Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 full review

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 is a very portable A4 document scanner, powered from a USB port

Scanners come in all shapes and sizes, but it would be hard to imagine a model that was more portable than the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100. It’s barely bigger than A4 – or 210mm – in width but with hardly any height or depth, and can easily be tucked away in a bag.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 draws power from the USB 2.0 port, and doesn’t need a separate power connection. And the USB lead is built in, so there aren’t even any cables to lose. But ultra-convenient though the design may be, there are some drawbacks.

The latest addition to Fujitu’s ScanSnap series, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 is, once again, a sheet-fed rather than a flatbed scanner. So rather than laying the source material down on a flat surface, the documents are fed directly through the scanner while being processed.

However, while this month’s Plustek SmartOffice PS286 sheet-fed (and, indeed, other large models in the ScanSnap series, such as the S510) have an automatic document feeder, allowing you to load it up with a stack of documents to process, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 demands that you feed in each page, manually, one by one.

Also in contrast to more heavyweight models, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 is restricted to so-called simplex scanning; in other words, it can only do one side at once.

Duplex models meanwhile can scan both sides of the page in one go. For sizeable scan jobs, then, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 is rather limited.

But provided that you need an easily portable device availabe to scan the odd document or two, these limitations are perhaps ones you might live with.  

Slightly more irritating is the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100’s reliance on non-standard drivers. While models like the Plustek can be used with any TWAIN-compatible software package, the S1100 restricts you to specially-modified software.

Luckily Fujitsu has supplied a number of very decent titles, from the ScanSnap Manager and Organizer packages, to a special version of the note-taking software, EverNote, and another application that can get the scanner working with Microsoft’s SharePoint.

Trials are included for the Rack2-Filer archiving package and ABBYY’s PDF Transformer (for turning PDF files into editable versions).

The main course is likely to be ABBYY’s FineReader for ScanSnap 4.1, a fine way of converting to Word, Excel or PowerPoint files, or of creating searchable PDFs. Even here, though, the software interface is slightly clunky, and many settings need to be adjusted from a separate program.

The one-touch button is nice, but newcomers could find the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 a confusing introduction to the world of the sheet-fed. And for Windows Vista users, it’s also worth noting that the software insists that you have at least Service Pack 1 installed.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100: operation

Given its emphasis on portability rather than sheer functionality, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 is quite slow to scan.

At 200dpi, it took 22 seconds to scan and perform software conversion on a complex document, seven seconds slower than the Plustek.

At 300dpi scan resolution, it took 27 seconds to scan, five seconds more than the Plustek. And while the latter was able to cut the time down further through the use of bulk and double-sided scans, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 doesn’t have this option.

For high-speed operation, then, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 isn’t your best option, and if you have large piles of documents to feed in, the Fujitsu will prove a sluggish companion.

For accuracy, it’s best to see 300dpi as the minimum resolution rather than 200dpi – the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100’s results in 200dpi were rather patchy, although considerably more accurate than was the case with the Plustek.

At 300dpi and beyond, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 makes a very good job of reproducing strange symbols and effects, although it wasn’t the most accurate when it came to lettering.

In the case of a dictionary page, a number of combinations of letters were incorrectly interpreted – ‘cl’ frequently came out as ‘d’, for instance.

Letter cases were also less accurate on the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100, with a number of uppercase letters incorrectly inserted into the middle of sentences.

For standard magazine articles and letters, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 performed well, but more demanding material might remain tricky.

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