The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is a bit over four years old, which means people are starting to wonder if they should still buy one. My answer is yes, although it’s likely Fujitsu will update the iX500 soon.1
Since the iX500 was released, Fujitsu added wireless scanning, then ScanSnap Cloud, and I have updated this review for 2017, including information about the various ways you can scan with those options.
The bottom line: the ScanSnap iX500 has gotten better over time, and it remains an excellent value. If you need a document scanner, this is still the one you should get, and it remains at the top of our top picks for scanners. Here’s why.
Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Price and Features
The iX500 is about $415 on Amazon.
There are less expensive desktop scanners that will get the job done, like the Neat Connect and Brother ADS-2000e, at $299, but the ScanSnap iX500 is substantially better than both, and it has a lot more to offer, feature-wise. The Epson WorkForce ES-500W gets you closer to what the iX500 offers, but also closer to its price, at about $380.
The iX500 scans 25 double-side pages per minute. It will automatically detect and remove blank pages, although this is conservative and you will probably find plenty of blank pages in your scans. It is also good at detecting when two or more pages get pulled into the scanner at the same time. When this happens, the iX500 will stop to let you separate the pages before it continues. With the ScanSnap Connect app for iOS and Android, you can scan wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet.
With ScanSnap Cloud, you can scan directly to almost a dozen cloud services, including Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive, Evernote, and more. ScanSnap Cloud is by far the easiest way to use the iX500 for normal, day-to-day scanning. For longer documents or more complex scanning jobs, you will want to use ScanSnap Connect with your mobile device or ScanSnap Manager with your computer.
Hardware and Design
As far as scanners go, the iX500’s geometric black form looks pretty nice on a desk. It is unobtrusive without being unattractive. Not that style should be a major concern when scanner shopping.
Inside the scanner is a processor that helps speed up image processing and handle processing when the iX500 is not plugged into a computer. It even handles optical character recognition, which means you’ll spend less time waiting for OCR to finish than you would with other scanners (or older ScanSnaps).
Like most document scanners these days, the iX500 has an ultrasonic multi-feed detector. And to reduce the chances you will need it, there is a new Separation Roller setup for paper picking.
The feeder is 9″ wide, so it can handle pages that are just a bit wider than standard US letter or A4 paper. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can scan teeny-tiny receipts, although you might have to move them around to make sure the scanner can tell there is a piece of paper in the feeder. You can also scan thicker documents, like drivers licenses and passports. Credit cards and drivers licenses go through the iX500 just fine. Passports are a tight fit, but you can get them through. If you need to scan anything bigger than that, though, you might need a ScanSnap SV600.
One thing the iX500 doesn’t have is an onboard user interface. There is no way to tell it to connect to a new Wi-Fi network. In order to do that, you have to plug it in or use a computer or mobile device to which it is already connected. This isn’t a huge problem. I can’t imagine many scenarios in which you would have your scanner but not your smartphone, but it’s worth keeping in mind before you take your iX500 to a document inspection.
But it’s worth pointing out that if you are comparing the iX500’s feature list to another scanner’s feature list, you are missing the point. The ScanSnap isn’t just a list of features, it is designed to make scanning easy, which is really important if you are going to use it all the time.
What really makes the ScanSnap stand out is how easy it is to use. Manufacturers of competing scanners can’t seem to keep themselves from adding buttons, while the ScanSnap has just one. And unlike most of the competition, the ScanSnap Manager scanning utility is simple, friendly, and easy to use. I think ScanSnap Manager is the most underrated feature of the ScanSnap line of scanners. Fujitsu didn’t just bundle its scanners with PaperPort (which was awful the last time I used it) or hack together an ugly-but-functional scanning utility. Fujitsu put in the time to design the user experience to make ScanSnaps easy to use without sacrificing functionality.
And it works really well.
It also comes with a copy of Nuance Power PDF Standard2 to give Windows users the ability to edit PDF documents. (Mac users won’t need Power PDF because they can already edit PDFs in Preview.) Nuance and Preview are good for basic PDF editing, but many lawyers will want more advanced PDF software that includes features like redaction and Bates stamping.
However, Fujitsu also bundles some bloatware with its scanners, including Cardminder Business Card Software, ABBY FineReader Express, and ScanSnap Organizer. Some will object to my categorization of ScanSnap Organizer as bloatware, but you definitely don’t need it. If you cannot organize your documents in your file system, get real document management software.
Install ScanSnap Manager, ScanSnap Cloud, and ScanSnap Connect, but skip the rest.
The ScanSnap iX500 is quick, reliable, and and easy to use. Here it is in action:
While it scans at 25ppm, a fairly standard speed, the process of getting a document from scanner to destination feels much faster than other document scanners I have used. That is due, in large part, to the new on-board processor. Using OCR with the iX500 involves noticeably less waiting after the paper has gone through the scanner.
The iX500 really raised the bar on mobile scanning when it came out, as well. I had already tried the Doxie Go or Xerox Mobile Scanner, both of which are purpose-built mobile scanners. But instead of working with the hard-to-set-up Eye-Fi system, Fujitsu built its own apps, and the whole system is much easier to use as a result. You can just grab your phone and scanner and take it with you when you know you’ll need to scan a big job on the road.
That goes for scanning to the cloud, as well. Being able to scan without going through a computer is, for me, the ScanSnap iX500’s killer feature. It is inferior to the other “cloud scanner” I have reviewed, the Neat Connect, in only one respect: the Neat has an onboard touchscreen so you can set up your cloud services without ever connecting the scanner to a computer. The iX500, on the other hand, requires a computer to do the initial ScanSnap Cloud setup. But once it is set up, it works great.
I call ScanSnap Cloud a killer feature because it makes it possible to share one scanner without investing in a computer just to sit next to it. For example, I just have an _Inbox folder in Dropbox that I share with my team (or family). Then anyone can dump a pile of pages in the hopper, press the scan button, and go retrieve the documents from Dropbox. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be able to do.
In case you’re curious, by the way, here is a sample scan (pdf) from the iX500 that I made using the default settings.
Who Should Buy a ScanSnap iX500?
If you are in the market for a desktop document scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is the one you should buy. There is really no question about it.
There is only one exception to that recommendation: if you know you need TWAIN, you should look for another scanner, like one of those I have mentioned above. If you don’t know whether or not you need TWAIN, don’t worry about it. I’m pretty confident that you don’t.
If you already have a document scanner and are wondering if you ought to upgrade, I think it depends. My guess is we will see a new ScanSnap desktop scanner within the next 1–2 years. It will probably be a little faster, but the only feature I can imagine making me feel like my current iX500 is out of date would be a touchscreen for connecting to Wi-Fi and your cloud services without using another device. Scanners aren’t iPads, and you aren’t likely to feel like your iX500 is sad and out of date when Fujitsu finally releases a successor.