It's easy to be passionate about some electronic products - tablets or smartphones, for instance. Scanners, though, are an altogether harder sell. With their mostly utilitarian looks and strong but unglamorous workloads, scanners may be relied upon by many, but it would seem strange for us to feel affectionate about them.
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So it says something about the quality of Fujitsu's ScanSnap series that their followers have an almost messianic fervour. It's not simply what these devices do – letting you take bundles of paper documents of varying shapes and sizes, and turning them seamlessly into an electronic file that can be saved and searched in the twinkling of a button – but the way they do it, offering the best and most reliable features, along with ease of use and great performance.
The brand new Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500, then, has a strong back-catalogue to surpass. In particular, the esteemed S1500. There's nothing so very remarkable about the new Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 to look at, but its slick black exterior slides nicely into the background. The casing seems relatively substantial, but without feeling heavy. In terms of size, the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 is very similar to the S1500. Both models, though, have a surprisingly modest 292 x 159mm footprint given their power.
The older S1500 was already impeccably put together, so it's unsurprising that the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 is a subtle improvement rather than a dramatic step forwards. The paper handling remains at its robust best, and we couldn't trip up the redoubtable feed mechanism.
Usefully, A3 can be handled using the carrier sheet, and the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 also retains its predecessor's ability to automatically straighten paper and remove blank pages.
Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500: Performance
In terms of sheer effectiveness, it was already hard to better the S1500. The Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 essentially carries on the good work.
There are differences, though, particularly when you look under the lid, and the hardware has been tweaked. It now hosts a more advanced processor, while the speed gets a 25% boost courtesy of the new USB 3.0 interface.
We were able to comfortably churn through 32.6 pages per minute using the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500, a sizeable increase on the 24.9ppm we got from the S1500.
Another significant change is that the CCD colour sensors in the ix500 have been replaced by CIS versions. CIS (Colour Image Sensor) has long been considered superior for fine lines, but less good when it comes to reproducing colour and ironing out wrinkles.
The colour on the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 is generally very realistic, although a few of the shades are a touch pale. In all honesty, the colour is never perfectly sparkling on sheetfed scanners, for the simple reason that that isn't their priority, and the ix500 is as good as any sheetfed we've seen for colour.
But the real key to these devices is their ability to reproduce the many intricate details of letters, articles and forms. Here, the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 performed wonderfully, with even tables of fine lines being rendered in perfect order. We also had few problems with scrumpled paper, although Fujitsu's superior loading mechanism is partly to thank for this.
One of the most touted new features is the ability to hook up to a mobile device (iPad, iPhone or Android). With the ScanSnap Connect app loaded (and the mobile device details entered), you can perform a scan on the ix500, and have the results redirected straight to the mobile device.
Once you've entered the details of your device, subsequent connections to the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 are almost instantaneous, making it a very straightforward way of sending a document to your mobile as you're on your way out of the office. It’s particularly useful as it means you can use this feature without having to turn on the Windows PC or Mac to which the ScanSnap is connected.
Whether this will be a feature that gets used regularly by the typical ScanSnap customer is harder to say, but it does lend an extra aspect to the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500's already flexible features set.
We are a bit disappointed that Fujitsu hasn't taken the opportunity to make the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 fully wireless. For normal PC/laptop use, you still need to have the ScanSnap tethered to your machine via a cable. It would have added considerable versatility to the ix500 had machines on a Wi-Fi network been able to connect wirelessly to a nearby Fujitsu.
The software bundle is plentiful, erring more toward the Windows rather than Mac user. The software jewel in the crown of the Fujitsus has long been its full copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard – worth around half the cost of the scanner in its own right. The software is Windows only, which may leave Mac users feeling shortchanged. It's also only version X, rather than the newer version XI.
Nonetheless, most Windows users will be happy to have this software, and the ability to manipulate and create fully searchable PDF files (amongst other things) makes this a great addition.
Other software covers ABBYY FineReader and Evernote, and you can also get access to cloud services like Dropbox and SugarSync. All of these applications are brought together under Adobe's new Quick Menu feature. This simple front-end makes it remarkably easy to choose exactly to which program to redirect your scan, and is a nice addition that pulls together the generous software bundle.
It's worth remembering that the Fujitsu doesn't have TWAIN/ISIS suppport, so if you have a third-party program, make sure it'll be compatible with this scanner before buying.