Our first impressions of the Presto! BizCard Reader were two-fold; first that it is very small, and second, that it is noisy -- particularly given its diminutive size. This A8 scanner, which costs £110.63 (ex. VAT; £129.99 inc. VAT), is slightly larger than a pack of playing cards, and has a solitary silver button on the top which starts the scan if you don't want to click on-screen buttons. It connects to a PC via a USB cable, which also provides power.
Installation of the software is straightforward, and once the BizCard Reader is up and running, scanning cards is a simple question of pushing that silver button. This means that if you trust the device, you can work away in a separate application, feeding cards into the slot and scanning without having to bring the software to the fore every time. However, the BizCard Reader, while surprisingly good, does not engender blind trust.
Cards with coloured backgrounds seem to cause some confusion. Some business titles, too, are not handled with the highest degree of intelligence -- the fault here lies mainly with lengthy business titles that tend to wrap around several lines. On the whole, though, the accuracy is very good. We scanned a large number of business cards and found that the vast majority were handled accurately.
Any text that confuses the software and does not obviously (according to the software's logic) fit into one of the predefined fields, is entered into a space for notes at the bottom of the page. It's then a simple matter to cut and paste the text into the appropriate field, but we found this necessary only in those small number of cases where the business card design was just too creative.
The manufacturer claims that a single scan takes four seconds, but we found it takes this long just to begin the scan after pressing the silver button. Thereafter, recognising and parsing the text brings the whole operation for a single card to between 60 and 90 seconds, depending on the complexity of the design.
The software itself is competent. An image of each business card is stored as a monochrome PDF file (a copy of Adobe Acrobat 5 is included in the installation), and is displayed alongside the database fields. Once a card has been entered, the details can be synchronised with Palm OS- and Windows CE-based handheld, or Microsoft's Outlook and Symantec's ACT! contact manager on a PC. Synchronisation with a contacts database in Outlook works seamlessly. On a PC, 100 records require about 132KB, while the same number squeezes into 23KB on a handheld device.
You can also export the database to an Excel spreadsheet, comma- and tab-delimited text, and plain text, in addition to the various PIM/contact manager formats mentioned above. Once a card has been scanned in you can browse the database details, a card album that lets you flick through the captured images, or a Rolodex-style view.
The Presto! BizCard Reader is compact and easy to use. But there had to be one catch, and that's the noise. It's not loud exactly, but the whining, wind-up, robot toy sound it emits is definitely annoying.
Tags: Scaners Hardware Computers