Smartphones and tablets have helped small business workers make great strides in mobile productivity, but they're of limited use when it comes to dealing with paper. While you can "scan" documents and photos using a smartphone camera and a specialized app, the process can be cumbersome and the image quality underwhelming.
Fujitsu's $229 (MSRP) ScanSnap iX100 mobile scanner aims to be the indispensable tool for any road warrior whose job involves significant amounts of dead-tree processing but doesn't offer convenient access to a conventional PC. In our testing, we found that the ScanSnap xI100 offers easy scanning from any conference room, car, or coffee joint with nothing more than a smartphone or tablet.
The Mobile Scanner Specs
Impressively compact, the iX100 measures 1.42 x 10.74 x 1.87 (HWD, inches) and weighs a hair over 14 ounces. Much of that weight comes from the integrated (e.g., not user-replaceable) Lithium-ion battery, which Fujitsu says provides enough juice for about 260 sheets of continuous scanning or 140 sheets of real-world (intermittent) use. The iX100's spec sheet doesn't indicate what flavor of Wi-Fi it uses—presumably 802.11n—but in any event, it runs at 2.4 GHz.
Figure 1: The ScanSnap iX100 is a compact and lightweight portable scanner that includes a built-in battery and Wi-Fi.
Two things the iX100 doesn't include (and arguably should, given a price tag north of $200) are an AC power adapter to go with the USB charging/data cable, and a case to protect the unit from the bumps and bruises of being on the road. You can purchase both as options, however, and you can choose between hard or soft cases.
You can, of course, connect the iX100 to a PC or Mac—connect the scanner via a USB port or to an existing Wi-Fi network, install the included desktop software from a DVD, and so forth. But given the iX100's mobile focus, we opted to interact with the iX100 initially—and predominantly—via smartphone and tablet. Fujitsu's ScanSnap Connect app is available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire; we used it on a newly-minted iPhone 6 Plus for our testing.
Mobile Setup and Scanning
To get the iX100 and its ScanSnap Connect app talking to each other, you flip a small Wi-Fi switch on the back of the iX100 from OFF to ON, open the front panel to expose the paper input and turn the unit on, then identify and join the iX100's Wi-Fi network from your mobile device (SSID and Security Key are printed on the scanner's underside). Then you launch the app to discover the scanner, and enter its PIN code—also on the underside, and you only have to enter it once—to link to it. Incidentally, although the front panel serves as a power switch, the iX100 is smart enough to turn itself off after about 5 minutes of idle time.
Figure 2: Flipping up the top panel redirects exiting documents upwards when space is tight.
To scan, you align the document at the input and press the Scan button—either on the iX100 itself, or within the app. You can feed only one page into the iX100 at a time, but the unit auto-feeds after the first page so you don't have to press Scan for each additional page of a multi-page document. (The iX100 is a simplex scanner, so you do have to manually scan both sides of a double-sided page.)
In our testing with a standard 8 ½ x 11 page, it took roughly 7 seconds from the time we hit Scan until the page image appeared within the app. Once a document is stored within the ScanSnap Connect app, you can rename it, print it, email it, open it in another appropriate app (e.g. Adobe Reader for PDF files), or save to a cloud storage service.
The iX100's standard paper path goes straight in the front and straight out the back, but if you're using the device where space is particularly tight—say, on the dashboard or the front seat of your car—flipping up the top panel will conveniently guide the exiting paper upward instead. Another very useful feature is one that Fujitsu calls Dual Scan, which lets you continuously feed in a number of small items—receipts or business cards, for example—and have the scanner recognize them as distinct documents. We fed the iX100 half a dozen business cards, inserting each before the last had finished scanning, and sure enough, the result was six separate JPEG files.
After putting the iX100 through its paces with the mobile app, we set it up on a Windows desktop PC along with its included software—ScanSnap Manager, ScanSnap Organizer (Document Management), CardMinder (business cards) and ABBYY FineReader (OCR). All of the software is available on the Mac as well.
Figure 3: The iX100 includes numerous scanning options on its software for both Windows and Mac.
Like many software discs, the one that comes with the iX100 gives you the option of checking online for updated software rather than installing from the disc. We chose that option, which kicked off a download totaling about 1 GB in size. We mention that not only because of the considerable amount of time it can take to download a gigabyte even over a reasonably fast broadband connection, but because if you happened to be doing this via mobile hotspot and didn't have an unlimited data plan, you could eat up a considerable chunk of your monthly allotment in one fell swoop.
It's also worth noting that even after the updates downloaded, installing them took an excruciatingly long time. In fact, the entire process of getting the iX100 set up on a PC—software download, installation, and device configuration—took well over an hour, and this was on a fairly hefty PC system (a quad-core 3 GHz Core i5 with 16 GB of RAM). We shudder to think how long it would have taken on, say, a mainstream laptop.
You might think this was all reason to avoid the iX100's desktop software and go exclusively mobile with the device. However, that might not be an option depending on your needs, because the desktop software is much more sophisticated and powerful than the mobile app. A couple of features—Auto Rotation and Automatic Image Stitching–are available only via the desktop software. (The iX100 doesn't support TWAIN or ISIS standards, so you can't use it with third-party scanning software.)
Figure 4: The iX100's mobile app, ScanSnap Connect is available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.
To its credit, the iX100 jumps back and forth between desktop and mobile use quite easily. If the unit is connected to your home or work Wi-Fi network for use from a PC and you fire up the mobile app, control of the scanner switches to the mobile device. Close the app, and control switches back to the PC.
Integrating content from the two modes leaves something to be desired however—there's no way to automatically aggregate the documents you scanned from mobile with those you scanned from the desktop, unless, for example, you were saving everything from both locations to commonly accessible cloud storage.
Although there is some room for improvement, if your focus is on quick-and-easy mobile scanning, the ScanSnap iX100's built-in battery, Wi-Fi, and mobile app deliver—and will not disappoint you.
Price: $229 (MSRP)
Pros: Lightweight and compact; built-in Wi-Fi and battery allows mobile scanning without a PC; Dual Scan feature useful for scanning business cards or receipts quickly
Cons: No integration between mobile and desktop software; doesn't include charging adapter or carrying case; single-sided scanning only
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
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