The versatile BulletScan S300 is the lowest-priced hybrid model (scanner with a detachable ADF), and it includes an easy-to-use scan-to-cloud option.
The $350 (as of February 1, 2011) iVina BulletScan S300 is the only model among the portable scanners we’ve tested lately that offers a preconfigured option to scan your documents to Google Docs automatically. That feature, coupled with the scanner’s solid performance and reasonable price, rockets the S300 past most of its competition.
Google Docs not your thing? No matter: With a minimal amount of manual intervention, you can easily create additional one-click button functionality for automatically scanning and uploading your documents to other cloud-based services, such as Evernote, iTunes iBooks, and YouSendit. Although you can find third-party utilities (such as CloudZap) that automate the process of scanning to the cloud, the S300 has included this convenience as part of its scanning-software architecture. In testing this feature, we had to take only a few seconds to fill in the information required in order to start scanning our documents to our Google Docs account. Kudos to iVina for acknowledging the growing trend of scanning to the cloud.
The S300 hardware itself is a two-in-one, 600-dpi sheetfed scanner with the same basic hybrid-style design as the Visioneer Strobe 500 and the IRIS IRIScan Pro Office 3. One part is a 2.2-pound mobile scanner that measures 11.7 by 3.3 by 2.8 inches (width by depth by height) and is about as large as a box of gallon-size storage bags. The other part is a detachable, 20-page automatic document feeder. Together the modules weigh 3.9 pounds and measure 11.7 by 4.8 by 4.7 inches; many mobile users will find the S300 portable enough to take on the road, with or without the ADF. A power supply, power cord, USB cable, and USB power cord are also included.
In our performance tests (using default settings), the S300 ranked second in overall speed among the five models we tested in our latest batch. It took a grand total of 307 seconds to scan all 13 of our test documents, only 3 seconds longer than the fastest model (the Visioneer Strobe 500) required to complete the same test battery. The S300 was the top performer in producing standard (nonsearchable) PDFs: For example, it took 57 seconds to create a double-sided, 15-page monochrome PDF at 200 dpi, which was the best time for that exercise and considerably faster than the group average of 92 seconds for the same test.
The S300 also turned in impressive results as a USB-powered device. It needed a total of 62 seconds to scan two color and two monochrome (both single- and double-sided) pages while running on USB power, the top speed for that particular test series.
Unfortunately, this model stumbled slightly on image quality, earning an overall rating of Good. Unlike the models with a higher rating, the S300 often produced scans that looked somewhat darker than the originals. For instance, although its color-document scans were essentially pleasing, certain colors (reds, greens, blues) frequently appeared noticeably darker than the original shades, and some areas contained less detail than what we saw from some competing models. Similarly, the S300’s scans of monochrome and grayscale documents rendered solid, readable text, but they also had a slightly darker appearance that didn’t match the originals as accurately as the scans of other higher-ranking models (such as the Visioneer Strobe 500) did.
A pair of quick-start buttons and a front-panel dial (for scanning to six selectable destinations) are handy additions that contribute to the S300’s overall ease of use. Bundled software includes NewSoft PageManager 9 SE for document management and Presto BizCard 6.6 for business-card recognition, but you don’t get a separate optical character recognition application; instead, the S300 scanner software uses a built-in OCR engine (ABBYY FineReader) to create editable files. In our tests of the S300’s OCR capabilities, it delivered very accurate results on several of our test documents, but complex layouts involving text and graphics or tabular material were not always as successful, and more manual correction was required here than with competing models that provided more full-featured OCR functions (such as text editing and proofreader tools). The BCR software, on the other hand, was reasonably proficient at converting business cards into an editable database.
In the end, the low-priced, speedy iVina BulletScan S300 portable scanner is a smart choice for scanning to Google Docs and other cloud services, but its image quality isn’t perfect.