Desktop scanners can be important tools for processing and organizing information, and Fujitsu’s ScanSnap S1500M has been one of the most popular desktop scanners for the Mac for quite some time. The ScanSnap S1500M (Fujitsu, $418.99, Amazon.com) is both powerful and functional, and should give the competition a run for their money.
Having previously reviewed the NeatDesk for Mac, the main aspect of the S1500M that stood out to me was how different it seemed than the NeatDesk. The ScanSnap is aimed more towards the professional audience. As such, the unit sports a much more industrial look, keeping the appearance of a more traditional office appliance, especially when unfolded.
The ScanSnap S1500M also includes powerful software that helps it become a fantastic productivity tool, and even includes a copy of Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 for Mac to help you make adjustments to any PDF documents that you might create using the ScanSnap.
Fujitsu’s ScanSnap struck me at once as being a very serious device. It has a small desk-sized form factor, but folds out and expands to reveal a full-sized paper trays for both both incoming and outgoing documents. The operation of the device is also somewhat unique – instead of having an on/off switch in the back, the machine is turned on by unfolding the top cover, revealing a bright blue rectangular light, which, in addition to serving as a power indicator, also serves as the unit’s scan button.
The ScanSnap was simple to set up, and did not require calibration, unlike the NeatDesk. Simply installing the included software and checking for updates was all that was necessary to get the device up and running. The ScanSnap’s simple out-of-box configuration will be adequate for the majority of users. Alternately, the default “quick menu” feature can be turned off, revealing a function called “profiles” which allows you much more precise control over the scanner’s behavior.
I really appreciate the design of the ScanSnap – it’s an extremely simple and intuitive product to use, it is sturdy and well-built without being extremely heavy, and simply looks and feels like a professional-level device.
The fact that the ScanSnap simply unfolds into its full form, and is then able to quickly and easily fold back up into a more compact and space-saving configuration is brilliant, and the fact that you don’t have to worry about whether the device is switched on or off is comforting to those that are concerned about saving power – if it’s folded up, it’s off!
Performance is definitely one of the strong suits of the ScanSnap. The S1500M is much faster than the NeatDesk at 20 pages per minute, and has a document feeder that can handle 50 documents at once – a significantly higher capacity than the NeatDesk. Additionally, I felt more confident loading the ScanSnap with 30 sheets and walking away, confident that it would do its job without requiring my interference.
The S1500M’s included software is extremely powerful as well. In addition to featuring Adobe Acrobat Professional 8.0, which comes in handy for searching and editing PDF’s after you have scanned them, the device also includes Cardiris 3.6 – a very nice business card management suite – and ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap, which is a very high-performing OCR engine.
The ScanSnap featured very high word recognition straight out of the box when using OCR, only very occasionally missing a word or getting one wrong, and the CardIris seems to handle the scanning, organization, and extraction of information from business cards at least as well as NeatWorks for Mac.
More Than Meets The Eye
The S1500M is not your average garden-variety scanner. It is different from most other scanners in fundamental ways. One such difference: Customization. The ScanSnap is infinitely customizable, and can be quickly and easily configured to work with almost any off-the-shelf scanner utility.
You can even set up a profile for those programs. I found this particularly useful, as I sometimes like to use the scanner for organizing my receipts and documents (for which I configured the scanner to work with NeatWorks for Mac), but also have the occasional need to scan straight to email, or scan in particularly high quality for advanced editing. The ScanSnap S1500M makes both of these main functions a snap, and even a pleasure to perform.
While I was overall very impressed with the S1500M, I did have a few worries, one of which was the fact that Fujitsu continues to bundle an outdated version of Adobe Acrobat with their product. I also often felt that the included software, while very feature rich, wasn’t very simple to use, and certainly wasn’t as intuitive and user-friendly as the NeatWorks software bundled with the NeatDesk for Mac.
I also found that, while the S1500M handled standard sheets of paper extremely well, it often had difficulty handling thicker sheets of paper, or sheets of non-standard sizes. Further, using the S1500M to its full potential requires spending a significant amount of time learning how the included software works.
Overall I was very impressed with the ScanSnap, and for an enterprise user, it’s an exceptional device. The speed, build quality and overall usability of the device were exceptional. The device’s included software does include a steep learning curve in order to learn and master its more complex features, however, like profiles, direct scanning to email, and so forth.
I appreciated the fact that the S1500M came bundled with such powerful software, but was disappointed that Fujitsu is still bundling Acrobat Pro 8 with the device, which is not fully compatible with Mac OS X Lion. It seems as though they haven’t updated the software the device ships with since it was first launched in early 2009.
In light of the ScanSnap’s many positive attributes, balanced with the above concerns, I feel I can only give the S1500M a limited recommendation – I would recommend this to advanced users in an enterprise setting, but I do not feel that this device would necessarily be appropriate for home use and home office environments. In addition, users of OS X Lion would be cautioned that the included Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 does not always work well under Lion.
Rating & Information
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 [rating:3.5]
In considering all aspects of the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M, I award this device a 3.5 out of 5. While it is no doubt an excellent device, I did experience a number of disappointments, including the fact that the scanner ships with software that is currently outdated. Nevertheless, the scanner is still a powerful and extremely useful tool for the right audience. Below is a list of the pros and cons that I encountered while reviewing the ScanSnap S1500M.
- Fast and highly customizable.
- Features excellent character and word recognition.
- Comes with a full suite of professional software to take full advantage of its features.
- Works with 3rd-party software such as NeatWorks for Mac.
- Comes bundled with outdated software.
- Doesn’t handle non-standard paper sizes and thicknesses well.
- Can be complicated to take full advantage of.
- At $500, it’s a bit on the high end of the price spectrum.