Katherine Boehret

Pint-Size Peripherals Scan or Print at a Price

It’s often said that less is more. If only this were true for computer devices like printers and scanners, which take up a lot of desktop real estate. The reality is that small, stylish, portable versions of these gadgets are often pricey and not as functional.

This week, I reviewed two products that unfortunately live up to that reality: a portable printer and mini scanner that put a premium on good looks at $300 each. I’ve been using Fujitsu’s newest $295 mini scanner, the ScanSnap S1300 (fujitsu.com), and PlanOn System Solutions Inc.’s tiny $300 PrintStik PS905ME (http://3.ly/6QVS). There are several good printers, scanners or all-in-ones that cost significantly less or offer more functionality than these devices.

But boy, do these gadgets look good. The Fujitsu ScanSnap collapses down to a small, rectangular box with mirrored buttons. The PlanOn PrintStik resembles a box of aluminum foil in the kitchen drawer–except more compact.

Both devices are small and lightweight enough to fit in a bag or briefcase, if necessary. Either one of these could be ported around without a problem: The PrintStik weighs 1.5 pounds and the ScanSnap weighs twice as much at 3.08 pounds. Both fit well in a tiny work space or on the desktops of people like me, who don’t print or scan much and don’t want a device taking up a lot of space.

As is usually the case with smaller devices that lack display screens and extra buttons, one hopes they come with straightforward software or simply plug in and play. The Fujitsu ScanSnap meets that requirement with software that installs on Macs or PCs and can be used without reading complicated instructions.

mosssberg

The PlanOn PrintStik uses thermal printing to produce images and characters on scrolls of paper.

The PlanOn PrintStik worked adequately as a basic black-and-white printer for Windows PCs (it isn’t Mac compatible), but fell short as a wireless printer for smart phones. The PrintStik is meant to receive and print documents sent to it via Bluetooth from BlackBerrys, but I found the BlackBerry program to be clumsy and in the end, it didn’t even work despite at least two dozen attempts. PlanOn’s tech support said they thought my PrintStik’s Bluetooth could be faulty, but couldn’t send me a new device in time for this column.

These two devices offer some interesting design elements. The PlanOn PrintStik PS905ME uses thermal printing–an old technology that has been around for decades–rather than ink cartridges, to produce images and characters by applying heat at tiny points.

The PrintStik’s thermal printing only works with special scrolls of thin, slippery paper. It comes in packs of six rolls for $23; one roll is about 23 feet long and prints roughly 30 sheets of letter-size paper. You can opt to print only as much as a document requires to save paper. But a long document prints out in one continuous scroll rather than separate pages.

The PrintStik has a rechargeable battery that lasts long enough to print about 30 pages; a wall charger is also included. It can churn out up to three pages per minute. I can imagine tossing this printer into my suitcase for business trips; it would also come in handy for printing boarding passes for use at the airport, among other things.

Documents that are supposed to be printable from the BlackBerry with a remote-printing app include Web pages, attachments including PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, JPEGs, and PowerPoint presentations. PlanOn representatives say an app will be available for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and Google’s (GOOG) Android phones in about four or five months; they also are working on an iPad application. Though the PrintStik’s remote-printing app for the BlackBerry is currently free, the company intends to begin charging $30 annually for its remote-printing service this summer.

Fujitsu’s ScanSnap S1300 can suck in 10 pages at once, and has two cameras that can scan the front and back of printouts. This process can scan as many as eight dual-sided pages a minute. Item sizes range from 2×2-inch cards to legal documents.

The ScanSnap comes with a wall charger but also runs without being plugged into the wall: It uses a USB cord for charging from a PC in addition to the USB cord that transfers data between the scanner and computer.

Seconds after I scanned documents into the ScanSnap, colorful icons appeared on my computer screen. Choosing one of these icons let me send the documents to one of the following: email, Word, a printer, Excel, iPhoto or Cardiris–a program that exports contact information from scanned business cards into Address Book or Entourage; CardMinder on Windows exports contact information to Outlook and other programs.

If you want to scan old or precious documents, you may not like using the ScanSnap’s sucking method for scanning, in case a page gets stuck or damaged. For sensitive objects or page scanning, the best bet is to use a flatbed scanner or all-in-one (that prints, scans, and faxes) with a lift-up lid that scans items on a flat surface.

Though the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 and PlanOn PrintStik PS905ME aren’t the least expensive or the most functional devices of their kind, they’re easy to move around and take up minimal amounts of space. For some people, that may be well worth the higher cost.

Edited by Walter S. Mossberg.

Write to Katherine Boehret at mossbergsolution@wsj.com


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