sided, with an automatic document feeder that can hold up to 50 sheets at a time.
Numbers and speed aren’t everything, if they don’t reach those in real-world tests, or don’t produce accurate results. We actually reached speeds faster than those claimed while using assorted single-sided documents though, and only faced one jam due to an errant staple. And accuracy was as good as ever- no significant differences in our test pile between previous models, and in some cases we noticed improvements in optical character recognition (OCR) especially with unusual characters/fonts. Handily, you can create searchable PDFs with one click. The software included is a little bit old- only Adobe Acrobat X Standard is in the box, even though the newer version has been out for a while now, and only the PC version. Cardminder is solid, and their organizational tool is pretty good.
There is one other good reason to consider upgrading, or switching over from another scanner: they’ve built wireless capabilities into this model! As before, you can easily scan to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs or other cloud apps. But now, you can also use wi-fi to scan directly to your iPhone or iPad, or Android smartphone- before, you still needed a PC. It works, and is pretty easy once you have it set up- it seems that you do need a PC at least for the initial connection. There is a dedicated wifi switch on the unit so you can enable or disable it at will, and when you are installing the software, it will lead you through the steps to set up the unit wirelessly as well.
The ScanSnap iX500 is in a class of it’s own when it comes to scanning. There are some oddities- the carrier sheets are a bit awkward- but if you need an ultra-fast, highly capable document scanner that’s perfect for businesses, then this one should definitely be on the top of your list. For an individual, it might be overkill, and the quality doesn’t come cheaply. But for $430, available now online and in stores, you get exactly what you pay for: time is money, and paper is dead.