In the course of my 13+ years of writing the Cool Tools column, I’ve run across many good products (hence the title of the column), several average products and only a few products that were not-yet-ready-for-public-consumption. This is one of those rare moments - get ready for some vitriol.
The scoop: ScanSnap iX100 wireless scanner, by Fujitsu, about $230.
What is it? This color image scanner is about the size of my forearm, smaller than a baseball bat, which reminds me, I should take a baseball bat and start pounding this thing to shreds. In a Utopian world where nothing ever goes wrong, the device lets you scan photos and documents quickly, and sends those scanned digital documents to either your computer or mobile device. You can connect the scanner to a computer via USB cable, or you can attempt to configure Wi-Fi with the unit (either through a Wi-Fi router or the-even-more-sadistic Wi-Fi Direct) so that your scans can be sent wirelessly to the computer or your phone/tablet. The device also includes software that aims to make your document-centric life a little bit more sane, such as a receipt application (“Scan those receipts so we can pay your expense report on time!”, a business card manager (“Hey, I know you ignore those business cards but at least now you might be able to ignore them in your Outlook rather than dumping the cards into a desk drawer”) and a program that converts scanned documents into editable text formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF).
Why it’s cool: Ummm, we’re going to skip this.
Many caveats: Horrendous is too kind a word to describe the installation process. The iX100 comes with a setup disc, which creates a small problem since a majority of computers these days don’t even include an optical drive. On the rare occasion that you still have one, inserting the disc presents you with two options - you can install the software stored on this DVD-ROM (“Welcome to the ‘90s!”), or you can try to download the latest update from the cloud. Surprisingly, the “Recommended” choice is to install from the disc.
I chose to tempt the fates and try the download option, which was Mistake #1. About 15 minutes into the process of trying to download the updates, I got to about 6% complete, and gave up. I switched to the disc installation, and was able to get the basic setup completed in about 15-20 minutes. This is still way too long for a software installation, but I didn’t realize how quick this was compared to the rest of the ordeal.
After the software ran through its initial setup, where it asks you to connect the unit via USB to your computer, I was able to configure the iX100 to find my WI-Fi router (I had to connect via the 2.4GHz router, as the device doesn’t utilize 5GHz). I thought I was done, but then the setup software decided it wasn’t finished, and it was going to update itself on its own, downloading two main updates (for the ScanSnap Manager and ScanSnap Organizer), as well as the three aforementioned apps (receipt, converter and business card application). After 45 minutes of downloading, I was still only at 25% completed (see screen shot).
Normally at this point I’d just give up and move onto another product, but I sensed that something was in the air. I was well on my way to completing a review of possibly the worst product ever. Faced with such an achievement, I felt it was my duty to take this through to the end. Sure, most mere mortals would give up and return this horrible product to the store, their reseller (by the way, if a reseller recommends this product, you should fire them immediately) or Amazon.com, but your humble Cool Tools reviewer is no mere mortal. At least in this case.
At the one-hour mark (and still only at 28%), I started to think that maybe there was something wrong with my system. I shut down all of my apps, double-checked that I was still connected via my corporate wired ethernet network (sometimes the system switches to a lower-speed Wi-Fi connection I have in the testing office). I checked with the IT staff to make sure there wasn’t any Internet slowdowns occurring. I checked with our security reporters to see if there was any major breach, attack or anything else going on that would prevent this software update from happening. I ran a Speedtest.net test to check my computer’s connection (468.93 Mbps download speed, peeps).
Everything was clear on my end - clearly I must be hitting the Fujitsu servers at the same time as about a billion other people, as if this was the scanning software equivalent of an Apple iPhone iOS update or new phone launch (this is sarcasm, for any Fujitsu executives that might still be employed and reading this article).
It was now lunchtime, which meant the system had another hour to try and finish, although it likely would be stuck waiting for me to respond to the “X software needs to install, please type in your password” prompt that already occurred during the first two installation parts (and we had three more to go). Which happened (at 39% completion).
At two hours in I decided to cancel the update/installation, with the hopes that at least the main programs were updated, and that I had only lost the converter and business card application. I needed to see if anything would actually work with this scanner. The setup app actually said everything was OK, and then I got the friendly “Product Registration” pop-up window (Ha!).
I was able to scan a document with the iX100 connected to my MacBook Pro via the USB cable - the ScanSnap Manager application provides several scanning options, including scanning directly to Dropbox, Google or other locations (good luck trying to configure all of that correctly). The ScanSnap Wireless Setup Tool application confirmed that the iX100 was connected to my Wi-Fi router, so I disconnected the USB cable and attempted to scan wirelessly from the scanner to my iPhone 5.
Didn’t work. Got this lovely message from the app: “Wi-Fi-supported ScanSnap was not found. Please connect ScanSnap to Computer with USB cable, and set up. For details, refer to the “Basic Operation Guide.” Bang! I’m out.
I guess I’m a mere mortal after all. Back in the box, and now I have to do some cleanup of all of the apps that were installed on my Mac.
I suppose I should thank Fujitsu, not for creating a product worthy of the title “Worst Product Ever” (at least for this year), but for allowing me to vent and rage for the past three hours.
Grade: Zero stars
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