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Gadget ReviewDocuPen

By Kailas Narendran
STAFF COLUMNIST

Pros

• Super compact

• Mobile, full page, scanning solution

Cons

• Marginal quality

• Sketchy software

The Lowdown

The DocuPen is an incredibly small and portable scanning solution. (Its dimensions are dictated by the width of an 8.5" wide piece of paper and the size of your fingers.) You simply put the device at the top of a page, push the button, and pull it down the length of the item you want to scan, and you’re done. It stores about 100 pages of scanned information in its onboard memory. Images are downloaded and the system is recharged through the USB port.

Portability

The real value of this product is its portability. It’s extremely lightweight and compact. It slides easily into a backpack, briefcase, or any other place you’d put an 8.5"x.5"x.5" object (disclaimer: I haven’t evaluated the exhaustive list). In addition to serving as a great scanning device, it can be used for tasks as varied as playing air drums, or maybe the air ukulele, flute, piccolo, or rolling pin, depending on your taste in music.

If you find yourself carrying a full bed scanner around and want to chuck the dorky suitcase, this has your name written all over it.

Quality

The scan quality of this unit is basically that of a black and white fax. It is possible, but it takes some practice and a nice surface to acquire a reasonable quality image. Seeing the pictures that come out of this system made me realize that this device is most likely the scanning element and associated rollers from a fax machine, rolled into a presidential cigar-sized package.

For a decent quality scan, you need to be able to pull the unit across a perfectly flat surface, in a perfectly straight line. If there is any glitch on the way, you see it in the final product, usually manifested as a sharp turn in the image. Moving the unit in a straight and uniform fashion across a page takes some practice, but is possible given an ideal workspace.

Planning back-alley meetings, or scanning fine artwork to resell on the black market? Look elsewhere for a scanning solution. Want to grab some text off a book in the library? This could do the trick.

Software & Interface

The software that ships with the DocuPen is pretty sketchy. There are bizarre instructions about pressing a button on screen, and hitting the button on the device in a tight pattern to enable downloading. The entire user interface is a few LEDs. That’s great if you speak fluent four bit binary, but less than intuitive for the rest of us.

Even though the system works over USB, the transfer rate is slow. It took about a minute to download fewer than ten scans. It is a TWAIN compliant device, so incorporating images into other programs isn’t a big hassle.

I did get the system working, but not without reading through the instructions and giving it a couple tries (and that’s with a high level of Gnuon receptors). Again, there are tradeoffs in providing the ridiculously compact scanning functionality.

The Bottom Line

I found the DocuPen online as cheap as $150 (from Amazon). I was a bit disappointed by the quality of the scans the system puts out, as I imagined great value in a full page scanning solution that didn’t take up a huge chunk of your desktop. This is not that solution.

It is, however, a neat tool, and I think if you really need it, you’ll know it, and it’ll be worth it to you. You can find out more information (including sample scans) at http://www.docupen.com.