So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Hewlett-Packard Australia Scanjet 5590
- Lots of features, good monochrome document scanning, sheet feeder.
- Slow duplex scanning, visible banding with sheet fed scans, cleaning
The 5590 is a good scanner for office documents but less so for photos and film
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
The Hewlett-Packard Scanjet 5590, predominantly aimed at home office or small businesses, offers a mixed set of results. For the rapid scanning of monochrome documents and conversion to editable text files, the automatic document feeder enabled scanner does an excellent job. For photo scanning and film scanning, the results were less impressive. If you want a fast way of scanning documents, the Scanjet 5590 is a good solution.
Scanners come in various flavours, but there's one feature that remains almost universally under-utilised: the automatic document feeder. Much like the feeders seen on advanced photocopiers, the automatic document feeder banishes the days of manually switching documents, even coping with double sided pages. The business-like grey 5590 has such a feeder and includes nice extras such as film negative and slide scanning.
Installing the 5590 is a very simple process thanks to HP's handy quick install guide. The installed software provides a range of utilities from document scanning to negative scanning to character recognition. These features can be accessed from the front panel of the scanner and the range of buttons allow for scans to be directly sent to a printer or an email address; you can even alter the number of print outs through a built in LCD. More advanced features can either be launched from the scanner buttons and accessed using HP's software, or controlled directly from the computer.
One significant feature of the scanner is undoubtedly the scanner's document feeding capabilities, which can take up to 50 sheets at a time. The 5590 utilises a speedy USB 2.0 connection and the scanning times were suitably impressive. At 300dpi the 5590 scanned ten sheets in monochrome and the software performed optical character recognition in under three minutes. The documents were then collated and exported to a Word file. This is fairly quick, but the speed rapidly decreases when attempting to use the double sided scanning feature. Although the settings were exactly the same, the time increased by roughly 50 percent. For some documents it may prove more efficient to manually turn the pages over. The scanner's performance in sheet feed mode was less impressive when exporting documents to JPG or TIFF files, with or without the double sided feature. Colour pages took a significant amount of time, each side coming in at well over thirty seconds using 300dpi.
When we first used the feeder we also noticed a large number of vertical stripes on each page that had not been present in the original. These imperfections in the scan were not present when the same document was scanned on the flatbed.
To understand the cause of the imperfections the difference between scanning documents sitting on the 5590 glass flatbed versus the sheet feeder needs to be explained.
Documents scanned by the flatbed sit stationary on the scanners glass plate. The scan head moves underneath the document taking the scan. Documents scanned using the feeder instead move over the stationary scan head.
More precisely, the feeder rollers pick each page up off the document feed tray, then run the document across a clear perspex cover which sits against the scanners flatbed glass plate above the scanner head. The scanning occurs through the glass and the perspex as the page is passed over it, with the scan head remaining fixed in place below.
The scanner provided by HP for testing purposes had been used by other parties. We turned to the manual which indicated that this problem could occur. The manual recommended no fewer than three techniques that should be followed to rectify the problem. Pull out the perspex sheet over which the paper passes and clean with either the provided cloth or a cloth and alcohol solution. Clean the roller assembly again with either the provided cloth or a cloth and alcohol solution. And finally run the provided cloth, A4 in size, through the mechanism as if scanning.
Once we had done this, things were greatly improved. We scanned a further 250 sheets through the feeder after cleaning it, and the majority of the defects had vanished, though lines were still visible against dark colours. There was no noticeable accrual of defects after we had finished those scans either, so cleaning should only need to be required on a sporadic basis. HP only includes one cloth, and as it has to be fed through the feeder, it is necessary to buy additional HP proprietary cloths to maintain the sheet feeder. The feeder also gave documents a slightly bluish tinge which was not seen on the same documents placed against the glass on the flatbed.
In contrast, there were no problems when using the flatbed. This produced good quality scans in both monochrome and colour when run at the maximum resolution of 2400dpi, though the colour scans weren't as good as those seen on a scanner such as the 6400dpi Perfection V700 Photo. Speed was much improved when using the flatbed instead of the feeder too. Colour pages at 300dpi only took 14 seconds, a lightning quick result for any scanner. It appears that if quality is paramount it's better to stick with the flatbed, whereas the feeder is perfectly good for OCR or lower quality scans.
The final feature offered by the 5590 is its ability to scan 35mm negatives, transparencies or slides. Unlike many scanners that offer this option, the 5590 does not have a built in adapter in the lid, due to the presence of the feeder. Therefore it's necessary to attach a separate light box to the flatbed which allows up to six 35mm frames or four 35mm slides to be scanned. It's when scanning film that a high resolution is of the greatest importance and although increased resolution is really required to improve the quality of film scans to eradicate the noticeable lack of detail, fine lines appearing blurred and poor division between areas of contrast.
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