Scanstik is a pen sized hand held scanning device. You can carry it everywhere, in its own leather pouch, in a purse, or clipped to your belt like first generation geeks used to carry their slide rules.

This little nine inch, two ounce product makes scanning anywhere so easy. You can scan full sized color documents in a variety of resolutions. The pocket scanner eliminates the need to tear out a page to keep of that dentist office magazine. It avoids copy fees at the public library or in your hotel. The Scanstik quickly captures documents in a bound book that can’t be flattened out to lie on a desk scanner.

The Lithium Polymer battery easily recharges via a computer USB slot. You transfer from the memory disk to your computer via the provided USB cable. Scanstik includes optional auxiliary software products for OCR translation, image editing, and file management on CD-ROM if you want to take advantage of them.

 Free software comes with the product

Free software comes with the product

The product arrived in a protective exterior shipping package. The product packaging itself was sturdy with heavy foam rubber surround. Contents were simply the device, the USB cable, and the zippered pouch. Two CD-ROM disks provided the accompanying software. It retails for $159.99 from PlanOn.

A protective leather pouch is provided along with the scanner and its own USB cable.

A protective leather pouch is provided along with the scanner and its own USB cable.

The first impression is the graceful look of the scanner. It has four buttons that meld with the design control of the device. The device is so slick it is difficult to determine where the opening is for the memory card. The instructions we printed out indicated that the MicroSD memory card goes under the oval cover the bears the product name.

A necessary accessory is not included in your purchase, a memory card. We selected a Patriot 32GB microSDHC that comes with an adapter that was not necessary, but could be helpful in a different situation. We chose the larger size because we intend to make several color copies which take considerable space. The card comes with a 5 year limited warranty and promises 10mb/sec or better. We had no complaints with our choice. The images scanned quickly without incident.

Be aware, you need steady hands to maneuver the tiny micro card into the slot and to close the cover. Though well-built, we were concerned that the small tabs on the cover could easily break off, leaving the insides unprotected if it were removed frequently.

MicroSDHC fits snuggly in the scanner

MicroSDHC fits snuggly in the scanner

Fortunately, our images transferred smoothly from the card via the USB cable to our computer. We took the quick route and used Windows Explorer to place the images in a folder of our choosing.

We scanned images of all kinds with varying degrees of success, but overall were quite satisfied. We selected several types of paper and other materials for our tests. Below you’ll see examples of images from magazine ads and stories, a textbook, a newspaper, a glossy table top book, an old paperback, a business card, a silk painting under glass, a genealogy document under a sheet protector, and a tee shirt.

Getting started, we found that the manual, although accompanied with pictures of the product and installation of the optional software, could have been more explanatory and text edited to serve up a more professional presentation. Regardless, we were up and scanning in no time. Learning the accompanying software will take more time, however.

The first thing we encountered as we put the stick to its first test was the fact that the scanner always scans the width of the device – 8.75 inches. If you have a small item, like a receipt or business card, you should have a blank background that size. Notice the strength of the scan, it picked up some of the image on the back side of the blank side of the paper we used as background for the business card.

Scanstik copies 8.75 inches wide regardless of the size of the target.

Scanstik copies 8.75 inches wide regardless of the size of the target.

There is no way to change the width of the scan. Thus, you obviously need to crop your images after transferring them to your computer. We opened ours in Adobe Photoshop for cropping and sizing, but did not alter the appearance in any other way.

You can choose black and white TIFF or color JPG image capture. Three resolution settings are possible: 150, 300 or 600 dpi (dots per inch). The 300 setting was sufficient in most cases. Text looks a tad better in 600 and is quite legible, but we’d prefer something a bit more crisp if we had to rely on its readability. Below is an example of captures from the same book in two different resolutions. The text is 600 dpi; the pottery is only 300 dpi.

Text and image from same book in two resolutions

Text and image from same book in two resolutions

We must admit, text quality is dependent on how steady your hand is. If you move in fits and starts, the text reflects that. If you wobble down the page instead of moving the scanner straight and consistent, you won’t be happy with the rendition. There is no display of your capture as you would expect on even a camera phone, so you won’t know how it looks until you do the USB transfer to a device that has software that allows you to view your results. The only warning the small LCD display provides is if you move the scanner too fast.

Example of a shaky and a steady hand operating the scanner.

Example of a shaky and a steady hand operating the scanner.

The advantage of the Scanstik is not having to flatten a book out, cracking its spine. However, when working with a small paperback with narrow margins, it takes several tries to capture the entire document from edge to edge. You’ll need to try several methods, scanning right side up, upside down, horizontal and vertical to find the right positioning.

