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Bottom Line: A great document scanner for people wanting to go paperless. Either with or without the NeatCloud service it's quick, accurate, and flexible. The NeatCloud service ties it all together with the mobile apps, but at $10/month extra.
Neat has extended their line of document scanners and cut the cord. Their latest NeatConnect connects directly to a wireless network and scans to various cloud services, no desktop computer needed.
The NeatConnect Cloud Scanner is a document scanner like we've seen before, but it does so many things we haven't seen before. Not only does this scanner connect directly to a wireless network - no need to go through a computer - it will also scan directly to various cloud services like Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, or even email. While Neat also hopes users will use its excellent NeatCloud service with its mobile apps (at $14.99/month), it's not required to use the scanner.
To test the scanner I grabbed a bunch of paper laying around that I wanted to get rid of. I entered my Dropbox credentials and selected that as the destination. I put the scanner through its paces scanning everything from recently printed 8.5" x 11" documents, to crumpled and faded receipts, to a stack of business cards. The NetConnect handled each one with ease; producing sharp PDFs and quickly delivering them to Dropbox. The scanner did have some trouble when I tried to scan a bunch of old photos. The thicker paper didn't work very well feeding through the scanner. Not too much of a surprise as this is advertised as a document scanner, not a photo scanner.
The NeatConnect also has all of the options expected in a document scanner. It works in color, grayscale, or black and white. It also scans one and two-sided documents. When scanning, users have the option of making multiple page documents into a single document or into separate documents. The output document can be PDF, JPG, or a variety of other image types. While 300dpi is the standard, it can also scan up to 600dpi. All of the options are controlled via the front control panel; a touchscreen similar in size and shape to that of an iPhone screen.
Using the NeatCloud service is pretty useful as well, and required for mobile app access - though I do think the price is a bit steep on top of a $500 scanner. Three months are included, but after that the price is $14.99/month with mobile app access ($9.99/month when paid yearly). The NeatCloud service provides the ability to back up data and make it available in the excellent Neat mobile app and via the web. While not required to use the scanner in most cases, it is required if users want to use the mobile apps. A bit confusing, yes, but to complete the full cycle and use the whole ecosystem users need to subscribe to NeatCloud.
While I can easily recommend this scanner for those looking to rid themselves of paper, the one sticking point is the NeatCloud service. The expense of that service is what keeps me from unabashedly raving about this scanner. If anyone is looking for something to scan directly to a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive, this is a great option. If they are looking for a fully integrated document management solution for the home, this should be the scanner for them. But they will need to pay at least $9.99/month for the service that ties the scanner to the Neat mobile apps, even if they only use it for a few documents a month.