The Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus is an office scanner with automatic document feed
While standalone flatbed scanners may be increasingly scarce, the sheet-fed (or document) scanning sector continues to introduce new models.
While flatbed scanners have you placing the source material flat on the glass surface, sheet-fed scanners suck in the pages and spit them out at the other end. They’re aimed at those who want to take loose documents (letters, bills, torn-out magazine articles, business cards, etc) and rapidly convert them into files for use on a PC. Sheet-fed scanners can be a prized possession in many a home or office environment.
The Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus is aimed more at functionality. It’s compact and light enough to be carried over medium distances (we carried it in a bag on a train from London to Birmingham with little strain); but in truth you probably won’t be wanting to commute with it regularly. And bear in mind this is no road scanner – it needs a power socket.
For those constantly on the move, a lightweight model like the Fujitsu S1100 would be preferable. However, provided you’re happy to leave it in one place for the most part, the Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus has distinct advantages. Not unlike a small inkjet printer in appearance, the Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus has an automatic document feeder that can take batches of around 50 sheets of A4 paper. This makes it very easy to feed in sizeable bundles in one go
That said, you’ll probably want to be around when the scanner starts the software processing of the pages. It can handle duplex scanning, reading both sides of the document in one go, and you can even fit in large paper sizes using a clever system of folding.
Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus: software bundle
The Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus comes with TWAIN drivers and so can be used with any compatible software package. Plustek supplies a few very useful software programs. NewSoft Presto! PageManager and DI Capture work as nice multifunctional front-ends, allowing you to look across your collection of documents and convert them for use with a variety of programs.
The Presto! ImageFolio program is a very decent image editor, while BizCard Finder 3 is capable at converting business cards.
ABBYY’s FineReader 6.0 Sprint Plus is a more complete version of the software package supplied my some scaner makers, and proved an excellent way of turning a page into a Word, Excel or PDF file.
The software is generally very easy to use, and as a nice additional touch, you can assign different programs to function numbers. These numbers can then be selected from the front of the Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus before pressing the Scan button and firing up the desired program automatically.
The Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus is faster in operation than portables like the Fujitsu, taking 15 seconds to feed in and perform software processing on a complex document at 200dpi, against 22 seconds in the case of the S1100.
At 300dpi, the Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus took 22 seconds, while the Fujitsu needed 27 seconds. The Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus can accept batches with multiple pages, and a 10-page bundle (consisting of five double-sided sheets) took 2 minutes 51 seconds at 300dpi.
The Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus wasn’t terribly accurate at 200dpi, and in testing struggled even more than the portable Fujitsu, particularly with font consistency. At 300dpi, though, results improved significantly.
The Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus is a very accurate OCR scanner when it comes to the words themselves, although it did struggle with symbols more than the Fujitsu.
In a scan of a dictionary page, for instance, the Fujitsu was able to replicate the many pronunciation guides and tiny icons without any trouble, where the Plustek SmartOffice PS286 Plus frequently substituted the symbols with incorrect letters.
In magazine articles, drop caps were also more elegantly rendered by the Fujitsu. However, these are the sorts of things that you can train a scanner to improve at recognising.
It makes a serviceable job of colour photos, although the colour isn’t as accurate as it would be on a decent flatbed scanner.
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