January 29th, 2014

The Pandigital Portable Scanner – Is it Really a Magic Wand?

If you have seen somebody wandering around a graveyard and pointing a strange looking object at the tombstones, you have probably spotted a genealogist with a wand scanner. Wand scanners are becoming increasingly popular amongst genealogists. Not only are they portable and can be easily stored, but they are great for taking a quick scan of an image, document, or as the person alluded to above, headstone inscriptions. They are a bit of an investment, averaging in price around $100, but they can be a formidable weapon in your genealogical arsenal.

The latest scanner to hit the market is the Pandigital Portable Wi-Fi Wand Scanner with Feeder Dock. It has received rave reviews online, though some consider it a bit pricey at around $120. I myself had the chance to try out the Pandigital Scanner (S8X1103), and was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer. It is slightly larger than some portable scanners I have used before, but more compact from many on today’s market. It’s also rather light, only weighing one pound, seven ounces, and taking it out of or placing it back in its dock was a cinch.

The great thing about any wand scanner is that you don’t need a computer to make use of its scanning properties. The S8X1103 has its own internal memory (128MB), or you can use a microSD card (those small flash memory cards you find in cameras or cell phones). Although the Pandigital scanner doesn’t come with a card, it does support cards with up to 32GB of storage.

Before we got going (we were headed to the cemetery to scan headstones), my friend showed me how simple it was to prepare the scanner for action. It lifted very easily out of its dock, and we simply inserted the rechargeable battery that was already fully charged. The battery is recharged by connecting it your computer with the USB cable they supply, or it recharges automatically when its resting on its dock. There is also some software that comes with the scanner , and if you have a computer its well worth installing it, as it helps you to convert your scans into a video.

Scanning the S8X1103

When we got to the graveyard and began scanning, I did find one niggly little bug. The scanning part was fine – quick and easy, but changing the settings was a bit confusing. It was easy enough to change the settings – the menu is well organized and easy to follow, the problem was that the scanner doesn’t confirm the changes you made. I wanted to change the file settings from JPG to PDF, and when I did the screen still showed that the scanner was set to JPG. When I did the scan however, it became a PDF file. Only after scanning the menu then showed it had been changed. 

The menu is though, pretty straightforward, and you can change other settings such as the resolution and from color to black and white quite easily. The default settings for pixels is 300 ppi (pixels per inch), which is adequate for most purposes. If you want to change the pixilation however, you can choose 600 ppi for both manual and wand scanning, and 1200 ppi for wand scanning only. You can view your scans on the 1.8 inch color screen, or it can be connected to a tablet PC or Smartphone via Wireless. It’s nice to be able to check your scans right away in case they didn’t come out or you missed something, and you can check them on the LCD display immediately after scanning.

The scans themselves were the quality of a snap-shot, but I found they suited my purposes of recording inscriptions just fine. We did a few documents in PDF form, and they were a little bit difficult to make out on the LCD screen, but after I viewed them using the scanner software on my computer later at home, I found them to be just fine. The one thing that holds the Pandigital scanner back is the Page manager software that comes with it. Though it is capable of placing multiple scanned pages into a single PDF, when converting the data to text, it creates a separate file for each page. 

If you already have software comparable to the Page Manager software that comes with the Pandigital Portable Scanner, the portability, lightness, and ease of use could make it a good choice for you. The same applies if you’re willing to invest in better software than what comes with it. Overall, using the S8X1103 was a positive experience, I’m thinking of maybe investing in one myself. Honey…!