Published on August 13th, 2014 | by Greg
piQx Xcanex Document Scanner: A Truly Portable Solution
Paper sucks. And when you’ve got a lot of documents to scan in a hurry, it’s a cumbersome and intimidating prospect. They can be small- business cards or catalog-sized, and you have to worry about lighting conditions, removing staples, trying to deal with image correction, and hauling around a delicate piece of equipment (or risk misplacing or losing the paper you’re trying to scan). Whatever your job is, or the task requires, if it involves document imaging then you’re probably in for a fair number of headaches.
It doesn’t have to be this way. And we’ve found an interesting solution that works for quite a few scenarios. Law offices and financial folks will want their stationary scan stations, and there is still life left in business card scanners and other specialty gear. But we’d suggest putting away the flatbed and checking out the unusual piQx Xcanex, a completely new design that folds up small, sets up using your laptop screen, and unveils a downward facing camera and a platform for you to put the materials right over your keyboard. That way, your screen is right at hand, and you’re able to handle all of the software adjustments and edits without a glance at another device.
Thankfully, it’s also fast, and the results can be incredible. We were a bit nervous about it, since it seems fairly lightweight and were worried about shaking the laptop or bumping the platform while scanning. But their marketing is pretty accurate: you can “just flip a page or place the document and everything else is automatic – scan initiation, page detection, crop, de-skew, orientate, finger image removal and even file saving to cloud folders like Dropbox”. It’s actually really cool, and keeps the process moving at a brisk pace, unbroken by spending too long on any single page and losing the momentum. The hardware itself is fine, if slightly wonky or wobbly-seeming, and there are some compromises to this design- a lower DPI, for instance, 300 dots per inch resolution versus double that available on competitor models like the Fujitsu SV600, and you have a slightly smaller scan area to work with here as well. But for text, especially, that didn’t seem to matter- and we rarely if ever have documents larger than A4, plus the Xcanex is light enough to carry anywhere, perfect for road warriors or traveling library scanners.
It does take a bit more time to setup and get going than we expected- there are some adhesive straps and velcro you attach to your laptop in order for it to stay mounted. You might need scissors, you’ll need to make sure your laptop is clean, and some cases or sleeves might not work well. There’s even a video describing the process that we watched to make sure we got it right. The software itself is also a bit cumbersome- Windows 8 required some adjustments to run it properly, and we had to spend an hour or so figuring out the best method to get good results. But once we had configured everything, we were able to get excellent scans in about 13 seconds each, flipping pages and creating ebooks in very little time, with fully editable text. Part of the package is the excellent ABBYY FineReader 10 OCR Engine, which recognized the text and makes it machine readable. The image processing is great, and even in a bright room, there is very little glare on the results and smudged or uneven text was scanned with a pretty impressive degree of accuracy. It’s not the tool for everyone- there’s no TWAIN support, for instance, and they don’t yet support Mac OSX users (though mention that support is likely to arrive before the end of 2014). Available now, in stores and online for around $260, it’s a pretty cool idea, implemented well. If you can overlook some of the hardware and software issues- and once installed and running, we rarely had problems- then you’ll find the results excellent.