capsule review

Visioneer Strobe 500: Top-Performing Scanner Offers Easy Operation

At a Glance
  • Visioneer Strobe 500

    PCWorld Rating

    The Strobe 500's main strengths are its snappy speed and its excellent image quality.

Visioneer Strobe 500 document scanner
The Visioneer Strobe 500's combination of superior performance, excellent image quality, versatile features, and easy operation earned it the top ranking among the five portable scanners we tested for our latest roundup. Priced at $400 (as of February 1, 2011), the Strobe 500 is a bit of a hybrid that's actually two scanners in one. First and foremost, it's a 600-dpi, duplex page scanner fitted with a 20-page automatic document feeder capable of churning through 15 pages per minute (in color or monochrome mode, at 200 dpi). Second, it also functions as a lightweight mobile scanner that you can detach from the ADF dock and take on the road.

Out of the box, the Strobe 500 measures 11.7 by 4.8 by 4.7 inches (width by depth by height); its extendable input and output trays add several inches to its overall height and depth, but they fold up nicely when not in use. When detached from the ADF docking station, the scanner module alone measures 11.7 by 3.3 by 2.8 inches, and is only about as large as a box of gallon-size storage bags. A power supply, power cord, USB cable, and USB power cord are also included.

In our performance tests (using default settings), the Strobe 500 achieved the top overall speed rating of the group by churning out searchable PDFs faster than the other scanners we tested. It took 64 seconds to turn a single-sided, 15-sheet, monochrome text-and-graphics document into a 200-dpi searchable PDF, a considerably faster speed than the group average of 103 seconds for that drill, and enough of a difference for the Strobe 500 to land in first place for best performance. However, in tests to convert documents into other scan formats (TIFFs and standard PDFs), the Strobe 500 generally ran a few seconds slower than the iVina BulletScan S300 (which ranked second in overall speed).

In addition to evaluating the Strobe 500 connected to a wall outlet, we assessed its USB-powered performance, which was among the fastest of the models tested. Running on USB power, the Strobe took a total of 67.5 seconds to scan two color and two monochrome (both single- and double-sided) pages, only about 5.5 seconds longer than the BulletScan S300 required for the same tests.

The Strobe 500 received a Very Good rating for its image quality. Its color-document scans displayed sharp text, accurate color shades, and subtle detail in color graphics, and its scans of monochrome and grayscale documents featured solid, readable text and fine details in line art and other graphics.

Thanks to two quick-start buttons (labeled Simplex and Duplex) and a front-panel dial (for scanning to six selectable destinations), you can use the scanner with a minimal amount of manual effort. The excellent selection of bundled software includes Nuance ScanSoft PaperPort 11 for document management, Nuance OmniPage 15 for optical character recognition, and NewSoft Presto BizCard 5 for business-card recognition. In tests of the Strobe 500's OCR software, it proved proficient at accurately reproducing both complex text-and-graphics pages and simple text-only pages. And the scanner's BCR software was equally adept at converting business cards into an editable database.

Overall, the Visioneer Strobe 500 portable scanner is an excellent choice for scanning and converting paper documents into easily readable electronic files for storage and distribution.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Strobe 500's main strengths are its snappy speed and its excellent image quality.

    Pros

    • Detachable mobile scanner
    • Superior image quality

    Cons

    • Premium price
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