Scans without jams

GCN Lab review: Sonar-equipped Panasonic scanner handles any kind of document on any kind of paper

The complete list of products tested and evaluated by the GCN Lab and on GCN Lab TV.

Panasonic

GCN

DOLPHINS USE IT to find undersea mines. Bats use it to keep from crashing into cave walls. So why can't we use sonar to navigate the pitfalls of document scanning?

Ultrasonic sensors are one of the features of the powerful Panasonic KV-S4085C scanner that make it speed through scanning jobs faster than Flipper can jump through the hoops at SeaWorld.

The KV-S4085C's three ultrasonic sensors bounce sound waves off of documents and can discern a staple, bent page or a double-feed ' two or more pieces of paper coming through at once ' from almost an arm's length away.

[IMGCAP(2)]Weighing in at 51 pounds and selling for $23,995, the KV-S4085C is not for the casual user who scans an occasional family photo to post on her Facebook page. This is a heavy-duty machine for when you have a lot to scan and you want high-quality images.

The KV-S4085C can handle wide pages or wallet-sized photos. Its feeder tray can hold as many as 300 sheets of paper. Depending on the selected resolution and type of document, it can scan as many as 85 portrait pages per minute.

The KV-S4085C has two other kinds of sensors: an optical sensor array that detects staples and interrupts the scanning process before damage can occur and a mechanical slip-detection sensor that automatically adjusts the height of the scanner's auto document-feeding hopper to accommodate variations in document thickness. The paper tray rises to the exact level it needs to feed the document into the scanner, like a little elevator for your documents.

Bob Curci, a Panasonic product manager, said the sensors on the scanner's Toughfeed paper-feed mechanism can sense 'whether or not the paper is moving. If the paper isn't moving, the roller won't be turning.'

When the scanner detects a staple, a red indicator light flashes. It stops the rolling action before the staple can scratch the scanner's glass. During testing, the scanner's sensors detected a staple located at the opposite end of the page that was being fed into the scanner, a distance of 11 inches.

Whatever we threw at the KV-S4085C scanner, it handled with aplomb. The KV-S4085C can accommodate all sizes and thickness of paper. It scanned tissue paper easily, leaving nary a wrinkle. It performed a dual scan, scanning the front and back of checks and complying with Check 21 electronic banking regulations. It can scan a document that's 100 feet long, such as an electrocardiogram printout. The KV-S4085C will break it down into 100-inch increments.

The scanner comes with a CD that installs imaging software, the Reliable Throughput Imaging Viewer, that lets you specify scanning settings. You can set the scanning feed to grab documents that are at a crooked angle, and it will straighten them out in the scanning process. It's designed to work with a screen reader. My only complaint about the KV-S4085C is that its buttons and plugs lacked raised labels for the visually impaired.

The KV-S4085C also has a feature that will stamp an original either before or after its scanned. Legal departments often require this for original documents. The KV-S4085C has an internal ink-jet printer for this task.

We tested the scanner using a Dell OptiPlex 6X 280 PC with a 3.2 GHz Intel CPU with 512M of RAM running Windows XP. The CD that comes with the scanner also installs TWAIN and ISIS drivers, the main interface standards for scanners. TWAIN drivers let you scan an image directly into an application, such as Adobe Photoshop, where you can modify the image.

The RTIV software lets you scan images and documents almost any way you can think of ' JPEG, TIFF, bitmap or PDF, 600 dpi or 300 dpi, 24-bit color or black and white. It lets you scan an image as one whole document or as individual pages.

We scanned a 30-page graphics-laden beast of a test document. It's loaded with complicated, full-color pictures, drawings, photos, straight text and text that runs on top of graphics. Even the most robust printers and scanners get a little puzzled by some of the pages.

Scanning each page as a 300 dpi, 24-bit JPEG took less than 25 seconds. It was so fast that the pages came out of the scanner with a whoosh. It was like the pages were on little Teflon skis. Scanning the same document as a multipage PDF file took longer, at one minute, 6.4 seconds. The images and text came out at top print quality, crisp and clear. The colors matched the original perfectly.

I decided to scan some old photos of my uncles for a family project. A 4 1/2-inch by 3-inch photo of Uncle Sig was crumpled and an odd size. I scanned it as a 300-dpi JPEG in 7.59 seconds, and it looked sharper than the original, although the crumples were still there, of course.

Keeping with the uncle theme, I scanned a black-and-white photo of Uncle Basil. The 3-inch-by-4-inch snapshot clocked in at 7.47 seconds and came out beautifully as a 300-dpi JPEG.

The last test was a photo of Uncle Jack in his seminarian robes. The photo was 4 1/2 inches by 2 1/4 inches, a challenging size. The photo scanned at 600 dpi in 9.03 seconds, and the image's detail was exquisite. The scanner captured the netting on my mom's 1940s-style hat, the butterfly design on my Aunt Lucille's dress and the jaunty feather on Aunt Betty's hat.

The KV-S4085C was incredibly responsive. I changed my mind about scanning a photo and hit Cancel, and the scanner immediately stopped the job. This is the easiest, fastest and most adaptable scanner I've seen. For almost $24,000, it would be a pricey addition to a government office, but worth it in terms of quality and efficiency.

Panasonic Communications Co. of North America, (201) 392-6612, www.panasonic.com/scanners

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