The scoop: Xerox Mobile Scanner, by Xerox, about $250
What is it? This portable scanner is the updated model of the Visioneer Cordless Color Scanner, which I reviewed last year (Xerox licenses the Visioneer technology for this product). The battery-operated scanner lets you scan photos and documents (JPEG for photos, PDF for color or black-and-white documents) quickly and easily without the need to be connected to a computer -- images can be stored directly to a USB thumb drive (or external USB hard drive) or an inserted SD memory card. The system comes bundled with a 4GB Eye-Fi card, giving the scanner Wi-Fi connectivity.
Other features include a carrying case, bundled software and a recharging/data USB cable (as well as wall adapter) to recharge the unit's battery.
IN THE WORKS: Cisco, Xerox join for mobile printing
Why it's cool: The Wi-Fi connectivity via the Eye-Fi card means you can scan things directly to the cloud, via the Eye-Fi website. From there, you can share images to social sites such as Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, etc. (although it's pretty easy to just copy photos and documents over from the SD card, but some people like having one less step to manage).
Like the Visioneer scanner I tested last year, the Xerox Mobile Scanner doesn't need to connect to a PC via USB in order to scan -- for users who have lots of older photos that they'd like to scan, having a tethered scanner seemed an unnecessary complication. With this unit, you can scan a shoe box full of old photos in minutes, and the Wi-Fi card can upload them without any extra effort (I'd suggest editing them later before sharing, however). For Facebook users looking to bolster their new Timeline, for example, this is a great way to quickly add those images to the site without having to use a bulkier desktop scanner.
I also found the direct-to-PDF functionality handy. I was able to feed all of my tax documents quickly through the scanner (if you feed it quickly enough all of the scans end up in one PDF instead of multiple files) instead of individual scans on a flatbed scanner. The choice of color or black-and-white PDF scanning was appreciated as well, and switching between scanning options (PDF or JPEG) by pushing a single button was quite simple to do.
Another nice touch is the addition of smartphone apps (DocToMe) -- you can scan a photo with the unit and then view the image on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android smartphone. This can be useful if you need to view PDF documents quickly and easily on your device (Eye-Fi also makes a card-viewing iPhone app for photos, but not PDFs).
Some caveats: The biggest issue I had was with the Eye-Fi card; configuring it to connect to my home Wi-Fi network came with some hassles, and getting the card to work in Direct Mode (in areas where you didn't have Wi-Fi, you could still, in theory, transfer images and documents via the smartphone app) was difficult. Based on these issues, it's possible I had a defective Eye-Fi card.
On the scanner itself, the only issue I can see is the $250 price tag; if Xerox could get that down to $150 or less, this would make a great gift for non-techie users; otherwise, it's an office device that can be shared with employees.
Bottom line: Scanning made simple for those with lots of old photos they'd like to digitize, or the mobile worker who wants to reduce paper overload (business cards, receipts, etc.).
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.
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