Burney’s Legal Tech Reviews – Burney’s Gadgets for Legal Pros: Good Sounds and Good Scans

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com’s Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal technology questions .

This month I’ve decided to review a couple of products that are sort of “new and improved” versions of products that I’ve previously reviewed.

First up, the Plustek OpticSlim M12 portable scanner is a next-generation product past the Visioneer Strobe XP 100 scanner that I reviewed back in June of 2003.

Second, the ETY.COM mobile phone headset from Etymotic Research Inc. is a little smaller than the Shure QuietSpot headset that I reviewed back in March of 2004..

Good Sounds

The first thing that struck me about the ETY.COM headset was its simplicity. It’s basically a rubber earpiece with a microphone stuck on the end of it.

In today’s world, wireless Bluetooth headsets are the “in” thing with mobile phones. Those nifty little earbuds blink a bright blue to announce your coolness factor to everyone in your immediate vicinity.

I admit to using one myself and I truly like it. It gives me even more freedom when I don’t have to mess with a wire. But I admit that sometimes I cheat on my Bluetooth headset and opt for the good ol’ wire when I need a little more reliability. I’m not saying that Bluetooth headsets are faulty, but I sometimes notice a teeny-tiny, micro-nano-second delay when I’m talking to someone that I don’t get when I’m using a good-quality wired headset. Call me nit-picky, but I’m a fast talker and I don’t like to repeat myself or talk over the person on the other end.

And just a quick word about headsets in general – why don’t more people use them? They are much safer than holding a brick to your head. Driving is a perfect time to talk on the phone, and using a headset allows you to safely turn your head to check your blindspots. Plus you can have both hands on the wheel.

The ETY.COM headset comes from the finely tuned acoustic professionals at Etymotic Research in Illinois. If you’re into high-end music headphones, you have probably heard of them.

They have used their expertise and experience to create an excellent phone headset. First, it blocks out a ton of outside noise, mainly because it squeezes down into your ear so as to block everything out. This does take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll soon discover that you can hear the other side with crystal-clear precision.

Even better, the ETY.COM headset features a rigid boom that places the microphone right up next to your mouth. This means you can speak in normal tones and the other side can hear you just fine.

Etymotic Research was kind enough to include a handful of extra rubber earpieces so that you can select the best one for you to use. I opted for the larger “two-flap” model instead of the “three-flap” piece that comes on it by default.

The connector plugs into just about any mobile phone. Adapters for certain Nokia models can be purchased from the Etymotic Research Website.

The only complaint I could find regarding the ETY.COM is the fact that it slowly slinks downward as I talked. This was a combination of the weight of the boom, and the fact that the only thing holding it in my ear was the earpiece itself. I got around this by simply pointing the earpiece downward, and then bending the boom upwards.

Some might balk at the $69 price tag, but if you spend a lot of time on your mobile phone, and need a reliable, clear-sounding headset, the ETY.COM is the perfect way to go.

Good Scans – Plustek OpticSlim M12

A portable scanner is not meant for high-quality scans, but they do a great job of getting you closer to paperless nirvana when you’re on the road.

But a portable scanner doesn’t have to move around much – it can simply live on your desk and offer enough power to digitize your letters, notes, receipts, and other miscellaneous correspondence.

The OpticSlim M12 from Plustek is a new product to me. I am a big fan of the Visioneer scanners but I must say that I am impressed with the OpticSlim.

Weighing in under a pound, and measuring 10.75″ x 1.8″ x 1.3″ the OpticSlim M12 is amazingly small. It’s almost like wielding a desk ruler. It has a smooth silvery finish with two buttons on top labeled Scan and Custom.

While I was impressed with the slick hardware, I wasn’t quite as happy with the included software. The scanner driver is nice enough, and includes a system tray icon for quick access, but the other applications could use a dab of finesse.

The software package includes the Presto! PageManager, Presto! ImageFolio, and Presto! Mr. Photo all from NewSoft; as well as the Web design software Bridgewell Page abc and ABBYY FineReader 4.0 Sprint OCR. It’s not that the PageManager software is necessarily bad, I just prefer a more mature application like PaperPort from ScanSoft.

The OpticSlim comes with a few extras such as a cleaning cloth to run through the scanner to remove dust buildup, a nice felt-like carrying bag, a cradle for standing the scanner up in the corner when not in use, and a wall mount kit so you can save space on your desk.

I appreciated the speed and quiet of the OpticSlim. It will handle up to 3 pages per minutes, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but for such a small product, I thought it was adequate. I also appreciated the fact that my paper zipped through the scanner with only a slight low hum.

The scan quality was acceptable. The OpticSlim is not going to replace the quality you’ll get from a flatbed desktop scanner, but it will certainly provide you with solid, readable scans.

Probably the best part of the OpticSlim M12 is that it only sucks power through your computer’s USB port. No additional power cord or brick is needed to run the OpticSlim.

If you are in the market for a portable scanner, the OpticSlim is an excellent choice at $130.

Posted in: Burney's Legal Tech Reviews, Gadgets, Mobile Technology