Open the box and out pops the nondescript scanner and two CD-ROMs--one containing drivers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and Xerox TextBridge Classic 2.0, and the other containing Ulead Photo Express. Also included is a USB cable that, because it draws power from your computer, eliminates the need for a bulky power adapter. You also get a well-written manual printed in seven languages. Oddly, the manual covers everything but the bundled Xerox TextBridge software.
Using the scanner is fairly simple, even though the Hercules scanning application can be vague. For example, if you want to learn what a particular option does, the software provides no help beyond a pop-up text box that tells you the name of an option when you hover your mouse over it. Turn to the manual, and you will find a solid overview of the software, but there is only a single sentence explanation of each option--meaning that novice users will face a steep learning curve. Even worse, the scan-preview window is pitifully small, and it is difficult to manipulate the selection box that lets you choose what to scan.
Once you scan your image, you have two options. First, you can use Ulead Photo Express, the included graphics manipulation software, to edit your images. Unfortunately, this package offers only basic editing options, such as the ability to alter brightness and contrast, and some templates for creative projects (photo albums, calendars, and so on). Second, you can use Xerox TextBridge to perform OCR text scans.
Xerox TextBridge has two buttons on its menu (Get Pages and Get Page), allowing you to select multiple or single scans. You then choose the format of the page you wish to OCR, such as a spreadsheet or a magazine article. And once your OCR is complete, you save your work. Unfortunately, while TextBridge can save your document in packages ranging from Excel to Word, it does not include options for saving in all the latest versions of Word and WordPerfect (it stops at Word 97 and WordPerfect 8), nor is there an option to export to other applications. Even worse, the OCR transfer quality is nearly always terrible, with distorted formatting and bizarre artifacts. Columns are rarely maintained, and you have no option for scanning in both pictures and text.
The Scan@home's problems extend far beyond its software. CNET Labs' tests found the Hercules lacking in both performance and scan quality. An abundance of crosshatch patterns and too much contrast plagued its 150dpi color and grayscale photo scans, for which our jury gave the Scan@home poor scores. Interestingly, when we increased the scanning resolution to 600dpi, the Hercules outclassed HP's ScanJet 2200c by a whopping margin.
Not only is its scan quality generally poor, but the Scan@home is also slow, due to an intolerable delay between the end of the scan and the transfer to computer, which resulted in the Scan@home taking 92.9 seconds to scan a color image and 44.0 seconds for grayscale. In comparison, it took the HP ScanJet 2200c only 23.3 seconds for the color scan and 24.6 for grayscale.
One of the few areas in which the Scan@home beats the ScanJet 2200c is in warranty coverage: Hercules provides a relatively long, one-year policy compared to a meager 90 days from HP. Toll-free phone support is free for the length of the warranty; the support center is open Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. E-mail support is available free for the life of the scanner, but that's it. While the Hercules support Web page points to the telephone and e-mail support, there is nothing online in the way of FAQs, driver updates, or troubleshooting tips.
Despite its excellent high-resolution scans, the Hercules Scan@home 48USB scanner has two big counts against it. First, it's slow. Worse, because both grayscale and color scans that are less than 600dpi are of poor quality and its software bundle is both scanty and underwhelming, we simply cannot recommend it.
Time, in seconds, to complete one scan (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Results based on a poll of CNET staff, who rate scan quality on a scale of 1 to 10 (longer bars equal better performance)
|Pokey scanning speeds and poor scan quality leave the Hercules Scan@home looking pretty weak.