Scanning small paperbacks is tricky

Scanning small paperbacks is tricky

Something we discovered by accident, if you scan a small page and place the right side of the scanner on the page instead of positioning the left side on the text, the words come out backwards similar to Leonardo da Vinci’s mirror writing. You could say the resulting text looks like Black Elk’s words are written in the Sioux language.

A misplaced wand on an original that is not as wide as the Scanstik returns surprisingly results.

When you can’t rip-and-take an enticing magazine ad, a full page is quickly captured and reproduces nicely. Carrying the lightweight Scanstik with you eliminates the need to ask the receptionist in the doctor’s office to make a copy for you.

It only takes seconds to scan a full page ad

It only takes seconds to scan a full page ad

When you don’t have paper or enough time to jot down several notations from a magazine ad, just scan it. The scanner is more convenient than carrying a pen and sheets of paper with you. It also eliminates those transcription errors or omissions.

No paper to make notes on? Scan the original instead.

The popular hobby of genealogy is a perfect excuse to get a Scanstik. All those documents hidden away in the archives don’t even have to be taken out of their bindings. In this case, we’ve found this discharge record in a sheet protector. We left it in the protective covering and the scanner didn’t blink an eye, delivering a very serviceable image.

Plastic sheet protectors don't interfere with the scanner

Plastic sheet protectors don’t interfere with the scanner

Large textbooks easily become targets for the Scanstik. The OCR software that is included in your purchase can turn that textbook image into useable text to assist turning your notes into a term paper.

Scanstik helps students take accurate notes via TIFF imaging at 600dpi

Scanstik helps students take accurate notes via TIFF imaging at 600dpi

Newspaper print wasn’t the challenge we had expected it to be. Due to the accommodating size and flat format, a newspaper was almost the easiest thing we attempted. The image below was captured at only 300 dpi.

Newspapers are easy to scan

Newspapers are easy to scan

We scanned image after image, transferring them from time to time to our computer, deleting the culls from our memory card, then scanning some more. All in all, we attempted more than 150 scans before experiencing any degradation in performance – which was due to a low battery which we quickly remedied.

One unusual test proved especially very successful. We scanned a silk painting that was framed behind glass. The translucent quality of the silk shows and the glare of spotlights on glass typically captured when taking a photo is completely eliminated by the direct scan.

The scanner sat idle, and off, until we wanted a do-over to obtain a different version of one image. When we turned the scanner on, the battery notation on the LCD display indicated ?Medium? instead of ?Full?. After displaying the current mode, resolution, and battery status as usual, the startup of the actual scanning process was slower than before. However, we were able to scan several versions of the same page before attempting to transfer our work. When we attempted to transfer the latest images by attaching the USB cable, the display indicated the battery was too low to attempt the process. We left the cable plugged in to the computer’s USB port to charge the battery and less than five minutes later, the scanner was ready to go again.

Next, we couldn’t resist an older book of poetry that we found in our library. Not as small as a paperback, but neither was it a large format book. It measured 8?x5?. We scanned the image vertically, moving across the page from left to right. We rotated, cropped, and sized the image in Photoshop. It is a good example of text scanned at 300dp.

Text scanned in color and captured at 300dpi

Text scanned in color and captured at 300dpi

We found that high quality glossy paper such as the pottery picture is printed on was the most difficult to scan adequately. You need the right amount of pressure on the page combined with the right speed of movement otherwise the rollers squeak and stick slightly.

Overall, though, with a small amount of practice, you can scan almost anything – except the cat. That attempt failed. Yet, one other scan we tried just for fun – a tourist’s tee shirt worked great. If you look closely, you can almost feel the cotton cloth on which the design is printed. This colorful item was also scanned at 300dpi. You don’t always have to use up memory card space with a higher resolution to create a memory.

The largest file we captured was the colorful pottery in JPG format, 2313KB at 2464×2818 pixels, which we scaled down for the publication. The smallest concerned Bach from the textbook which was 33KB in TIFF format, at 2560×1236 pixels which we cropped as well as sized for inclusion here.

We did not attempt to touch up the images, neither in Photoshop, nor in the PaperPort software from Nuance which is included with your purchase. Nor did we take advantage of the file management functions of that product. DocuDesk, also included in the shipped product, can be used to calibrate the scanner, but we ran it as received.

If you want simple, easy, portable scanning ability, we recommend Scanstik. As a bonus you will also receive the other capabilities as noted above.

Documents were scanned from:

Black Elk Speaks, John G. Neihardt, 1972

Music Appreciation, Robert Hickok, 1975

Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows, Rod McKuen, 1966

AAA, VIA, On the Road, July/August 2012

Nat’l Geographic Traveler, May 2012

Horse Illustrated, May 2012

Wall Street Journal, Sports, July 13, 2012

Southwestern Pottery: Anasazi to Zuni, Allan Hayes and John Blom