ScanSnap retains its simplicity; Samsung printer a step backward

  • By Matthew Fordahl / Associated Press
  • Saturday, June 19, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

For small businesses and home offices, a document scanner can mean the difference between clutter and organization. Paper that would otherwise pile up can be scanned into a digital format and filed away on a hard drive.

Last year, Fujitsu released its ScanSnap scanner and it drew praise for its speed, simplicity and a footprint no larger than a small inkjet printer. Now there’s a new model, and it’s faster, smaller and just as simple.

The device, which only works on Windows-based computers, is still pricey at $495, though Fujitsu is offering a $100 rebate through September. And the package includes the full edition of Adobe Inc.’s Acrobat 6.0 Standard, which normally retails for $300.

ScanSnap’s primary selling point is that it scans up to 15 pages per minute and converts them into the ubiquitous Portable Document Format with the touch of a button. It also captures both sides of a sheet of paper at the same time. (Unlike a flatbed, paper feeds through the top, much like many printers.)

The document feeder can accept up to 50 pages. To save disk space, it eliminates blank pages. It also automatically detects paper size, straightens and rotates images and figures out whether the document is in color or black and white.

The device also can scan business cards and includes software that reads the text and organizes it into a database. (It does require some manual setup through ScanSnap software).

I was able to clean out a desk drawer of accumulated cards in about 45 minutes. Stacking as many as 35 into the printer at once, each fed through with no jams although some were bent.

The newly digitized cards appeared in CardMinder, the software included with the ScanSnap. It uses an optical character recognition engine to convert the names, phone numbers and other data into regular text.

Given the quality of some of the cards, the system performed well. It did choke on fancy graphics. But because CardMinder also stores graphical snapshots of each scanned card, it’s fairly easy – if a bit monotonous – to correct errors and add information.

ScanSnap, however, doesn’t support standards that would allow it to be used within other programs, such as Adobe PhotoShop or Microsoft Word. Still, photo work is best left to higher resolution flatbed or slide scanners.

New printer has problems: Samsung’s CLP-500 printer looks good on paper: It’s got a relatively low price, offers two-sided color printing and ships with a large, 350-sheet paper capacity. But when it comes to printing something on paper, it’s somewhat of a disappointment.

Though it spews out black-and-white documents at a rate of 21 pages per minute, it slows to about five pages per minute when working with color. The quality of simple color graphics was acceptable, but color photographs are best left to other devices.

That’s not the only problem. The CLP-500, which weighs a back-busting 80 pounds and is roughly the size of a microwave oven, is advertised as being nearly silent. I found it to be annoyingly noisy, especially in a small office.

It also takes nearly 21/2 minutes to warm up from its sleep state.

That’s not say the CLP-500 wouldn’t be useful in a small- to medium-sized office. The fact that it can print on both sides of a sheet of paper is particularly impressive for a laser printer that retails for about $500.

Setup was a complicated affair, and like most printers, cables weren’t included. It can be connected out of the box with a USB or parallel cable. For about $200 more, it can be upgraded to plug into an Ethernet or wireless Ethernet network. (Good luck finding the accessories on Samsung’s Web site.)

For about $280, users can add another 500-sheet paper tray, bringing the total capacity to 850 sheets.

After I installed the printer in the office and made it available to others on the network, it was only a few days before I heard the first complaints about the noise and the speed. If you need to print something up in hurry, find another printer. After a few months, color accuracy disappeared – the result of the starter toner cartridges running low. The printer software offers no warning or reminder to buy new supplies.

The black toner that ships with the unit is supposed to be enough for 2,000 sheets at 5 percent coverage per page. The four-color cartridges are supposed to last for 1,500 pages each. Toner costs between $100 and $120 for each replacement cartridge. Though that equates only to a few cents a page for color, the print quality, the noise and the speed made me wonder: Is color laser printing really worth the trouble?

Associated Press

Fujitsu’s updated ScanSnap scanner is faster, smaller and just as simple as its predecessor.

Samsung’s CLP-500 printer may be too noisy for small offices.

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