Review: Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600

New Fujitsu scanning technology impresses, or disappoints? (November 25th, 2013)

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Fujitsu

Price: $795

The Good

  • Book scanning
    - Scan Quality/Speed
    - Included productivity tools

The Bad

  • Price
    - Space commitment
    - Problems scanning black documents

There are plenty of desktop scanning solutions on the market to add to productivity and cut down on desk clutter. Whether the user wants to organize daily paperwork, insert documents into the cloud, or just get rid of paper to keep a clean working environment, these scanners come in all shapes and sizes to fit both commercial and consumer needs. But is it possible for one device to span both markets? The latest in the ScanSnap series, the SV600, looks to take a different desktop approach to digital imaging to tackle large format and book scanning for businesses and flexibility for home based users who might be looking for something to tackle their next archiving project.

A first glance at the ScanSnap SV600 appears to be missing something: there are no large trays that stack up scans from an automated document feeder, no tabletop hardware with a heavy pane of glass on the inside. Instead, users see a device that looks more like a lamp than a scanner. What allows this out-of-the-ordinary look is the way that the scanning function works in the SV600 -- instead of a normal pass over glass, the system works more like a camera lens with a depth of field.

What Fujitsu calls VI Technology pairs this lens with a CCD linear image sensor and an LED lamp to get a crisp, even scan. A normal scan pass becomes a much longer pass at a pivot point instead of a linear travel point. This results in a complete scan in less than 15 seconds from initial scan to saved file. The scanner is also ready to be used in about four seconds even when turned off.

When previous experience would say that the scan would degrade or darken at the end of the scan, the gear-driven head surprises with clarity all the way through. This is partially attributed to the sensor and bright LEDs used to determine the scan, but also due to another small feature that some might take for granted: when the ScanSnap starts up, the base of the unit offers two white strips for white balance captures for each scan.

Because it is reevaluating the white values with each pass, even shifting light conditions are something the scanner can overcome. This again adds a similar touch to what would be found on most DSLR cameras in the last 10 years. However, that doesn't mean that everything is perfect with the scans.

Since the SV600 works in a manner that pivots to reach instead of travels parallel to the end of the document, there is a small amount of bending towards the end of the scan. Fujitsu has thought about this issue, and has included a key feature it the software that flattens the image to eliminate this arc. An even better bonus to this feature is that it works for the curvature in a book due to its spine. It is still recommended that you hold down the edges of the pages to flatten the book as much as possible, but it is nice that the distortion can be lessened even further -- and if there was worry about fingers being in the scan, the software has a tool that can "retouch" the pages. This includes removing fingers, slight movements, or any discolorations that may appear. All of these options are available to be used before committing the scan to be saved as well.

Documents up to 1.18 inches thick can be scanned (even 3D objects), so most book types shouldn't be difficult to scan. The unit was tested with hardback books, paperbacks, comic books, manga, roleplaying game books, business cards, and even DVD boxes just to see what was the device is capable of. Each one of these media types were scanned with ease. The most surprising quality came from the manga scans given the way the art style can lend to blending or lost details with most scanners.

To add to the book scanning experience, there is a feature that allows the user to set a timed delay or have the scanner detect when a page is turned to begin the next page. In the unit there is a small sensor that can detect the motion of a page turn, but be warned it can take some time to get the proper turn down for it to recognize. An even, slow turn is required. There is no doubt that scanning books is the specialty of this scanner when all of these features are considered.

Multiple documents aren't a problem for the SV600 either. Part of the reason is due to the large amount of space the scanner can pick up, allowing for paper sizes up to A3 (11.7 x 16.5 inches) to take advantage of newspapers or a large coffee table book. The VI Technology is smart enough to detect different objects in the scan and separate them out as pages. If the scanner doesn't detect them that way, the post-scan software allows areas to be defined independently to correct a combined scan.

In an attempt to throw kinks into the operation of the ScanSnap, 16 business cards of various designs and colorings were tossed onto the scanning area. Fujitsu states in the manual to attempt no more than 12 items to be scanned at once. Perhaps this was for good reason as the scanner was never able to pick up more than 14 cards. The results could not be replicated consecutively as a range from 12 to 14 cards would show up when scanned.

To add to the troubles, often cards with dark colors would have bits cropped off. True black business cards couldn't be picked up at all. If the color was closer to a CYMK black, even in other documents, that wasn't a saturated (or glossy) black, the scanning success rate was much better. Out of 10 scans, a CMYK black card in this range was never missed. If there was a bordering color around the black, then it could pick it up. Setting a white backdrop behind it would allow it to show up, however it would be in the page of white. Software would then need to be used to correct it.

The SV600 does have a small footprint for the actual unit, but the black mat with the sizing dimensions that is meant to be used as a backdrop for the scans takes up significantly more space that the 8.25 x 3.88 inches of the base of the unit. The mat itself is 20.75 x 16.25 inches, so adding in the space that the base bulges out a bit, it is more like 19 inches deep. Of course the mat doesn't have to be used, but adequate space would still need to be given for whatever document is being imaged.

The software bundle must be mentioned, as it has some things in it that might be a deciding factor in the purchase of the ScanSnap. On top of the robust scanning features and accompanying the managing software, the SV600 also comes with a full version of the latest version of Adobe Acrobat (for Windows), Evernote, Rack2-Filer (sortable, archiving software), CardMinder (business card database manager), and AABBY FineReader. FineReader isn't necessarily a strong inclusion, as it is problematic when converting a scanned page to a Word or Excel file. The ScanSnap managing software handles scans straight to print/local save/mobile and cloud saves like Dropbox or Google Docs, as well as any of the included software options in the box.

The ScanSnap SV600 has its place in commercial uses, but will be limited in the case of households. It isn't that it can't function in a home environment, it is just the footprint and features seem to be a bit of an overkill for a desktop workspace. Then there is the price tag: at $795 directly from Fujitsu, this unit is going to be out of the reach for most consumers.

Something like the SV600 will be much more than is needed for most non-commercial users, unless it is something that would be used on a daily basis to make up for the high cost. Between the multi-document capacity, the ability to scan books and large articles, and the included software, the product is nonetheless an incredible value for commercial shops and users who need to scan oversized items, particularly books. The quality of the scans and the flexible tools Fujitsu has included with the ScanSnap makes it a powerful and versatile, machine for the modern working environment that needs high-volume scanning of unusual documents.

by Jordan Anderson


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