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Plustek eScan A150 Sheet Fed Document Scanner
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 day to 1 week

2 out of 5 eggs Failed attempt at simplicity 04/23/2015

This review is from: Plustek eScan A150 Sheet Fed Document Scanner

Pros: Were this a $200 scanner, I'd give it four stars. At $600, Plustek priced itself out of most home or part-time home office situations. Reading the specs, the Plustek appears to offer a great deal for the money. You get network support rather than being tied to a single PC via a USB port. There's even wireless connectivity. Sounds ideal for a small business setup. The price is significantly less that similarly equipped scanners from Fujitsu, Kodak, or Canon. Epson scanners require a network interface module that costs half of what the Plustek A150 runs. The closest competition from a price standpoint is a Brother scanner, but it comes with a 20% premium over the A150.

Plustek went for a vastly simplified approach. Plug the scanner in, connect to a wired ethernet with internet access, and everything is set up from the front panel. If you have a very simple network - as in the A150 is to be used in a single person home office setup - everything starts off well. You need to download client software for each computer or mobile device that you intend to scan to.

Scan quality was OK. Comparable to a cheap (sub-$200) scanner. Jpeg output for color images showed compression artifacts even at full 600 dpi resolution and using the lowest compression option. Setting output mode to TIFF improved quality. The ADF worked, although I could not find any paper types that fed without jams at anything approaching the listed 50 sheet capacity. The best I did was using premium grade 22 lb paper. Stacks of 6 sheets fed consistently. Thinner stock jammed often at over 5 pages, while thicker 24 lb paper could only feed 2 pages without frequent problems.

Single sheet scans at the default resolution of 200 dpi were easy. Switching to the maximum 600 dpi resulted in painfully slow scans. Many minutes passed for each page. The A150 rarely had problems when inserting receipts - an issue with most other ADF scanners - except that the pressure pad trended to fold over the first inch or two of the receipt. If there was necessary info in the folded section, scan again.

The scanner came bundled with OCR software and rudimentary document management software. If you want to use your own software - e.g. Acrobat, PaperPort, etc. - you're out of luck.

Cons: The main problem with the Plustek A150 comes from the touchscreen interface. Plustek proudly proclaims "the nature-inspired 'feel' was designed into our Apollo UI to make it easy to use." Easy it is. Unfortunately it's the only interface you have.

Operations requiring entering a password are painful at best: The touchscreen that hides password characters immediately makes entering a 63 character WPA2 key an exercise in frustration. If you use strong passwords for your cloud storage accounts you face the same problem.

Even if your Google Drive password is "qwerty", the A150 uses outdated security settings. As a reviewer below notes, you need to lower Google account security to allow the A150 access. If you use two-factor authentication, this is not an option. The Plustek simply cannot connect to Google Drive. The same situation holds for Dropbox.

The only cloud account I did connect to was Box. Doing so required disabling pretty much every security option Box offers.

Plustek claims the A150 can scan to SharePoint sites (even over SSL). This, too, does not function in the real world. Unlike competitor's networked scanners, the A150 cannot join an Active Directory or domain.

Since you cannot do anything from your computer with the A150, you also cannot set customized options for various scan types. Examples we typically use with our networked scanner are for receipts, color documents, grayscale, B&W, etc. Paper sizes, duplex or not, and resolution are all configured. Each user has their own presets. The A150 allows you to save two color modes (color, gray, or B&W) for quick access, two output formats (jpg, pdf, etc.), and two resolutions. This simply is insufficient for a multi-user setup.

As mentioned above, the ADF does not feed consistently. Papers that did feed often were skewed. As you cannot use PaperPort, QuickBooks, or Acrobat to automatically digest, straighten, and process scans this led to many manual corrections.

Other Thoughts: Plustek built a strange scanner. It offers connectivity options that are indeed attractive. By only providing an on-scanner user interface, the A150 does not allow interfacing with any document processing or management software. That's too bad, as there are many excellent options available.

For single-user situations with very basic network configurations, the A150 fulfills its task of delivering scans to connected computers and mobile devices. If security is not a concern, it can also connect to various cloud storage providers.

There is no provision for a direct USB interface to a computer - the only USB port is for plugging in a flash drive as a storage destination. Whether the scanner can be updated to allow control from a computer isn't clear. Plustek's support site contains the following FAQ: "6. How do I do updates? Answer - the scanner will never need updating." That's not encouraging.

I would be hard-pressed to recommend the A150 for anyone. Home users will be served perfectly well by a scanner costing less than half what the A150 runs. The incompatibility with even a moderate SMB network setup and near-total lack of modern security support for cloud storage providers isn't going to work in a business environment.

