NeatConnect is a scanner, but would be more correctly labeled a digital scanning ecosystem. Yes, it scans documents, receipts, business cards and more, but it’s more about what happens after you scan. Where do all those scans go and how are they organized? That’s where the long established Neat platform steps into place, because scans are worthless if you can’t find them.
NeatConnect takes everything you thought you knew about scanners and throws it out the window. For starters, the scanner comes with a USB port, but it’s taped over so won’t use it and probably won’t even see it. NeatConnect is all about “the cloud” and by that I mean online storage on Neat’s servers. To get connected you’ll need a Neat account combined with a five-minute setup process that gets the scanner onto your home Wi-Fi network. All you do is plug-in the power cord, and follow the touch-screen menu. The whole setup is very intuitive, but you will need to your home Wi-Fi password.
During scanner setup, you will need to have/create a Neat online account. So yes, that is another account and password to remember, but this is the place where all of your personal documents will be stored, so you shouldn’t make it easy to guess.
From here on you can simply start scanning. There are three slots sized for documents, receipts, or business cards, respectively. You can simply put as much as you can cram into the slots and wait for it to finish scanning. Its sucks them through pretty fast, at about a page every 2 seconds. Everything is instantly stored, but more importantly organized in your NeatCloud online account, known as your “Inbox”. Nothing gets scanned to your PC or Mac, it’s all in the cloud. Of course you can download from the cloud, but you probably won’t and won’t want to. Each item type is labeled and its contents are converted into exportable/readable numbers and text. Now your mess of papers instantly becomes searchable.
All that would be great if it worked perfectly, but the OCR (optical character recognition) capability was only about 50% accurate in decoding what was scanned. Most problematic were dark background business cards, which were essentially unreadable. Full page, white paper documents were handled the best, followed by receipts, and finally business cards had the lowest accuracy.
I scanned 75 business cards I picked from CES 2015, forty of which were flagged with problems. Oddly some were labeled as receipts, even though all went through the business card slot. Your NeatCloud online account points out what was missed so you can edit manually. Alternatively, Neat offers a paid service called NeatVerify that suggests a human looks at your uploads and corrects whatever the software couldn’t decode. The bundled first-year premium plan includes 30 corrections (called credits). 60 extra credits cost $5/month more, and a 10% discount is offered for bulk credits. After such a service is purchased, Neat claims 99% accuracy. Of course you can do it all manually, it’s just more time consuming.
The other part of the Neat platform is their mobile App, which turns any smartphone with a camera into a scanner. You simply snap a photo of anything on-the-go, and it gets stored/decoded in NeatCloud right along with all your other scans. More importantly, the App allows easy access to every item you’ve ever scanned from your NeatCloud Inbox. It’s also worth noting, you can use the mobile App with NeatCloud without every owning the home desktop scanner. Just create an account, download the mobile app and start snapping.
With NeatCloud, gone are the days of trying to organize scans in a never ending directory structure. Neat manages it all so you don’t have to think about it. You can just scan, upload files, or even email your Neat account items with or without attachments to get your digital life organized with minimum effort. The best part is everything can be exported to Excel, TurboTax, QuickBooks, and other online services.
A NeatConnect purchase is truly more about the software/services than the scanner itself. The company bundles the $120 premium service into the scanner’s cost, bringing your out-the-door price to $500. Once you’re hooked, and you will be, expect to pay $60 or $120/year more depending on your usage needs.
I was pleasantly surprised how the Neat ecosystem teaches, almost encourages, you to be more diligent about scanning paper, uploading files, or using your phone to capture items. Although, I would have hoped for improved accuracy right off the bat, there is no doubt you will be more organized with Neat, and that fact alone makes it easy to recommend.