ScanSnap iX500 Scanner

Several folks have asked me about the scanner I use. It's fast, I bring it to all my classes and many workshops, and it allows for a seamless transfer of student work from paper to big screen. The scanner I use is the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500.

ScanSnap iX500 via Amazon

How popular is this scanner with folks who want to go paperless? It currently has 2,329 reviews on Amazon. It seems to be used by every accountant and tax preparer I've met. It can handle a boatload of paper: specifically you can put up to 50 sheets of paper into the loader. It will scan up to 25 sheets per minute when the settings are for either 300dpi for Color & Grayscale 300dpi or 600dpi for B&W. It will scan one side or both sides of pages. It will auto-detect blank pages and not include them in the final document.

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In a real-life classroom situation I am scanning at 300 dpi for color: but this isn't really necessary. Lower DPI and faster scanning. But at 300 dpi if I'm scanning 24 individual student one-pagers it still scans in about 30 seconds. Plenty fast for real classroom usage.

There are lots of ways you can set up the scanner: both for default behavior and for special needs. I'm typically scanning quick and the scan gets sent automatically to Preview (my default PDF viewer on Mac OS). A simply keyboard command and I'm in presentation mode as we share, and discuss, whatever was scanned in class.

An increasingly important feature of this scanner for me is that it has Wifi capabilities. Some of the classrooms I use these days don't have great setups where it's easy to have the scanner near my computer hooked up by the physical cord. So being able to have the scanner in one location, and the computer in another, and still scan quickly via wireless connection is fantastic.

There is also a companion app for iOS and Android. This means you can set up things so scans go directly to your phone or tablet. I only use my computer in class, but for those who teach using iPads this is a great additional feature. Still easy with an iPad to quickly share scans as presentations on whatever big screen is in your classroom.

I see no downsides to the iX500 scanner, but I also use it a lot for non-academic reasons. Our home has become paperless. So all our documents (bills, legal, etc.) get scanned and put into a secure digital location. This means I'm using the scanner all the time.

For a person who has not used this scanner before there are probably three big hurdles to considering it:

  1. software
  2. price (at Amazon it is currently $399)
  3. portability (it's somewhat big)

Let me quickly address these hurdles.

Software

The iX500 comes with a variety of software products for both Mac and Windows. It includes Adobe Acrobat Professional (albeit an older version). But amongst the software for both platforms is key OCR (optical character reading) support. This means it's easy to turn the scan (essentially a big photo) into a PDF containing searchable text. This may be much less important when it comes to student work that is hand-drawn or hand-written (OCR won't really work in these cases). But it's important for you to know that OCR software is built into the iX500 scan package.

Price

If you are only going to use the iX500 scanner for classroom usage, then perhaps the $399 price tag is a big steep. I'd still pay that amount now that I know how good it is, and even if I weren't using it to create a paperless home environment. However, there are smaller versions of the iX500, also made by Fujitsu. I would mainly recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. This is smaller and cheaper (about $279).

How much smaller? The iX500 has these dimensions:

  • 10.39 inches x 9.8 inches x 15.71 inches

The S1300i has these dimensions:

  • 3.03 inches x 11.18 inches x 3.9 inches

As with most things in life, there's no free lunch. The extra mobility, smaller size, and lighter weight also come along with the ability to scan 4-12 sheets per minute (instead of 25), and holds a maximum of 10 sheets at 20lb. weight compared to the 50 sheets the iX500 can hold.

If the slower speed, and lesser hold capacity of the sheet tray are not deal breakers for you, then the smaller size and cost may make this a great option for you.

Portability

The iX500 is just a bit above 12 pounds in weight. And it can be awkward to carry depending on the other materials you need to take to class. I have a nice strong Timbuk2 tote bag that we already had at home and fits the scanner perfectly. But you can also buy a custom carry bag (with strap) for this scanner at a cost of $37. More on the carrying case here: Fujitsu PA03951-0651 carrying case @ Amazon

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