WHICH SCANNERS ARE BEST?
Whether you have a home office and you’re looking to reduce the piles of paperwork littering your desk or you have a plastic tub of slowly deteriorating old photos sitting on the top shelf of your bedroom closet, a high-quality scanner can help reduce the overwhelming clutter in your life. But not all models can accomplish the same tasks.
To find the best scanner for you, you must first decide what your needs are. If you need to scan a high volume of documents, for instance, you may benefit the most from our top pick, the Epson Workforce ES-500W II, which is a wireless, color, duplex scanner that can scan up to 35 pages per minute.
Keep reading our buying guide to learn more about this model and the type of features you can expect to find in other top-quality scanners.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY A SCANNER
There are four basic types of scanners to choose from: portable, sheet-fed, flatbed, and overhead.
This type of scanner is a long, thin wand-like device that is great for on-the-go situations. But while this model may be adequate for occasional use, it is not the best solution for typical scanning needs.
A sheet-fed scanner resembles a printer. To operate it, you place the sheet to be scanned in the feeder and let the machine do its work. A sheet-fed scanner is best for high-volume work because most can hold at least 50 documents at a time.
A flatbed scanner looks like a photocopier. It has a large glass surface where the document is placed. While this option tends to offer the highest quality, it also tends to scan more slowly and is not the best choice for large jobs.
An overhead scanner is a niche item that is basically a flatbed scanner turned upside down. It is often used to scan books, though other items may be scanned with it as well. To operate, the user places an open book beneath the scanner and it basically takes a snapshot of both pages. Unless you have a need for this specific type of scanning, many users find these models needlessly awkward to store and use.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY SCANNER
While high resolution should be at the top of your list for features, most scanners have more than adequate resolution for common home office needs. Three other features you might want to look into, however, are wireless capabilities, duplexing, and OCR.
There’s nothing wrong with a scanner that connects to a computer via a USB cord. However, if you want to skip a few steps and send your scan directly to a device or be able to scan to multiple computers, you’re going to want a WiFi-enabled model.
If you have a lot of documents that need to be scanned on both sides, you are going to want a duplex scanner. This can cut the time it takes to complete your task in half, depending on the job. If you do not need it, however, purchasing a model without duplex scanning can save you money.
OCR stands for optical character recognition. If your scanner is equipped with OCR software, you can scan a page as an editable text file. By comparison, if you do not have this feature, a scanner simply captures an image. Like duplexing, not everyone needs this feature, but if you do, it is invaluable.
HOW MUCH YOU CAN EXPECT TO SPEND ON A SCANNER
For $50 to $100, you can find budget model scanners that may be either handheld or flatbed models. The bottom price for a sheet-fed scanner is around $150. For the average home office, you should be able to find a quality scanner in the $150-$250 range. Once you move into $300 and above, you’ll be looking at a heavy-duty scanner that is capable of handling a higher workload.
Q. Why does my scanner have such poor quality?
A. While it is possible that you purchased a bargain brand model that just doesn’t produce decent scans, with today’s technology, the answer is more likely user error. Scanners have a wide range of settings, and it is very possible to have yours set at a lower resolution or to the wrong type of document. If you are getting poor results, before returning your scanner, reference your user’s manual to make sure your settings are where they need to be for optimum scanning quality.
Q. Can a scanner help me go green?
A. Definitely. Since the average office worker may require up to a tree’s worth of paper each year, using a scanner instead of a printer can save a lot of trees.
WHAT SCANNERS ARE BEST TO BUY?
Our take: A versatile wireless scanner that is compatible with Mac, PC, and a wide variety of mobile devices.
What we like: The duplex scanning allows you to capture both sides of a page in a single pass. The unit has a 50-page document feeder. Scans can be directly sent to popular storage services such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive.
What we dislike: When setting up the WiFi, be sure you are patient and follow the directions closely to avoid frustration.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Top scanner for the money
Our take: A value-packed scanner that is capable of executing tasks that even some of the higher-priced models can’t accomplish.
What we like: This highly adaptable scanner has a kickstand that allows you to position the unit vertically to save space. It scans at an impressive 4,800 dpi optical resolution and has a removable lid, so you can more easily work with books and oversized images and documents.
What we dislike: This scanner doesn’t scan all the way to the edge, it has a small border, which, depending on your needs, may or may not be an issue.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: A customizable, high-speed, one-touch scanner with a space-saving design that is ideal for a home office.
What we like: This compact workhorse has a 3,000 pages-a-day duty cycle for high-volume jobs. The automatic size detection feature allows a user to load and scan a wide variety of documents without pausing to reconfigure the settings for each document.
What we dislike: While most users thought this model offered remarkable performance, some felt that the speed on the higher resolution settings was a little slow.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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