The Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 is a compact scanner that blends good performance and quality with a range of useful scanning types.
It sports a tidy little footprint – less than an A4 sheet of paper – so most consumers should be able to find room for it on their desktops. In addition to more standard types of scanning, it also ships with a transparent carrier envelope to hold folded pages, and this allows operators to do double sided scanning of folded pages up to an A3 document.
To do this, the document is actually interpreted by the software as a single image, quite a nifty feature when you think about it – and this helps to save time and preserve image quality versus manually stitching together multiple scans in an editing package.
Though small, this machine is fast and flexible. It can handle a diverse range of paper weights and sizes, from business cards right up to folded A3, but because it is not a flatbed scanner, it won’t handle pages with staples or other types of binding.
In terms of warranty the ix500 carries a one year Return To Base (RTB).
How we tested
To put the scanner through its paces, Enex TestLab performed a series of independent tests, including measuring its performance at managing a 40-page document, and handling a mixture of media exhibiting different paper weights, sizes, colours and ink types.
Our evaluation includes consideration of its performance for double-sided scanning and its ability to handle business cards.
We also subjectively evaluated the images quality against predefined reference targets for scanners.
Finally, we looked at the device’s bundled Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.
Test results: Performance
Our first test – scanning a 40-page, A4, single-sided, 300dpi document featuring both monochrome and coloured sections (both text and images) – gives a readily comparable assessment of the performance of the unit under the most common scanning requirements. The total time it took to scan all 40 pages was 90 seconds. In the real world this equates to 26.7 pages per minute – which is great – especially when factoring in the overall price of the unit and its output quality.
Mixed media: various paper weights sizes, colours and ink types
For the mixed media test we threw a big range at the Fujitsu ix500.
It scanned onionskin paper without an issue and even picked up the watermark, albeit faintly.
The device is generally very good at handling image contrast, although during a grey-scale assessment, any shading at 5 per cent grey became indistinguishable from white after scanning. Again, this isn’t bad, most scanners we come across struggle in this grey-scale range.
On occasion, some colours were too pale, however, for the most part it reproduced colour with reasonable consistency.
As far as handling the different media, it was impressive. At no stage during our testing were there any delays or jams resulting from the mixed weights or sizes. It is, of course, recommended that if sticky notes are attached to pages, the sticky edge should always enter the scanner first.
With its ability to scan at 600dpi, the handling of very fine grids is reasonable. Black lines spaced at 75 lines-per-inch are quite distinct; they began to blur together by the time we reached 150 lines-per-inch.
Scanning at 1200dpi is restricted to just black and white. At this resolution, during our testing, it achieved fairly poor handling of fine black lines.
Double sided scanning
Impressively, the ix500 is able to scan both sides of a page simultaneously, without any obvious impact on speed.
A folded A3 sheet is placed in the supplied carrier envelope and the two A4 halves of the sheet are automatically scanned together by the device to form a single image. Of course the folded page must be placed very carefully in order to ensure both sides are precisely parallel with the carrier envelope. It was also noted that if the vendor’s instructions are followed precisely, the resulting image is actually upside down.
For its size and cost, double-sided scanning is great to have. The capacity to reach up to A3 also expands the useful range of the device. If double-sided and A3 scanning is infrequent, users should have no problem with a little bit of fiddling to get it done occasionally.
Business cards are well managed. Eighteen assorted business cards can be loaded into the ix500’s feeder at once. If a page overlap is detected, the operator has the opportunity to keep or discard that page. Webpage URLs are converted to hypertext links wherever detected.
OCR has come a long way in the past few years and this units’ is well developed and comes as standard. The software supplied has an OCR component that does a very good job of producing searchable PDF documents from good quality text documents or business cards. Coloured text and backgrounds are also generally well handled. The PDF allow searching and Web/email links from within Adobe Acrobat Reader.
We liked the ScanSnap software options. With desktop versions (PC and Mac) and mobile apps, the operator is able to shift information easily between formats, their devices, the ix500 scanner, and even Cloud services such as Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs or tools like Salesforce.com. The transition between paper and digital, or device and Cloud is becoming increasingly seamless and it’s quite a useful aspect of the ix500. Scanning to, printing from, or shifting documents between a variety of devices, especially mobiles and tablets is something we’re all going to want to do more and more, and ScanSnap makes this a fairly simple process. Typical tasks, such as scanning directly to an iPhone or printing directly from mobile devices have been well thought through and, once set up, can be managed efficiently.
If the consumer is seeking a compact desktop scanner, this is one they should look at. It processes A4 at a respectable pace and quality, while also offering most of the likely alternative media one would come across.
The test results confirmed it can maintain page performance while also outputting a relatively high scan quality, and this is continued across its other scanning media and types – from a stack of business cards right up to A3 posters.
Its support for soft functions such as device and Cloud integration brings some powerful capability and useful options.
For its price of $699, this unit is good value for money with a one-year warranty.
Note: This is a sponsored independent product review by ENEX Testlab. As such it does not express the views of ARN, it's editors or journalists.