Hewlett-Packard Scanjet 5500c

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Hewlett-Packard Scanjet 5500c

Pros

  • High performance

Cons

  • Low quality photograph scans

Bottom Line

With its zippy automatic document feeder, the HP Scanjet 5550c is well suited for steady OCR work, but getting the best image quality from photos requires some tweaking.

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The HP Scanjet 5550c is made to order for small-office users who want to scan multiple-page documents. We don't see many small-office scanners that offer even an optional automatic document feeder, but the 5550c comes with one that can handle up to 35 pages at a time. Assembling and installing the ADF is fairly straightforward--it's ready for work in only a few minutes. When we tried out the ADF, it took about 4.5 minutes total to scan a 15-page text document and to use optical character recognition to turn the scan into editable text. (We used the Iris OCR engine that's built into HP's Photo and Imaging software.) Of course, you can also scan photos by placing them on the glass manually.

Tested using its USB 2.0 interface, the 5550c had very good performance overall. It scanned a full-page black-and-white document at 300 dpi in just 19 seconds, which is among the fastest we've seen.

Though the main reason to choose the 5550c is to get its multipage document scanning--which it does relatively well--we were much less impressed with the quality of its photograph scans. In our print and on-screen colour tests, the 5550c produced images that looked sharp and bright overall, but some colours appeared oversaturated; our photo subject's skin tones looked much redder than in the original, for example. And the 5550c's monochrome scans seemed to drop more details (in darker areas, for instance) than scans from competing models did. However, we found that we could improve the colour accuracy and detail by making various manual adjustments with the scanner software.

The 5550c has ten shortcut buttons on its front panel. In addition to the common quick-start buttons (for scanning, attaching images to email, or sending them to a photo-sharing Web site), the 5550c also provides photocopier-like controls for scanning a document directly to your printer; you can choose colour or black-and-white printing and specify the number of copies (via a two-character LCD). An optional transparency adapter is available, as well.

Bundled software includes ScanSoft PaperPort LE 7, a document manager that does a fine job of helping you keep track of all your scans; and HP Photo and Imaging software, a suite of applications that contains image editing, photo gallery and photo printing functions. The image editing tools are limited to basics such as cropping and rotating images, and they lack advanced features (like the collage tools and special-effects filters found in most dedicated image editors). HP Scanning, the TWAIN driver, provides a streamlined basic interface for beginners and casual users, as well as easy access to advanced features like colour and tonal controls. A bonus application, Hemera Greeting Card Creator, offers easy-to-use templates for making cards with scanned images.

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