Editors' note: We have updated the ratings of this product to reflect changes in this category. (5/3/04)
Hewlett-Packard's Scanjet 5530 Photosmart scanner offers an array of features to help you start digitizing your photo collection; and with a price tag of about $230, this printer falls about midrange in the consumer-scanner category. It's a good deal for anyone who needs to plow through hundreds of photos quickly. But before you pull out your pocketbook, take note of the free space on your desktop: this scanner is a veritable Goliath among its peers, measuring 19 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 5.5 inches tall. If you don't have heaps of photos to scan, the Scanjet 5530's features don't balance out its price and massive bulk; check out Visioneer's OneTouch 7300 USB instead.
The Scanjet 5530 may be a giant--and like its cousins, the Scanjet 3670 and the Scanjet 3970, its body is none too svelte--but it has a solid, functional design nonetheless. Clearly labeled buttons on the front of the machine allow for direct photo or text scanning, copying in black and white or color, sharing to e-mail, and uploading scanned images to the Web. Plus, there's a nifty little display that lets you choose how many copies to make in Copy mode. The Scanjet 5530's lid is typical of other HP scanners' in that its convenient sliding hinges accommodate books or albums. However, the lid uniquely integrates an automatic document feeder, which allows you to align stacks of up to 24 photos for expedient one-touch scanning. The scanner also comes with a separate Transparent Material Adapter (TMA) for scanning slides and 35mm negatives.
A clear, step-by-step instruction sheet makes setting up the scanner fairly easy. The one exception is a fluorescent-green cardboard piece that comes fitted to the underside of the lid. Diligent searching of the user manual and the installation disc provided no clues as to what to do with it, though, so we e-mailed HP's tech support and soon had our answer: throw it away. Like most HP scanners, the Scanjet 5530 comes with HP Photo & Imaging software, a no-frills photo- and image-editing app that won't impress serious photo enthusiasts. You also get ArcSoft's Collage Creator software, a truly fun application that lets you juice up and mix up your photos. A full-year warranty and 24/7 free tech support top off the package.
When tested for performance, the Scanjet 5530 offered mixed results. The scanner demonstrated better-than-average performance on opaque scans, materializing full-page color scans in 17.2 seconds and full-page grayscale in 16.3 seconds. (The average times for the last 10 speed-tested scanners are 28.7 seconds and 20.1 seconds, respectively.) Translucent scans, however, were painfully slow: slide scans finished in 76.3 seconds--the past average is 31.1 seconds--and negative scans took a whopping 315.9 seconds compared to a past average of 64.6 seconds.
Overall, the Scanjet 5530 offers high-quality image reproduction. Scanned color photos and graphics came out crisp and clear and showed excellent color matching and detail. The scanner also beautifully reproduced black-and-white photos, although we did notice some noise across the image when the original was a matte print. The negative that we scanned showed all of the detail and the color clearly and correctly. Scanned grayscale graphics, however, displayed flawed recognition of some close-set lines and dots, making some straight lines appear curved and creating a crisscross pattern in dot sets. Plus, the scanner didn't catch subtle changes between different whites and blacks at the far ends of the grayscale. The slide we scanned in our test came through slightly blurry and with a very minor tinge of yellow.