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Seagate STCS4000100 4TB (2 x 2TB) Personal Cloud 2-bay NAS server
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

2 out of 5 eggs Good intentions let down by hardware choices 03/20/2015

This review is from: Seagate STCS4000100 4TB (2 x 2TB) Personal Cloud 2-bay NAS server

Pros: Seagate's latest storage iteration sounded promising. I had experience with the previous versions, the woeful Seagate GoFlex and the less awful but still crippled Seagate Central. Would the third time be the charm for Seagate? My hope was yes, as Seagate's Personal Cloud device natively supports a wide range of sharing and file serving functions. Enough, even, that the STCS4000100 - on paper - appears to be targeted not only at the home market but as an entry level SOHO/SMB file server.

A necessity for any storage solution is data security. The 2-bay Personal Cloud server defaults to a RAID 1 configuration. Backblaze recently published a hard drive reliability report covering their experience with over 40,000 NAS drives. Seagate's proved to be the least reliable, so drive redundancy is even more important here.

First impressions of the STCS4000100 were good. It is a sleek, unobtrusive unit packaged with a good quality, shielded Cat-6 network cable. The power brick has a standard cord rather than a wall wart that covers multiple outlets.

Setting up the STCS4000100 was relatively painless albeit slow. Plug the ethernet cable into a networked connection, turn the unit on, and wait 10 minutes until it initializes. The box then appears on a list of networked computers. There is a "Personal Cloud" internet shortcut that launches a browser window to complete the configuration.

After firmware upgrades are complete you can select what functions you want the server to support.The STCS4000100 can act as a DLNA or iTunes server for media sharing over the network or it can use one of several Seagate-supplied iOS, Android, Windows (Phone or 8.1), or even Kindle apps. The STCS4000100 can also share files using standard SMB messaging (supports Windows, OS X, and Linux), AFP if you only run OS X, FTP, WebDAV (a huge security risk with the Seagate implementation). It also can act as a Time Machine backup server for your Mac or a networked print server.

If that isn't enough you can download apps to provide real-time file backups, be a BitTorrent server, a Wordpress host, or various apps that allow access to your files from anywhere with varying degrees of security. The number of apps is limited for now, but Seagate provided developers with an open SDK to create apps for Personal Cloud devices.

I tried every function I could find. All of them worked to some degree or another. Straight file transfers to the STCS4000100 went through at 55-60 MB/s. That's about half what one gets for a Gig-E connection to a speedy hard drive array. Transfers out were slower averaging 25-50 MB/s. Adding encryption to the mix slowed both incoming and outgoing transfers by 20-30%. Using Seagate's file sharing apps was painful. I used the STCS4000100 at our office where we have 550 Mb/s upload capacity and the best it could do was 1.2Mb/s (i.e. 0.15 MB/s), with an average speed of 0.6 Mb/s. That's better than dialup, but not by much.

Syncing files to cloud storage a

Cons: The Achilles' heel of the STCS4000100 appears to be the CPU. A single user copying large (2-5 GB) files to the device pegged the CPU at 100%. I found that for larger (1+GB) files, the fastest transfers were obtained by copying 2 files in parallel. Smaller files benefitted from moving 3 or 4 in parallel.

If two users copied files to the STCS4000100 simultaneously, overall throughput fell from 55-60 MB/s (combined) to 40-45 MB/s. Going to four users at a time reduced combined throughput to 15-25 MB/s. All this was conducted on our internal network that uses multihomed 10G connections, so network bandwidth was not an issue here.

Outgoing transfer rates were slower still. Simple file transfer rates dropped to 5-7 MB/s when four users were active at once. Spread across four users, we're talking s...l...o...w file transfers.

If the STCS4000100 was used as a DLNA server or one of the installed apps was active, incoming and outgoing file transfers slowed to a crawl. Playing videos from the STCS4000100 worked as long as that was the only process active. If another computer started file operations, video playback froze and even aborted entirely. Similarly, running a SFTP file transfer or using a secured Seagate file transfer app at the same time as other activity occurred on the STCS4000100 lead to app crashes and aborted file transfers.

My initial testing had the STCS4000100 in our server room. In mild Winter conditions, the room is heated only by the servers running. Ambient temperatures were in the 10-12C (50-54F) range. I noticed the STCS4000100 CPU temperatures spiking to 79C. There are no fans in the unit and it was sitting on a open mesh shelf in a nearly empty rack. This had to be absolute best-case thermal conditions.

I then moved the STCS4000100 inside our office where the ambient temperature was 24C (75F) and placed it on a desk. The only vents on the STCS4000100 are on the underside, so this led to the CPU heating up quickly. Hammering it with multiple file transfers and outgoing video connections or encrypted app connections shot CPU temperature to 92C at which point the Personal Cloud locked up. Upon restarting, the RAID 1 array was corrupt. It took slightly over 17 hours for the STCS4000100 to repair and rebuild the array.

Using the backup applications gave mixed results. As an OS X Time Machine server, it worked well. The only problem was speed. Seven hours to create a full backup of a 128GB drive, 18 hours to restore. The ElephantDrive app worked sporadically. Restoring backups from the first session worked (at about half the speed of Time Machine) but trying to use Archive Control to restore deleted files from the NAS did not.

