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Ambir makes document scanners that are apparently widely used in the healthcare industry, and the company is just starting to push into the legal industry. It sent me the ImageScan Pro 820i when I asked for a scanner comparable to the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500, and at first glance, that’s exactly what it is: a compact, desktop scanner with a simplified user experience.
While there are things to like about the Ambir ImageScan Pro 820i, it didn’t deliver the performance I expected.
Price and features
Feature-wise, well, it’s a document scanner. It has a 50-page feeder tray, duplexing capability, and a simple, 3-button interface that lets you pick from a number of preset scanning modes.
AmbirScan, the scanning software that comes with the ImageScan Pro 820i, includes blank page removal as well as all the options you would expect from scanning software. It is similar to ScanSnap Manager and the Epson scanning software that came with the GT-S50.
Finally, like most document scanners (the ScanSnap line being a notable exception), the ImageScan Pro 820i supports TWAIN.
After all, most document scanners have similar feature sets. The distinctions come in design and performance.
Hardware and design
The Ambir 820i doesn’t look markedly different from any other desktop scanner when you pull it out of the box. You do have to snap in the paper catch tray, which is a separate piece, but that’s all the assembly required. Once you have snapped it into place, the scanner folds up kind of awkwardly, though. And if you install the larger paper guides that come with the scanner, you can’t close the lid.
If you generally leave your scanner open on your desk, I guess this won’t matter. And, for what it’s worth, the ImageScan Pro 820i has a power switch on the back, so you don’t need to close the lid to turn it off. But my office is in a very old building, and the ceiling occasionally drops ancient dust and mortar crumbles on my desk, so I kind of need to be able to close my scanner when I’m not using it.
I’m not impressed with the design of the ImageScan overall. It feels cobbled together. While the ImageScan Pro 820i definitely doesn’t have the polish of the ScanSnap S1500, even the businesslike Epson GT-S50 comes off as a better-designed machine.
While I wasn’t impressed at the hardware and design, I did like the crapware-free software disc that came bundled with the ImageScan.
The Ambir’s software is quite possibly the first I have ever installed where the express installation does not include a bunch of crapware. Install the CD, click the Express install button, and the basic scanning software, AmbirScan, installs. This made me very happy.
AmbirScan is utilitarian, and many of the options aren’t exactly clear. It isn’t very user-friendly, but it is functional, and just about every option you might want seems to be present. Whether you enjoy using it or not, you won’t ever have to look at it again once you set up your presets. On the right is what you see when you open the preferences (click to enlarge).
The one feature I wish AmbirScan (and every scanner, really) had is the ability to pop up a save dialog when finished scanning. Like the Epson’s scanning software, AmbirScan just dumps your scans into a folder (or, it can launch a program). That’s not awful; it just means you have to create an inbox folder, then visit it after scanning and sort your documents to the place they belong.
If you want them, Presto! PageManager 9 and ABBY FineReader 9.0 Sprint are also on the disc. I didn’t bother installing them because I don’t like using document management software, and I already know that ABBY FineReader is a perfectly-good OCR engine in its various incarnations.
The Ambir ImageScan Pro 820i claims to be able to handle 25ppm/50ipm. By comparison, the ScanSnap S1500 claims 20ppm/40ipm. (For reference, ppm means pages per minute, and ipm means images — each side of a page — per minute.) Those are ideal numbers, obviously. Once you set the scanner up for the kind of scanning you want to do, the speed will reflect your preferences.
In regular use, the ImageScan Pro 820i is noticeably slower than the ScanSnap S1500. I scanned 6 one-sided pages (one page upside-down to test the blank page removal) using the settings you see above, and it took 33 seconds. That’s only about 11 ipm. My ScanSnap S1500 took just 23 seconds to get through the same pages using settings as identical as possible. That’s a bit less than 16 ipm.
But remember, the ScanSnap is supposed to be slower. In normal use, then, the ImageScan’s numbers aren’t so impressive.
Besides the speed discrepancy, the ImageScan Pro 820i works just fine. Scanning is a simple matter of selecting the preset you want to use from the buttons on the front of the scanner and pushing Scan. You can set it to wait for more pages once it finishes the first load, and when it is finished, it drops the file into the folder you selected in the settings. The quality of the scans is fine, too. No complaints there.
Who should buy this?
If the Epson GT-S50 is too big for your desk and the price tag of the ScanSnap S1500 is too rich for your blood, you might want to get the Ambir ImageScan Pro 820i.
But while there is nothing much wrong with the Ambir ImageScan Pro 820i, but I can’t think of a good reason to recommend it over the Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S50, which is cheaper and heavier-duty, or the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500, which is a bit more expensive, but easier to use and comes with Adobe Acrobat.
Reviewed by Sam Glover on .
Summary: While there are things to like about the Ambir ImageScan Pro 820i, it didn’t deliver the performance I expected.
- Price and features: 4
- Hardware and design: 2
- Included software: 3
- Performance: 3
Overall score: 3 (out of 5)