The IRIScan - and its accompanying Readiris 9 software - looks like a good prospect on paper. The handheld scanner is small and light enough to slide into a laptop bag and is designed for scanning on the move.

The software has great promise, too. Aside from automatically importing and displaying feedback from the scanner, it can intuitively read the scanned material and turn graphics and text into Word files, PDFs, HTML and other media.

Unfortunately, the trouble started as soon as we got it out of the box. The installation guide - one folded piece of A5 paper - failed to shed any light as to why, after two hours of head scratching, the scans it produced were so dark they were practically unreadable.

Surely we had incorrectly calibrated it? Nope. We went back and reinstalled it several times to get back to the calibration stage, and each time followed the guide to the letter. The installation was quick enough, after we closed down all other apps and remembered not to have the scanner attached to the Mac while installing. After calibration, you get asked which type of program you want to associate with text and in which file format you'd like the information saved. Then you're ready to scan.

Next, you feed a piece of paper or photo into the side of the scanner, which will scan documents slightly wider than A4. The scanner drags the subject through automatically, and the software takes over to display the scan. Photos came out shockingly disjointed and documents appeared as if under a grey mist. Clearly there was an error, but after assuming the error was ours for a reasonable period of time our generosity started to flag.

Like a boy comparing the burger in his hand with the one on the menu, there was confusion while we tried to figure out what went wrong. We went through zone types, preferences, back to the installation guide, different media subjects and through the Readiris help menu, which was full of sales pitches for other I.R.I.S. products. No answer leapt out. Perhaps we received a bad apple in the production line. James Ellerbeck