Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M Document Scanner Review

Scanning on the Mac platform has always been way ahead (or on par, some will argue) with the PC platform, except in one area - document scanning. It comes as no surprise that many manufacturers see Mac owners as designers, and when developing their scanners that handle medium to high volume scanning, they only ever release PC drivers. Document scanners can be great time and space savers. They are capable of automatically feeding invoices, brochures, and other paperwork and saving them as a file on your computer. For a long time now Fujitsu have made the ScanSnap for Mac, but it was lacking Intel support and was a little behind its PC equivalent. When they released the S500M I was very excited, even more so when BMI Solutions landed one on my desk to review.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M is an all white affair, even the packaging gives that nice Apple unboxing feel. Set up is really really easy, install the Scansnap Manager software, plus the included Acrobat 7 software. The latter does not need to be installed unless you want to scan to PDF files. Of note, if you already have a later version of Acrobat installed on your Mac, then this also works a treat.

Once installed, the S500M connects to your Mac via USB. In its closed state, the feeder support that holds up to 50 sheets of A4 paper (to be scanned) folds upwards. The action of lifting the feeder also switches the scanner on. The front paper tray (for catching the scanned pages) folds down to reveal the scanner buttons. When you have finished scanning, you either fold the trays closed, to both turn the unit off and keep the dust out, or press the power button. This is a very nice design and lets the S500M take up very little desk space.

In use, things couldn't be much simpler. You fire up the Scansnap Manager and set how you want your documents scanned. You can choose if colour, black and white or auto colour detection, the latter does an excellent job, but it is of course nice to force things into black and white if you so wish. the 'scanning mode' is selected with phrases like normal, better, best and slowest. Whilst this is OK and after playing with the settings you learn what is best, it would have been more helpful to have the dpi displayed in brackets. I hope Fujitsu do this in a software upgrade. The last of the main settings is to choose simplex or duplex scanning. This is a powerful feature of the S500M, the fact that it contains an upper and lower scanning element, so it is able to scan both sides of a document in one pass.

Other options in the software allow you to choose an external application to scan to, like Adobe Acrobat (for PDF) or Preview (for JPEG). You can also set how files are names and where they are saved to. Paper size can also be set, but in my tests I found the automatic detection very accurate. As well as the scanning mode you can also set the image quality, with one slider determining the amount of compression and file size. This confuses matters even further. Don't get me wrong, the end results are fine, but if you want to make specific settings, there has to be an easier way.

All these settings is as hard as it gets. Once you have made them all it is a simple matter of load your paper into the automatic feeder and pressing the scan button.
The S500M draws the pages through very accurately and at a fast 18ppm (pages per minute), so when in duplex mode, this equates to 36 sides per minute. If you are scanning at the highest 600dpi optical resolution on a slowish Mac, then you have to allow some additional time for the computer to process the files. When a batch of 50 sheets have been scanned, you can then load more into the feeder and either start a new file or add them to the one in progress. During my tests, I scanned a mixture of computer printouts, old invoices, brochure and magazine pages. Out of 250 pages, I had just two misfeeds, and these were very thin and crumpled NCR invoices. So the S500M can fall over, but with no major effect. Any misfeeds can be re-scanned and popped back into the relevant position within the file you are creating.

Scanning to PDF is great and with the aide of Acrobat you can process your files into searchable documents. This feature makes the S500M invaluable. You can scan your whole filing cabinet of any type of document, and then search it by keyword. This makes the S500M a great timesaver, as well as freeing up all that paperwork space. I can highly recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M to you for getting your paperwork and filing organised. The price from BMI Solutions makes it even better value for money.

Product: Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M
Price: £244.39
Supplied by: BMI Solutions
Contact: 0845 838 1694
Link to product page