If you look back at computer peripherals of old, most products were offered as stand-alones before the trend of all-in-ones became as enticing. Instead of buying a printer, scanner and fax machine, users would opt for the all-in-one approach, especially when costs started seeing significant reductions across various ranges. While these setups are still the choice product, there has been a push for portability in recent times, leading to many a portable scanner on the market. Epson has released their first in the range in the form of the WorkForce DS-30 Portable Scanner.
With the likes of Neat Receipts, Plustek, Fujitsu and Xerox already dominating the early market, Epson has some catching up to do. But is there room for another portable, manual feed scanner? And how does the DS-30 stack up?
Build and Design
In order to justify the purchase of an additional scanner, over and above that of the all-in-one printers, it needs to be portable. Being portable, in this case, means being extremely lightweight and compact, and the DS-30 is just that. It measures 276x50x37mm, and weighs just 330g making it ultra portable, even having to carry the two cables (power and USB) along for the ride. You shouldn’t have any difficulties in carrying the unit in your laptop bag. The DS-30 ranks among the top when it comes to portability, but lags behind in terms of features, which I’ll discuss later. Portability, then, does have a price.
In terms of its looks, the unit has a very basic design, although it does look quite a lot more premium than many of its counterparts. The DS-30 has a rectangular shape with rounded edges, finished off in a glossy black texture on the top half, making it stand out from a crowd of lookalikes. Epson’s logo is displayed in silver in the centre of the top, with a black, rubberised scan button on the right, along with green LED indicator lights. The bottom half has a more matte black finish, with rubberised feet at the bottom.
The initial setup of the DS-30 takes between 10 and 15 minutes to complete. Those timelines are a direct result of the required drivers and support software Epson has included in the contents. While the drivers are a must, the software isn’t necessary, although it does make life a lot simpler when attempting to use native scanning within other software. Unlike most users, I don’t tend to use the included software on disk provided by the manufacturer, but, instead, opt for downloading the latest drivers and software directly from the official website. This tends to save some time, as I’ve often found drivers and software require an update once installed by means of the disks, resulting in having to essentially install the software and drivers twice.
Unfortunately, the DS-30 is not a simple plug-and-play device, and does need the assistance of its proprietary drivers to work. For me personally, this loses some points when it comes to a truly portable solution, as you cannot simply connect it to another user’s laptop or PC to start scanning documents. Additionally, the quick start guide from the Epson software does ask you to calibrate your device before scanning, which is also a bit frustrating upon first use. Another method of resolving such annoyances would be to have just one install point, which, in turn, installs the drivers and software suite needed, along with the calibration process during that same installation. A typical installation from the disk includes Abbyy FineReader Sprint 9.0 for optical character recognition (OCR), NewSoft Presto! BizCard 5.0 for business card management, Epson Scan Utility, Epson Document Capture, and Twain and WIA drivers.
Performance and Features
As mentioned earlier, there is a trade off between ultra portability and the amount of features a manufacturer can include. From a factory-specific feature set, the DS-30 includes RGB colour dropout, Punch holes removal, Advanced editing, Pre-defined scanning settings, Automatic area segmentation, Automatic de-skew, Automatic B/W colour original detection, RGB colour enhance, Auto-rotation, Text enhancement, Edge fill, Advanced cropping feature for Auto size, and Descreening. These, however, all form part of the simplex scanning process, and while it does offer automatic feeding, this can only be done one page at a time, with each page taking between 15 and 20 seconds to compelete, depending on the resolution and quality settings. The factory spec has a 13 second per page rating with a default 300dpi resolution in grayscale mode. With many of its competitors opting for slightly bigger builds, the addition of an automatic feeder tray is a luxury the DS-30 does not cater for. The actual time for scanning a document, then, is a lot longer than the 15-20 second per scan.
The DS-30 has a maximum scan range of 216x356mm and a maximum scan resolution of 600dpi. The minimum scan range, for business cards for example, is 52×73.7mm. At the maximum settings (max page and 600dpi), scanning took over 40 seconds to complete. The actual image quality is very good, however, as faster scans don’t always provide the quality and detail users are after. Scanning text documents resulted in documents that were easy to read, and sharp enough at 300dpi. Anything below this dpi and results tend to fluctuate between decent and really bad. The OCR capabilities of the included software was also reasonable, but not without a few faults that needed correcting.
Colour image scans produced the best results at a higher dpi, although there were still a few misaligned colours and streaks every now and again, which required a rescan. The contrast of the colour scans were a bit washed out, which could be added back with image editors.
The Epson WorkForce DS-30 Portable Scanner is stylish, compact and lightweight, and compares well against its competitors, in terms of quality (in top 5), portability (in top 3) and even pricing (among the best). Personally, however, it’s hard for me to find a suitable enough justification to own a portable printer. That doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t useful, especially to those in other industries. But at a RRP of R2,747.37 you have to wonder if it’s really worth the price for a portable scanner, even with mobility becoming such a huge element of any industry in 2016.