For many of us, a scanner isn't something that's high on our wishlist of tech gear. But there are still some interesting models out there, and compact ones at that. Fujitsu's ScanSnap S1100 Portable Scanner is one of them, and it's very convenient if you need to digitise documents every now and then, either at your desk or while on the road.
- Small and light
- Convenient to use
- Runs off USB
- Business card scanning software isn't great
- A little noisy for a quiet office environment
This small, A4 scanner from Fujitsu is very convenient to use: it draws its power from a USB port and it can be used right there at your desk to scan loose sheets of paper one at a time. Some useful software ships with it, too, although its business card scanning software isn't great.
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It's a slim, 350-gram unit with a small flap at the front that drops down so that you can feed pages into it facing up and one at a time. There is a scan/stop button on the right side, and that's about as difficult as the controls get. It's also easy to set up as it gets its power from a USB port. Importantly, the cable that it ships with is relatively long so you don't need to have your computer too close to the scanner.
Because it's such a small and light unit, and also because it draws power from a USB port, it's suitable for those of you who may need a scanner while travelling. It's super-easy to use with a laptop (once all the software is set up). If you'll be leaving it on your office desk every day, there are two holes on the side through which you can pass a thin cable to tie it down.
Before you can start digitising documents, you'll have to install the software that comes with the scanner. It's supplied on a CD-ROM, which could be inconvenient if you plan to install it on an Ultrabook. The software that gets installed is the driver, of course, in addition to Fujitsu management tools for the scanner, which include ScanSnap Manager (the program that allows you to select the settings for your scanner as well as how scans are handled) and ScanSnap Organiser (which allows you to view scans that were made in PDF or JPEG format). You also get ABBYY FineReader optical character recognition (OCR) software and CardMinder, an application that attempts to recognise and store contact information from scanned business cards.
The scan quality of the S1100 is up to 600 dots per inch (dpi) and it can scan in colour or in greyscale. Input is saved as a PDF by default, but there is a window that pops up after your scan is complete to allow you to choose another way to handle the input. You can choose to save scans as JPEG files, or you can enable OCR and have the scans open up in Microsoft Word, ready for editing. Google Docs is also said to be supported in the pop-up window, but we couldn't get this to work during our tests.
The ScanSnap software shows up after a scan has been completed and allows you to control how the scan is handled.
Scans are relatively quick. An A4 page takes about 8sec at the default 200dpi quality setting and 25sec at the maximum 600dpi setting — plus the processing time required by the computer. There is some noise from the scanner as its rollers feed the paper over the scan head, and if you plan to scan in a quiet, open-plan environment, those sitting nearby will be able to hear it — the sound is a little more tolerable when the dpi setting is higher and the rollers go slower.
It's not a scanner that supports the scanning of multi-page documents in one hit. It's primarily useful if you want to scan a few loose sheets now and then, or when you need to print something out, sign it and then email it back to someone. For example, we used it in our office to scan non-disclosure agreements and product loan agreements that we had to print, sign and then send via email.
The scanner warns not to scan any documents that are held together by paperclips or staples, but we managed to feed some two-page, stapled documents without any trouble — we only needed to scan the first page. For multi-page documents, or double-sided documents, you'll need to feed each sheet in manually and then click 'Finish' on the job window that appears on your screen to tell the software that all those pages are part of the same job.
The quality of the scans is acceptable for text at the default scan quality, with only some noticeable feathering around the edges. It's suitable for images (think product brochures and graphs) when the highest scan quality is used, but the results from these types of scans in our tests looked slightly pale. It should be noted that it's mainly a scanner that's useful for making copies of documents quickly and in a convenient manner; it hasn't been designed to be used for scanning photos and preserving them at the highest possible quality.
For document editing, we used the supplied ABBYY software to process the text. The software did an almost perfect job of recognising all text. Only parts of the page that had logos and differently formatted text (including very small text), were not recognised properly, but these were easily fixed in the editing process. The CardMinder software was somewhat useful for scanning business cards. It picked up the name and email of many cards without any problems, but for company and phone details, we had to enter those manually. It struggled to detect information from cards that had white text on a dark background.
All up, this is a good business tool that's worth considering if you regularly end up with lots of loose documents on your desk that need to be scanned in to your computer. It's very easy to use once its software is installed and the portability of the unit is useful if you need to take a document scanner with you on the road. You can use it on any desk where there is enough space for an A4 sheet of paper to pass through. We didn't find it all that useful for scanning business cards (we had to enter a lot of misidentified information manually) but it was great for optical character recognition and document editing.