Other Thoughts: The intentions behind Seagate's Personal Cloud are admirable. A near-zero configuration box that supports most file transfer protocols, backup applications, media streaming, and external apps is a great idea. Add to that the ability to automatically synchronize files to a wide range of cloud storage providers or securely access files from anywhere - great! The STCS4000100 even allows password-protected user accounts, so multiple people can use the NAS.

It all went wrong in practice. The CPU proves not up to the many tasks Seagate wants to provide. At a single-user level, it works but for anything other than simply copying files back and forth or streaming videos or iTunes to a single device the STCS4000100 gets so slow as to be unusable. The STCS4000100 chassis is not capable of adequately cooling the CPU at normal room temperatures. Using the STCS4000100 for more than simple, local access led to a locked up unit followed by a lengthy array rebuild.

Secure file uploads to remote devices occurred painfully slowly. If you need access to a single, small document it works but transferring large files is impractical. A benefit of the Seagate Personal Cloud is that you can store large quantities of files for less than the yearly cost of a cloud storage plan. When you can't access your files in a reasonable time, cost savings become meaningless.

A final note concerns the Seagate's licensing and privacy policies that you must agree to to use the STCS4000100. The privacy policy asserts that all the information in your files "may be sent to Seagate or Seagate service providers. Seagate or Seagate service providers may store this information for you and may use this information in order to facilitate or improve the use, remote access and restoration of that data on your device through the Offerings provided." That pretty much rules out using the STCS4000100 for business use or storing anything you want to keep private.

The license agreement contains the standard dire warnings about not decompiling, sublicensing, etc. It also states that you may not "Take any actions that would cause the Software to become subject to any open source license agreement if it is not already subject to such an agreement." No open-source licenses are provided nor are any other copyright notices attached. Unless we are to believe that Seagate developed their own cleanroom Linux, wrote Samba, FTP, WebDAV, etc. daemons from scratch, and all other features themselves there is a *lot* of open source, GPL code at use here. I wrote Seagate to enquire about these concerns and received no response.

Unfortunately I can't recommend the STCS4000100. If you simply want a NAS device, there are other options available that cost less and offer more than a paltry one year warranty. For a device that provides all the options Seagate promises but with useable performance, you should consider QNAP, Synology, Thecus or other more powerful devices. These do, however, quickly get expensi

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Dell UltraSharp U2412M Black IPS Panel 24
  • Verified Owner
  • Owned For: more than 1 year

Pros: We have half a dozen of these monitors in our office. Newegg's latest price reduction spurred another buy. We are a photography shop, and use these panels as second or third displays for holding palette panels, open documents, etc. The U2412M is getting to be old and is being replaced by the U2415. Expect more screaming deals as the U2412M is phased out.

The U2412M offers excellent viewing angles and color fidelity (after calibration). Black levels are very low, giving superb contrast at useable brightness levels. Five of the displays we own (including the one purchased last week) show very little backlight bleed. The sixth is worse, but still at a comparable level to similarly priced monitors from HP or NEC.

The aspect ratio of the display is 16:10 rather than the more popular 16:9. This gives more useable desktop area for actual work. Unless you use your monitor mostly for watching videos, this is a good thing.

If you use a hardware-based monitor calibration tool, the U2412M supports DDC calibration. All adjustments are carried out automatically in the monitor itself, minimizing banding and other visual artifacts.

Lag is middle of the pack. This likely reflects the age of the design. Lag performance was very good by 2011 standards, not so great in 2015.

Finally, the adjustability of the U2412M is very good with the exception of not going high enough for taller people.

Cons: Out-of-box color and gamma calibration are all over the place. As mentioned above, this isn't an issue if you have a monitor calibration tool available.

The panel in the U2412M is a 6-bit one rather than 8-bits as are found on better quality displays. This leads to some visually jarring transitions if you are editing pictures or videos. This is the main reason that none of our 2412M displays are used for actual editing. Compounding this issue is that backlight uniformity is not a strength of the U2412M. Luminance varies significantly across the screen.

As other reviewers mention, there is no HDMI port. If you have a free DVI or DisplayPort outlet on your video card, this isn't a real problem.

The stand provides excellent adjustment except if you are tall enough to want the screen fairly high off your desk. The maximum height is on the short side.

Other Thoughts: Even at four years after it was introduced, the U2412M remains an excellent overall performer in its price range. It is a comfortable screen to work with. Color accuracy and useable contrast are good, and viewing angles excellent. A 1920x1200 resolution is superior to the 1920x1080 usually found with similarly priced monitors.

You can find sub-$250 monitors that outperform the Dell U2412M in any single area. Besting the combination of features requires more cash.

I would not recommend using the U2412M for critical photo or video editing unless you are on a student budget.

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Ethan H.'s Profile

Display Name: Ethan H.

Date Joined: 12/30/03

Achievements:

  • Top 1000 Reviewer
  • Reviews: 74
  • Helpfulness: 36
  • First Review: 10/19/05
  • Last Review: 03/05/15
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