Review: Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M

Relieve your paper trash stress with the ScanSnap! (August 16th, 2007)

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Product Manufacturer: Fujitsu

Price: $495.00 US

The Good

  • Great value with included software. Easy to use. Well built.

The Bad

  • Office-sized documents only. Text recognition error may occur with 600dpi or more scans.

My wife and I are at a point in our lives where we want to downsize and reduce clutter. With our music collection in iTunes and years of photos scanned and saved into iPhoto, attacking paper files seemed like the next logical step. The question is could document scanning be as easy as using iTunes or iPhoto. The answer is "Yes!" with the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M.

Watch the online video

It's not every day I'm willing to admit that an ad or promotional video sold me on a product. It's even less often that ads live up to their hype. The short two-minute video on the Fujitsu web site really impressed me. We ordered it from an online retailer for about $402 plus shipping - considerably less than the MSRP.

Setup is in the name

The first thing you notice about the ScanSnap S500M is how compact and solid it is, especially for its size, which is smaller than expected. It's got some heft at nearly six pounds.

The ScanSnap S500M connects via a provided USB cable and uses Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Standard and the ScanSnap Manager software, which ship on separate CDs. ScanSnap Manager requires Mac OS X 10.2 and a PowerPC G4 800MHz or higher with a PowerPC G5 1.6 GHz or higher recommended.

The fact that this scanner comes with a full version of Acrobat 7.0 Standard makes it a great value. While Adobe has since released Acrobat 8.0, Acrobat 7.0 is a fine product that will suit most users just fine. The fact that Acrobat came with this little gem really sealed the deal for me, and now I'm eligible to purchase an upgrade to version 8.0.

After I set up the ScanSnap S500M, I couldn't resist the temptation to load a test document into the feeder and just press the Scan button. Of course, it didn't help that an easily removed, factory installed label teased me with "Just press the SCAN button to scan!" In mere seconds, I was staring at a PDF version of the document in Acrobat, which automatically launched when the scan was completed. This is way cool.

User-friendly set up

The overall design is very ergonomic and the ScanSnap looks nice on the desk. To scan, simply lift up the front cover, adjust the page width guide, and then load up to 50 sheets of paper depending upon the thickness. After you set up the appropriate software defaults, you simply press the Scan button. If the default settings aren't appropriate, you can easily adjust them via the ScanSnap Manager application in the Dock. Options include image quality, color mode, single or double-sided scanning, compression, and file naming.

Be advised that the ScanSnap S500M scans paper commonly found in offices and does not handle anything larger than 8.5 x 14 legal sized paper (216 x 355.6mm). In a couple of weeks of use, I've run into a few documents I couldn't scan, but not many. At the bottom end of the size scale, it handles business cards quite nicely.

Scansnap screen

Spotlight and OCR

After the document is scanned, Acrobat allows you to apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to the document. This makes the document fully searchable in Spotlight, Google Desktop, or any other search tool able to read metadata. It's really quite remarkable to scan a document, OCR it, then find the document in seconds via Spotlight. Searching through paper files was never that quick or easy!

Unfortunately, a documented limitation of Acrobat 7.0 is that a text recognition error may occur with data scanned at 600dpi or more, which limits you to the two lower quality settings. Workarounds include adding a few keywords to the document instead or simply using the lower quality settings, which are actually quite good with this scanner. I've found that even on the fastest setting, which produces the lowest quality scans, documents look great on the screen and quite good when printed. To take advantage of OCR slightly better print results, I find the Better (Faster) mode to work best, which scans at 200dpi in color and 400dpi for black and white.

Highly recommended

When you consider that Acrobat 7.0 retails for $295, the ScanSnap is a great value. It's absolutely as easy to use as shown in the promotional video and the ability to quickly find PDF files via Spotlight is tremendously useful. Our paper files are quickly going away, and as new paper documents arrive via the mail and by other non-electronic means, more often than not, they are going straight into the ScanSnap before going into the shredder.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Scott Gureck


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