Canon imageFormula DR-C130 review

Pros

  • Duplex (two-sided) scanning
  • Fast scanning to searchable PDF files
  • Impressive OCR capabilities

Cons

  • Setup and software installation issues
  • Slows down when auto-scanning in duplex
  • Not so good with business cards

Similar in some ways to the Canon imageFormula DR-C125, the imageFormula DR-C130 offers a faster claimed speed, additional software, and a completely different physical design. As with other Canon document scanners, it stands out in particular for being able to scan, recognise text, and save to searchable PDF format just as quickly as it can scan and save to image format. That alone is enough to make it more capable than most, and worth a close look.

The most immediately obvious difference between the DR-C130 and Canon DR-C125 is the physical design. The Canon DR-C125 moves paper in a U-shaped path, with a nearly vertical output tray hugging the front of the scanner to minimise the need for desk space. The DR-C130 employs the more common approach of pushing the paper straight out, with the output tray stretching well in front of the scanner itself.

As with most desktop scanners, you can fold the tray over the scanner easily when you're not scanning, giving you a footprint of just 297mm wide by 160mm deep. Open the trays, however, and you'll need roughly another eight inches of free space in front of the scanner. The input tray extends up and a few inches behind the scanner as well. The trade-off for needing more desktop real estate for the Canon DR-C130 compared to the DR-C125 is its larger capacity, with a 50-page automatic document feeder (ADF).

Setup and software

One issue that Canon scanners often have a problem with is setup. Unfortunately, the DR-C130 is even worse than most on this score. As part of the physical setup, you have to snap a roller into the unit, which is a bit of a puzzle to figure out. Worse still, when I removed one of the strips of shipping tape, it pulled off a plastic piece from the paper input guide, and I had to figure out how to put it back in.

The software installation suffers from issues as well. One of the supplied programs is Kofax Virtual ReScan (VRS), a highly sophisticated digital enhancement program that will let you, for example, scan highlighted text without the highlight turning into a solid black lump that makes the text unreadable.

VRS comes on its own installation disc, and a separate piece of paper in the box tells you that you have to install VRS before installing the Canon driver. If you overlook the piece of paper, and go by the setup guide, you won't know about that until it's too late. Also, when you install VRS, you'll find that the DR-C130 isn't on the list of certified scanners. You have to choose “I will configure my scanner later,” and configure the program for the scanner manually instead. (Canon says that the configuration information for the DR-130 will be added to later iterations of the Kofax disc).

Finally, when it came to installation hiccups, the DR-C130, like the DR-C125, treats the applications that come with the scanner as an afterthought. The Typical option in most scanner installation routines installs everything that came with the scanner. With the DR-C130 it only installs the driver, scan utility, and user manual. The real problem, however, is that the installation screen gives no hint that there are other programs available, or that you can only install them if you choose the Custom option.

Choose Custom, and you can install Nuance PaperPort 11 for document management, Nuance OmniPage SE4 for optical character recognition (OCR), NewSoft Presto! BizCard 6 SE for business cards, and Nuance eCopy PDF Pro Office for working with PDF files. You can also install an Evernote connector that lets you scan directly to Evernote. Do note that most of these are either SE versions or older versions of the programs, but all are capable enough to handle most personal or small office needs.

Scan speed

As is the case with most document scanners, the DR-C130 offers a 600 pixel-per-inch (ppi) optical resolution, which is more than you need for scanning text. It's hard to tell what the default resolution is, however, because the default setting for the scan utility is fully automatic, with no indication of what setting it uses for each kind of document.

For my tests, I used the default settings wherever possible, which meant using the fully automatic mode for duplex scans, but turning it off and changing settings manually for simplex scans. Scanning directly to image PDF files, I clocked the scanner for simplex scanning at 29.4 pages per minute (ppm), just a shade under its 30 ppm rating. For duplex scans using the default settings, however, it slowed down significantly to 17.4 ppm and 34.9 images per minute (ipm), which is well below the 60 ipm rating (with one image on each side of the page).

Because of the large discrepancy between the measured speed and the rating, I tested again using manual settings, and wound up with close to 60 ipm. What this means is that the DR-C130 gives you a choice: You can have supreme simplicity with fully automatic mode, or faster scans with manual mode.

As I've already mentioned, the scanner didn't slow down at all when I scanned to searchable PDF format. This is a major advantage for document management, because searchable PDF format is the preferred choice for files in most case. That, in turn, makes the DR-C130 faster in practice than other scanners with a faster raw scan speed, but which take added time recognising the text.

A case in point: The Kodak i2600 hit 76.9 ipm when scanning duplex pages to image files, but it's slower than the DR-C130 (at least when using manual settings for the DR-C130) when scanning to a searchable PDF file.

Other test results

The DR-C130, in combination with OmniPage, also delivered a high score on our OCR test, reading both our Times New Roman and Arial test pages at font sizes as small as 5 points without a mistake. It also did impressively well with some additional fonts that we always include in our testing, but rarely report results for, because most scanners do so poorly with them. In particular, it read two highly stylised fonts with thick strokes at sizes as small as 8 points without a mistake.

Unfortunately, the DR-130 didn't do well on our business card tests. The scanner feeds stacks of cards well enough, but the combination of the DR-130 and BizCard made three or more mistakes on more than half of the cards, and at least one mistake on every card in our tests. It might do better with another program, but for any given program, you'd obviously have to run tests to find out.

Verdict

The scanner's problems with business cards and with both physical setup and software installation are enough to hold it back from achieving Best Buy status. However, the installation issues are one-time problems, and this device is highly capable in almost every other way. The speed, OCR accuracy, and ability to scan and save to searchable PDF format at top speed are all strong arguments in its favour. So is the well-chosen software package, especially with the inclusion of VRS. As long as you don't need business card recognition, the Canon imageFormula DR-C130 is a more than attractive choice.