The confetti of corporate communications, business cards seem oblivious to the fact that we've reached the digital age. The 'joy' of typing details from business cards into your PC after business appointments is a chore that the OptiCard 820 aims to take off your hands, automating the process with OCR scanning technology.

The scanner can almost fit in a spare pocket and has a robust build quality and an attractive finish. Ideal for use on the road as well as on the desk, the CIS scanning head draws all the power it needs from a USB port, so there's no PSU to worry about. This is impressive because the scanner has a motorised paper transport to feed with power, as well as its imaging system.

The write stuff

The OptiCard 820 is simple to use. Once you've set up the supporting IRIS Cardiris 3.0 software, all you need to do is to feed business cards into the front of the scanner and it draws them through automatically and ejects them from the rear. The cards are scanned along the way, typically at either 300dpi or 600dpi.

You can save business cards as JPG images but the system's strength is that it can automatically convert the text and synchronise the information with programs such as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. However, in our tests, OCR errors did creep in and we wouldn't trust the system to get phone numbers, addresses and so on right without careful checking.

You can also scan photos up to 10 x 15cm in size (4 x 6-inch). Our review sample turned these around in about ten seconds at 300dpi and 20 seconds at 600dpi. Colour rendition was reasonably good but sharpness was poor and the paper transport system wasn't as accurate as a flatbed scanner.

For business cards alone, it's a handy gadget, but for scanning photos you're much better off with a full-sized but slim-line A4 CIS scanner like the Canon LiDE 25, which costs less than half the price of the Plustek. Matthew Richards