Pros: Fast shredding, confetti cut, safety cut-off, doesn't jam under normal circumstances, wastebasket included
Cons: LOUD, top heavy, small wastebasket, no way to tell how full it is
Okay, I admit it...I'm a shredder junkie! Nothing goes out in my trash with my personally identifying information on it. Bank statements, receipts, pre-approved credit card offers, envelopes, you name it--it all goes through the shredder. In today's age of dumpster diving and identify theft, you can't be too careful!
I've gone through several personal shredders in the past few years. In that time, I've learned that you really get what you pay for. I've tried the cheap $19.95 "shredder on a stick" that sits over a wastebasket--and that will only shred one sheet of paper at a time. I've tried the more substantial, yet still ineffective, $29.95 units. Most recently, I had one of those cute little desktop confetti shredders that require you to fold the paper in half.
Having used some very expensive ($150+) shredders at work, I know that a good shredder doesn't come cheap. But unwilling to fork over the cost of a new printer or fax machine, I was content cursing at my little desktop shredder as I dissected it to remove the paper jammed in the cutting mechanism.
Fortunately, my fiancee, tired of hearing me take out my frustration on the little shredder, gave me a Fellowes SafeShred S40C shredder last Christmas. After using it extensively, I can say that it bucks the conventional wisdom that you need to spend a lot of money to get a good shredder.
White in color, the shredder sits on top of its own wastebasket that collects the confetti-cut paper. It's quite compact for a full-sheet shredder, measuring approximately 14" wide, 18" high (mostly due to the wastebasket), and 6" deep. You can easily fit it under a desk or even put it on top of the desk or behind a door.
The shredder will only operate when the unit is firmly set on to the wastebasket--there's a kill switch that will instantly stop the shredder if it is knocked over or lifted up. That's a good thing, since the cutting blades are fully exposed on the bottom of the unit. Speaking of operation, the shredder automatically starts and stops, thanks to a tiny switch that activates when you put a sheet of paper into the unit.
You can feed up to four sheets of 8.5 x 11" paper into the top of the shredder, although if you insert more than two pages, the unit will slow down considerably and emit some truly labored noises. It will shred staples, but you'll need to remove paper clips first.
The end result is a pile of narrow, rectangular confetti. The security that this type of shredder provides would not pass muster for sensitive material, since you can easily identify the type of document (receipt, letter, etc.). Also, on closer examination, you can read a few words here and there, depending on how big the type on the shredded document was. In other words, someone could still gather bits and pieces of information from the shreds and given enough time and patience could reconstruct the original document. While not good enough for military secrets, it's certainly fine for personal use, and much, much better than using a shredder that only chops documents up into strips.
What are some of the highlights of the shredder? First, it's rock solid...unless you feed too many pages at once or improperly insert them (say, diagonally), it won't jam. Part of this has to do with how the shredder operates: once you've fed all of the documents through, the shredder continues to operate for a few seconds before shutting off. This ensures that the blades have a chance to clear, reducing paper buildup that causes jams. Other bonuses include the fast shredding operation, the auto-shutoff, and low price.
What are the drawbacks? My main complaint is that it's loud. Although all shredders are loud, this one sounds like a jet engine warming up as the motor revs up the blades. Everyone in the house will know that you're shredding something.
Aside from the noise, there are a few design flaws. First of all, the unit weighs 8-10 pounds, which not only makes it a bit of a chore to empty the wastebasket that it sits on, but makes it very prone to tipover, even when the basket is full. Speaking of the basket, since the shredder fits completely over it, there's no way to tell how full it is. This is a big problem since the unit will jam if the confetti piles up to the top of the basket. So you'll end up frequently lifting the unit and compacting the pile of confetti with your hand. Poor design, but nothing more than an inconvenience.
So that's about it...who would have thought that anyone could write such a long review about a paper shredder? The bottom line is that the Fellowes S40C is a good personal shredder that won't set you back much. Don't waste your money on other budget alternatives--you'll be disappointed if you do.
Of course, if you want to take my old, dissected shredder off my hands instead, I'll part with it for cheap...