If your idea of a scanner is an A4 flatbed for transferring old photo prints, the ScanStation 500 will come as something of a surprise. It's intended for business rather than home use and isn't even designed to be connected to a PC. Instead, you connect one scanner to your network and just about anybody can use it, for a variety of different tasks.
As the name implies, the ScanStation sits at a convenient place in your office and provides scanning facilities for anybody who needs them. The device connects via a standard Ethernet socket at the back and uses an Intel Atom processor with 1GB memory; a respectable hardware spec for a netbook.
Perhaps the ScanStation's most noticeable feature is its full-colour touch screen. This has a full 200mm diagonal and is used for nearly all controls on the scanner. The screen is adequately sensitive and the buttons and selections are big enough to make it hard to mis-key.
The scanner is angled down from back to front, so papers to be scanned sit easily in the feed tray at the rear. Before you can scan, though, you have to pull out two extensions, fold down the front cover and flip open a three-stage output tray, which is a bit flimsy - don't let it overhang the front of a desk.
There are four USB sockets, all at the back of the machine. Since so much of the Scan Station 500's operation is based on USB drives - see later - it would be a really good idea to have them set into the sloping front face of the machine. In fact, there is a fifth socket, set into the top of the touch screen surround, but this is still fairly well hidden.
We find it hard to believe the four rear USBs will be used much at all, as with the feed trays extended, they are all hidden and you have to get at the back of the machine to align and plug in any device. There's a modem socket at the back, too, as the scanner can be used to send faxes directly, as well as sending to a specified network printer or a folder on a designated PC.