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Hardware Review of:
Hewlett-Packard ScanJet 5500C


Picture of HP ScanJet 5500C

From the October, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

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, well...

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.

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