Brother PDS-5000 desktop scanner
A professional unit for any office that has demanding document scanning needs
No one ever talks about scanners these days. At least not typical consumers, who often make do with the built-in scanner on a multifunction centre. However, for business users, a dedicated scanner can come in handy, especially when it's of the calibre of Brother's PDS-5000.
This is a stand-alone desktop scanner that's designed to do just that: scan. It can do so at a quality up to 600 dots per inch, and it features an automatic document feeder, from which up to 60 pages per minute can be scanned. The daily duty cycle is 6000 pages per month, and let's face it, if you have a requirement to scan even a fraction of that volume per day, then this product is well worth considering.
Indeed, it's designed for any type of busy office in which document scanning is a necessity, rather than something that has to be done once in a while, and it's especially of use when multi-page jobs and double-sided pages need to be scanned.
There are two scan heads that record each side of a page as it passes through, meaning a double-sided scan can be performed in one single pass. These scans can be recorded as JPEG images or PDF files (one document, or individual documents) and then fed into programs such as Nuance's OmniPage, which can perform optical character recognition (OCR) to make them searchable and editable documents. OmniPage SE 18 is supplied with the scanner.
Physically, the PDS-5000 looks like a printer to most people who have never even thought about the scanner as a stand-alone device; they will give you a perplexed look as if to say 'is that it?' when you tell them it won't print out their favourite photos. Fire it up, though, and those same people will take a step back, hand on chin, and nod in approval at the speed with which this scanner can process large documents.
We popped a stack of sheets in its 100-sheet input tray as a test run to see what it could do. We hit the scan button in its capture program (DS Capture) on our PC and were prepared to venture off and get on with other reviews. But no sooner did we press the button, the job finished, and we found the rate to be bang-on 60 sheets per minute at 300dpi, echoing Brother's stated specs.
It was like an experienced player at your friend's poker night who deals cards with purposeful flicks of his wrist, rather than the 'now and then' player who struggles to land the cards in the right spot. You become mesmerised by the crisp actions of the experienced player and wonder how long it took to perfect the skill. And that's what this scanner is: an expert player.
Here it is in action.
Scans will slow down once the memory buffer on your PC is filled, but the DS Capture program allows you to adjust how much RAM can be used when large job sizes need to be processed.
A4 sheets can be handled perfectly by the scanner as long as they are not too crumpled. We fed documents into it that were formerly stapled together, as well as ones with noticeable 'dog ears' at the corners, and the scanner's rollers fed them through without any issues. You do have to make sure that stapes and things like tape aren't on your documents, and that is just part and parcel of preparing each document for scanning.
The sheets emerge onto an output tray that features a dramatically tall stop on its end that keeps them from falling to the floor. An LCD display on the scanner shows you how many sheets have been completed for each job. Arrows allow you to scroll through a job number on the screen as well, and this number corresponds to whichever software function you have assigned to it through Brother's Button Manager software -- you can scan to OCR at the touch of a button on the scanner, for example.
Different sized documents (up to Legal and as small as business cards) can be scanned by adjusting the paper guide on the feeder at the back, though we found the collapsible flaps on this guide to be a little annoying; they collapsed way too easily whenever we had to move the guide due to a change in paper size.
For business cards, it's a matter of moving the paper guide to the card size in the middle of the tray, and then carefully placing the stack of cards into the feeder. Cards of different sizes can be scanned together, but we'd recommend putting bigger cards at the bottom, with smaller ones at the top of the stack to be scanned, in order to avoid paper jams. A mishmash of cards in a stack quickly led to our first jam. But it was easy to remedy this by releasing the front panel forwards and removing the cards, which had run through the roller in a sideways motion to cause the jam.
Also be on the lookout for turned up edges and stapes left in cards, which could get caught and also lead to jams. We had one metal card with etched text in our collection, which we ran through the scanner on its own, and the results were almost spot on. Most of the details were captured by the scanner, but when we ran that card through the OCR process, it failed to correctly format a URL and misread the word 'staff' as 'starf'. Plastic cards can be scanned, as well as cards with embossed lettering, according to Brother, though we didn't have any on hand to test this.
As for the accuracy of the OCR process on other documents, the overall results we observed were highly accurate, especially on regular, typed up documents. Handwriting was another story. How successful you are at getting editable text out of handwritten documents depends on the neatness of the handwriting to begin with. Business cards layouts wreaked havoc on the OCR process, with some logos and labels leading to confusing formatting. For business cards, especially, using the checking tool to fix details is a must.
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