My ancient Umax scanner was incredibly slow and didn't produce images
that were all that great, so I figured it was time to look for a
replacement. I decided it should have a USB 2.0 interface, much faster
than the Umax's older USB 1.1 interface. So I went shopping.
After some searching, I found the features of the Hewlett-Packard 5500C
scanner to be attractive. It had the desired USB 2.0 interface, buttons
on the scanner to activate features in the scanning software, and most
innovatively, a stack loader for 4x6 photos. The stack loader lets you
insert a stack of photos, feeds them into the scanner automatically, and
then ejects them. Considering how many boxes of 4x6 photos I have, this
feature seemed too good to pass up. So I didn't.
Another feature I found useful was an on/off switch, missing from my old
Umax scanner. After I unpacked my scanner and installed the software, I
flipped on the switch, and stuck an 8x10 color ad (Dell) in the scanner.
I pushed the scan button on the scanner, and a dialog box popped up asking
me what I wanted to do. I picked scan with Hewlett-Packard scanning software.
And nothing happened. Puzzled, I found a new icon on the desktop: HP Director.
Clicking it brought up a dialog box with typical scanner options. I selected
the scan function and clicked to Scan Picture. The scanner took a mere 8
seconds to scan the photo, faster than the Umax took to turn on its scanning
light. And the image was first-rate: bright, accurate colors, and good detail.
So the new scanner passed the graphic image scan test. Next, I decided to test
the optical character recognition feature of the Hewlett-Packard scanner.
Using the same Dell add, I told the scanner to Scan Document. I specified that
the document should be sent to Microsoft Word, so I could use its excellent
spell checker to find mis-scanned words. The scan took the same length of
time (what would you expect, it's the same document), and about the same amount
to run the OCR part of the process. Then it produced a Word document with the
graphics and text from the original add, but now in a Word document where I
could edit the text. There were a few errors, but not many. But the placement
of the text was not like the original; much of it was moved to a new page. Oh,
Next, I tried the Make Copies option. It uses your scanner, computer, and
printer as a color (assuming you have a color printer) copier. The system
produced an excellent copy of the same Dell ad quite rapidly, but here, the
printer was the slowest device in the chain. However, it produced a nice
color copy of Mr. Dell's ad.
Another button is supposed to let you scan to your e-mail program. Of course,
it didn't work for me, but an e-mail button on the scanning screen let me send
a scanned photo to my e-mail software and address it to whomever I select
(Clarke got the nod).
To test the automatic feed for 4x6 or 3x5 photos, I loaded four photos into
the hopper. The scanner detected the photos in the hopper, started automatically,
scanned each photo into the Hewlett-Packard Image Gallery, where photos are stored,
and moved the scanned photos in the output hopper. The software let me rotate an
image if I stuck it into the scanner upside down. The default names for the images
are Scan0001.jpg, Scan0002.jpg and so forth; but by clicking on the title of an
image in the Image Gallery, I could type in a new, meaningful name. I had to be
careful to enter the .jpg extension for each renamed image, however.
The scanner comes with a film holder for 35mm film. It's backlit, so it generates
light behind the film, making it possible to scan either positive or negative
images. There's not slide holder for a single slide, however.
In summary, except for the buttons on the scanner, everything works really great.
Scans are super-fast, images are sharp with good color, and the supporting program
is easy to use. I'm guessing the problem with the buttons is software-related, and
will try to troubleshoot it to fix it. But even without being able to use buttons,
the scanner is all I had hoped for. It currently sells for $249.95 MSRP, but you
can find it for less. A version of the scanner without the automatic photo feed
top is available as the model 4570C.