OK, so maybe it’s not the “Worst Product Ever”…

Retest shows that perhaps I was a bit harsh in my earlier assessment. After all, there's still Clippy and "Bob" and the "McDLT" to consider.

Credit: Fujitsu

[Editor’s Note: This updates a previous column/post, which you can read here]

So, in hindsight, maybe the headline proclaiming that the Fujitsu iX100 portable scanner was the “Worst Product Ever” was a bit harsh. I blame Comic Book Guy, the need for social-media-inspired sharing in headline writing (My other option was “Reviewer Tried to Install Portable Scanner Software…You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!”) and a general end-of-September malaise/irritability. In the history of bad products, I will concede that this scanner was not the worst. Several others certainly qualify, including:

  • Microsoft “Bob” and/or “Clippy” (Vista, too)
  • The McDonalds’ McDLT (hot side hot and cool side cool!)
  • New Coke
  • Those pens in the 1970s and 1980s that always seemed to explode in your pocket giving you a giant blue spot on your pants in middle school.

So, let’s just say that Fujitsu officials were a bit concerned about my earlier review. They asked if they could send me another scanner, as it was possible that their initial scanner, being a pre-production unit, had some possible firmware issues that prevented the software from installing in a quick manner. In the spirit of October (the friendliest month!), I agreed, and they sent a second iX100.

The second unit arrived and the earlier issues regarding a wonky download process (the first time it took 3 hours to set up the initial software) had vanished - the download/setup process now took about 10 minutes. However, I experienced a new problem - the setup software couldn’t confirm the direct connection of the USB cable with the scanner (despite several attempts, reconnections and reboots of the computer). The help screens offered by Fujitsu in trying to address this problem weren’t very helpful, other than suggesting several reboots, reconnections and things I had already done. I contacted Fujitsu about this new issue, concerning them even further.

They were so concerned they flew out to my Framingham office to see for themselves what was going on. Now, they’re doing this for me because I’m a technology reviewer - I’m 95% sure that they wouldn’t fly a representative out to a consumer’s house or office in case someone had these issues (I agreed because again, spirit of October).

Once the Fujitsu product manager was in my office, it was like every time you bring your car to the mechanic and the mystery noise goes away - my earlier issue (with Product #2) about the USB cable not connecting correctly to the scanner suddenly went away. Of course it did.

However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. While we were able to get the scanner set up via the direct USB connection, we still had problems connecting the scanner via the Wi-Fi router. Initially, the setup confirmed that the scanner was connected to the Wi-Fi router (configuration of the Wi-Fi is done via the USB-connected computer to the scanner), but then when I tried to scan with either the computer or the mobile app, I still got error messages that said they couldn’t find the scanner on the network.

We did some more troubleshooting possibilities (a low-battery alert meant that Wi-Fi scanning possibly wasn’t working), and then I agreed to try and test this away from my office - I’d use the same computer system, but use my home router instead of the router connected to my work network. The router I use is not connected to our internal work network, but rather an outside line and cable modem connection (so there’s not an issue of a corporate wireless router requiring authentication issues that has stopped other devices from connecting). The Fujitsu folks left.

Back at home, I was finally able to get the scanner set up via my regular home Wi-Fi router, so the wireless issues I was experiencing with both scanners had something to do with that router. I could finally achieve all of the functions supported by the portable scanner - scanning directly to the computer via USB, scanning wirelessly to the computer and scanning to my mobile device (both PDF and JPG formats).

I still have concerns about the scanner - the setup software puts too many different applications into the applications folder (on the Mac, at least), the troubleshooting/help screens aren’t helpful, the USB cable provided is too short, and we never fully figured out why the initial download took three hours or why the router in my office couldn’t find the scanner. If you do get this scanner, chances are you won’t have these problems and your experience will be much better - in that case, you’ll have a nice scanner that can digitize documents and photos and have them go wirelessly to your mobile device or computer.

Keith Shaw 1978 Mork from Ork Keith Shaw

The Cool Tools columnist at a very young age. The Fujitsu ix100 scanner let me quickly scan this old photo for use in this article (and Throwback Thursday Facebook posting).

I’m not going to adjust the grade from zero stars to a full 5-star rave, but I will give the scanner 3 stars in the spirit of October. The scanner gets a bonus half-point for allowing me to quickly scan in an old photo of me wearing a Mork from Ork T-shirt from 1978, which is what these portable scanners are all about (or, sure, you could scan in things like business cards or tax documents, too).

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