Friday, December 28, 2007

Review of Brother MFC 465cn (Multi-Page Scanner)

Brother MFC 465cn (

I've used Brother products mostly at work and found them to be functional no-nonsense products with the right features for SOHO (small office / home office) users. Although the feeder of our workplace Brother MFC device is busted... but these things never last too long, not more than a few (5K-10K) 1000 pages due to dust and wear/tear.

My main reasons for buying this multi-function center (Brother MFC 465cn) device:

* Multi-page scan and fax (now I can scan in multiple documents, one by one from the feeder instead of being forced to use the flat bed, which is also an option for scanning larger or original/certificate-style documents that should not be put in a feeder). There are few/none low end products with this capability. You either get flat bed or heavy duty feeder machines that cost over $250.

==> The main value of this feature & my primary reason for buying this device is to scan all my important documents in to PDF for long term preservation. This is to reduce the number of copies of original I have to keep and anywhere access of digital documents. Not sure how well their OCR software will read the text in the documents. If it does read most of the stuff and that content is searchable via Spotlight/Google Desktop/Vista - whoohoo!

* Good software (PaperPort LE for Windows (XP & Vista) and PageManager for Mac OS X (10.4.1 and later I believe) for converting docs to PDF

* Network connectivity using Ethernet - connect it to a network hub/router and share it! And ofcourse it also supports USB.

* Decent price for refill cartridges (slightly higher than Epson & Canon but not mind bending, pocket busting prices like Lexmark). I don't care much for the inkjet color/photo printing since I don't need it and have a cheap & efficient Samsung (ML1040) black & white laser printer. For photo printing I'd rather go to retail stores since I don't print too many photos. But it can be useful for emergencies.

* Light-weight driver installation. I agree with the other reviewer that HP needs to take a good look at their software and reduce the bloat. Even Epson has some heavy duty stuff. Running their (HP, Epson & others) software at startup slows down the computer and the tray icons are just too distracting or hard to remove. Can't stress this point enough!

* A minor factor: Silver black finish, the flat top of this product makes it easier to pack and move if you lose the original box.

* And the rest, the usual: multi-function fax/scan/copy/print, multiple-memory card support, USB support.

After use review: 3-4 hours of solid usage
  • Setup is a breeze on both Mac & Windows: install software, connect device and boom you are ready.
  • Mac version of the software is not fun at all, gives out poor quality scans even at high resolution, chokes at handling large files and converting to PDF. PageManager looks like a OS 9 version of the software even though Activity Manager reports it to be an Intel version. Will investigate if there is any way to improve this since MacBook is my primary 'pooter.
  • Windows software supplied (PaperPort LE and Brother's software) is excellent at scanning multiple pages, naming them and managing them at a basic level.
  • MFC has some problems in handling non-standard paper sizes (like W-2's which are a tad wider than A4, but longer than Letter size and have words from one edge to the other, thank you IRS). Using the feeder or flatbed did not help much.
  • The feeder works pretty well with original documents too, so far.
  • The low height of the MFC means that it can easily fit in printer shelves of computer desks which rarely have a lot of room

Thursday, December 27, 2007

iPhone 2.0 wishlist

In descending order of importance:
  • All features in the current iPhone with following improvements/changes
  • Faster network connectivity: UMTS + HSDPA
  • A-GPS with navigation software
  • Full blown SDK for secure 3rd party software development
  • Microsoft Exchange support (atleast email and calendar)
  • Export all iPhone settings and data for backup & restore
  • Stereo Bluetooth
  • Louder ringer/speaker/alarm
  • WiFi support (802.11b atleast)
  • Larger or auxiliary/augmented battery
  • Detachable keyboard
  • Anti-slip side material for those who want to show it off in the nude (i.e no case)
Obviously usability and Apple elegance of the touch interface is paramount. All else can and should be sacrificed in favor of usability.

Other Comments & Features of Interest:
  • GPS: Throwing in a GPS chip without good navigation software (something Apple excels at) is not a good idea, but may be acceptable if the SDK allows full GPS access. GPS integrated with Google Maps is fine too if they can't get Navteq (after the Nokia buyout) directly or TeleAtlas (TomTom); although Google does use NAVTEQ...
  • GPS: Additional location based services (LBS) support/software would be nice, but the SDK will bring a whole community of developers that will improve this. Yes, this includes location awareness, 'mobile social' interactiveness: friend alerter/warner (you're walking in the mall, 'friend' alert, hide!).
  • Keyboard: might be a good idea to allow an attachable physical keyboard for the trigger happy community. Most people don't need to type so much that the touch keyboard is an issue.
  • Battery: everything sucks juice and an auxillary/augmented battery could look ugly, but if this can be done within design and aesthetics concerns, then more power to me, the user. A slightly thicker iPhone won't be a bad idea and might make it a little more grippable/non-slip.
  • Camera: A non-camera version for enterprise, government and military-related users who are often restricted in using camera-enabled devices within secure facilities.

iPhone 1.0: $399
3G+ + $ 50
GPS + $ 150
Huh? - $ 100 (let's call this amortized initial R & D cost)
Total = $499

$499 is very justifiable on a pure value basis:
  • $150 for a basic smartphone
  • $200 for a basic GPS (atleast $50 more if free traffic data is included. Navigon sells lifetime traffic update for ~$80-100)
  • $150 for a 4GB iPod (not just an mp3 player)
  • $25 in accessories saved from having to buy and lug only one set of cables (USB car charger is the only cable to purchase, the USB to iPhone cable provided by Apple can connect to a car charger or a laptop. Perhaps a wall charger for the non-laptop carrying folks).
Total: $525
And this does not include the excellent usability, Apple cachet and the fact that iPhone 1.0 is much more than a basic smartphone.

I have not put a direct price on software because people directly discount that from consideration. It's strange, I would value MSFT Exchange support (email & calendar) almost as much as GPS + nav. software, but would be uncomfortable paying $100 for enabling Exchange support (out of my pocket, the company's money is another matter). But software, especially from Apple, does translate into usability, brand awareness and ultimately customer lock-in. Same goes for the touch interface and ability to read and surf regular web pages crisply. Its hard to value those features individually, but they are really make or break decisions in buying the gadget. Don't know if there are any (or what are the) specific economic terms for software features like these. Yet standalone software (does not mean non-network connected software) that delivers a specific value can be priced and sold much more easily than add-on software features compared to add-on hardware.

And after that launch let's start with iPhone 3.0 wishlist...