Since the launch of the first ScanSnap device 6 years ago, Fujitsu has rolled out multiple generations, each with new features and improved performance. Fujitsu has learned that productivity and efficiency is of paramount importance to scanner users, which is why the newest ScanSnap underscores productivity without requiring excessive time to process documents.

The ScanSnap S1500 (S1500M for Mac) is a sheet-fed A4 scanner that boasts a host of new document handling features to help users get more organised with fewer hassles. Similar to many ScanSnaps of yesteryear, the S1500 (from £335/$418) offers one-button scanning, a feature we’ve all come to appreciate and expect. But this fairly small-footed scanner adds intelligent resolution selection, taking the end-user guesswork out of picking the right resolution for each document.

It also detects when two sheets have managed to work their way into the paper feed at once, preventing jams and missed scans. And for those who rely on business card scanning to keep up with all the contacts, the S1500 adds enhanced data handling features to card scanning. Fujitsu has also reworked the software interface, streamlining the document management process. The S1500 comes with Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard bundled in, which makes it easy not only to scan to searchable PDF files, but also to collaborate with others on scanned documents such as forms.

Undoubtedly the biggest selling point of the S1500 is its new sleek design, which not only looks fantastic in its silver-and-black finish, but has a footprint that is roughly one third the size of a flatbed scanner. No matter how small your working area, you should be able to accommodate the S1500.

The ScanSnap S1500 makes scanning easier and more intuitive. For starters, it allows you to scan a variety of documents without having to adjust scanner settings. With the simple push of a dedicated Scan button on the front of the scanner, the S1500 goes to work transforming stacks of paper into digital images (PDFs or JPEGs) automatically, selecting the page size, the page orientation, colour setting and whether it’s a double-sided or single-sided scan. At the same time, new paper feed detection, which is based on ultrasonic technology, senses multi-feeds and provides you with an additional layer of security in avoiding lost images. The ScanSnap also incorporates a 50-page ADF (automatic document feeder) and automatic duplex capability.

The S1500 can also scan information directly into either Word, Excel or PowerPoint 2003 using OCR (optical character recognition). Alternatively, you can drag and drop files within ScanSnap Organiser software to convert scans into editable Word, Excel or PowerPoint 2003 documents. The resulting scans can be stored locally, on a network, or within an Internet-based storage service such Microsoft Office Live or Apple’s iDisk. Additional S1500 features include dual 600dpi color CCD optical scanning array, automatic colour and greyscale detection, automatic blank page detection and deletion, automatic paper size detection, automatic image de-skew, business card scanning, and an automatic document-feed cover. Connectivity comes by way of USB 2.0 only, so networking is out of the window.

Using the supplied carrier sheet provides A3 scanning capability. A3 pages are folded and placed in the carrier sheet. When scanned, the S1500 automatically stitches the two (front and back) images together to recreate the ‘full’ A3 image. Results are impressive, but you can tell that it’s not a proper A3 scan due to the stitching line. For business users, however, this shouldn’t be a problem as it’s probably the information on a scan which is most important. The carrier sheet can also be used for scanning photos/documents which might be easily scratched or irregular shaped documents which are difficult to feed otherwise and may cause paper jams.

The ScanSnap S1500 comes bundled with Adobe’s Acrobat 9 Standard (Acrobat Professional 8 for Mac users) and new versions of ScanSnap Organizer and CardMinder software to help you control and secure paperwork more efficiently. For a paperless office, Acrobat is not strictly necessary, but it is very useful. Plus, Acrobat Standard is a £218 piece of software. ScanSnap Organiser 4.0 is an easy-to-use virtual filing cabinet which allows you to file, organise, e-mail, print, OCR and browse your scanned documents without the need to open them in Acrobat. It can also convert ScanSnap-scanned PDFs into fully searchable PDF as a background process, and you can drag and drop customisable keywords into thumbnails, use a standard highlighter pen to automatically embed searchable keywords directly into files, and perform advanced cropping operations.

ScanSnap image quality is never going to be as good as a flatbed scanner due to the nature of the technology. Flatbed scanners offer a flat glass surface, and the image to be scanned is placed on the glass surface and the lid is shut. This is typically used for environments where high-quality scanning takes place or for ‘irregular’ objects (i.e. book or hard cased object). Sheetfed scanners like the S1500 are more useful for environments that require volume scanning. It allows you to scan large projects automatically – simply place the sheets that need to be scanned in the automatic document feeder and it goes to works processing the sheets and scanning them automatically.

Once you’ve understood the pros and cons of this type of scanner, you can start to enjoy the S1500. Thanks to its automatic image quality adjustment feature, it effectively evaluates the document size and adjusts the resolution accordingly, as well as identifies a document as colour, black-and-white and now greyscale. This is especially important for small images or text within business cards and small receipts that typically include fine print. Higher resolutions mean photographic quality is improved and faster scanning speeds of up to 20ppm (pages per minute) or 40ipm (images per minute) should be appreciated by busy office workers.

Scan quality for text and business graphics was above par and the OCR software worked reasonably well – you’ll still need to check important document for errors. Photographs weren’t so good, but to be fair the S1500 isn’t designed for image scanning. The biggest disappointment was business card scanning as it frequently stumbled over a period between numbers instead of a dash. Another problem I came across was when scanning documents that contained straight lines or boxes – a slight wave appeared in the line. But overall this is an excellent document scanner.

Appealing to home office and small-business users, the ScanSnap S1500 provides a simple, fast and easy-to-use method for converting information contained on paper into digital PDFs at the push of a button. If you need a combination of speed and quality, you will certainly like the S1500, which scans huge amounts of documents quickly. It is extremely fast (both sides are scanned at once), and the built-in options make sharing and storing scans intuitive. Other convenient features such as auto colour and page-size detection, auto crop and de-skew, and auto content-based rotation makes time spent in front of the scanner more productive. If you are looking for a small footprint colour scanner that makes scanning to e-mail or a variety of programs effortless, the ScanSnap S1500 is a great choice. As an added bonus you get a full copy of Adobe’s Acrobat 9 Standard.