I don’t buy a lot of hardware anymore, but we purchased a Fujitsu Scansnap ix500 document scanner this month. It has a fantastic reputation, and it only took an hour to live up to it for me.
The good: Setup is friendly and wizard-based, and it scans fast. It’s probably faster than your printer. Really.
The bad: Not much, but it can be picky about USB ports.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first. It seems to hate USB 1.1, and it’s picky about USB 3, so make sure you have a USB 2.0 port available. For most people this won’t be a problem of course. If you have trouble with your computer recognizing it, try different ports until they communicate. Odds are your computer is newer than mine and you won’t have the issue. Once you get it working over USB, the wizard offers to set up wifi. Do it. You won’t regret it. And in case you’re wondering, the scanner can be on wifi while the computer you install the software on is on a wired connection, as long as they’re connected to the same router.
Once it’s set up, using it is as simple and foolproof as it gets. Put paper in the slot up top and hit the blue button. The sheets feed through, it scans both sides, and when they arrive at your computer, you get a menu. Name the files, make them searchable (which also means to OCR them) if you want, then save them. You can save them as PDFs and you can even create Microsoft Office documents from them. The formatting won’t necessarily carry over, but the text will be editable.
The software that does most of this work is based on ABBYY Finereader, which works well. The OCR is as accurate as I’ve seen and the speed is reasonable, even on an older PC. The scanner also comes with a copy of Acrobat XI, the full version. The software alone purchased separately would cost half as much as the scanner.
It’s a pretty high compliment to a product when there isn’t much you can say about it except that it works really well. The Scansnap iX500 is expensive (around $420), but it does what it says. At $420 it’s not something you’ll use casually, but if you need to scan and archive a lot of documents, it’s a real time saver and could easily pay for itself in time savings. At that price you expect something to deliver on its promises, and this scanner does.