Best Overall Scanner
Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
High quality scans
Character recognition not perfect
If you find yourself using your scanner multiple times a day, the Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
is your new best friend. It combines top notch scan quality, blazing speed, and a sleek user interface to make even big scanning jobs feel easy. In fact, this device was able to digitize an entire 10-page document in just 13 seconds. We honestly had to redo that test a few times because we didn't quite believe the stopwatch. To top it off, the included software offered a clear and simple avenue for managing all those speedily created PDFs. Our only slight complaint was that the optical character recognition wasn't perfect. Generally we were able to search the text of the PDF's it produced, but it did miss a few words here and there.
Best Bang for the Buck
Brother DS-620 Mobile
Fairly simple to operate
A large improvement over a flatbed model for making PDFs
Poor text recognition
Not great for long (10+ page) documents
If your scanning jobs tend to be a few 10ish page documents a week, the Brother DS-620
can make your life a bit easier without breaking the bank. Feeding sheets into the DS-620
isn't exactly quick, but it is significantly faster than using a traditional flatbed scanner. The scan quality is acceptable and the software design makes for easy installation and file management. And you get all this for just $96. Sure, we wouldn't want to scan a 50-page document with this scanner, and the optical character recognition misses more words than it finds, but for semi-frequent light scanning jobs, the DS-620
offers great convenience for the price.
Top Pick for High Volume Scanning
Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed
80-page automatic document feeder
High quality scans
Text recognition not perfect
Somewhat complicated installation
If you've ever found yourself scanning a document so long that you need to reload the document feeder multiple times, the Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed
is for you. It boasts a huge, 80-page automatic document feeder that makes scanning even a tome of a document a simple, automated task. For some reason Fujitsu
did not employ the same 'simple is better' ethos to this model as it did to the iX500 ScanSnap
, so installation, and to some extent operation, does have a bit more of a learning curve. However, if you're willing to work through that initial hump you get a machine that can take a huge stack of papers and turn them into a PDF on your desktop a few minutes later.
Great for Small Scanning Jobs
Scanner Pro App
High quality scans
Great text recognition
Slow and laborious for multi-page documents
In this increasingly paperless world there are many people that really only need a scanner for that occasional important receipt that must be saved, and maybe a couple of medical or tax forms here and there. In that case, you can't go wrong with the Scanner Pro App
. It costs only $4, and offers an intuitive interface that can turn any photo you take with your phone into a high quality PDF. Plus, its optical character recognition performs as well as the best scanners that we tested. Unless you frequently need to scan multi-page documents, this cheap app is all that you need.
Read full review: Scanner Pro App
Analysis and Test Results
Scanning is a simple task that can easily become a laborious chore if you don't have the right tool. In this review we focused on document scanners, those that can turn medical records, tax forms, and receipts into searchable, digital files. These models are perfect for small or home offices that end up with a lot of paperwork that needs to be digitized, or for those that want to save all of their important receipts as PDFs for easy finding come tax time.
We tested every aspect of our scanners, digitizing everything from long documents to irregularly shaped receipts, using them with Macs, PCs, and smartphones, and examining the accuracy of their text recognition software. We divided these tests into four separate metrics: scanning performance, speed, software, and ease of use. Below we describe each models' performance in those four metrics.
The Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap was the fastest model we tested.
A scan is useless if it isn't legible, so our first step in finding the best scanner was to assess the quality of scans each model produced. Our testing focused on printed type, handwritten notes, and receipts. Although our document scanners aren't ideal for photos, we also scanned some photos to see how each model performed in that capacity. We then graded each model based on the clarity and color accuracy of their scans. With some exceptions, we generally found that all the models we tested can produce great looking text, differences generally lie in how well each model can render color documents.
Three different models shared the top score of 8 out of 10 in our scanning quality testing. The Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
, the Fujitsu Scansnap S1300i
, and the Epson WorkForce ES-400
were all able to make standard text look sharp and crisp with good contrast. They all also accurately reproduced handwritten notes. The Epson
did slightly better than the Fujitsu
models in scanning receipts. Receipts were completely readable from all three models, but the Fujitsu
models seemed to create some more smudging when scanning the thick, carbon ink of receipts than the Epson
. On the flip side, the Fujitsu
models were slightly better than the Epson
at rendering accurate colors when scanning photos or full color documents. Bottom line, all of these models make great quality scans.
Top models like the Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap (top) make text look bold and clear with a clean background. Lower end models like the Brother DS-620 Mobile (bottom) produce perfectly legible text, but it tends to look slightly fuzzy, and the background often takes on a gray hue.
Just behind the top scorers where two models that both earned a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. Both the Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed
and the Pro App
produced text and handwriting scans that were as good as the top scorers. They both also reproduced receipts with only some minor cosmetic smudges that didn't affect legibility whatsoever. They both lost out on top scores because they lacked some brightness and color accuracy when scanning color documents. Color scans by no means look bad for either of these models, they just clearly lack some pop when compared to the originals.
The Canon imageFormula DR-C225
was the only model to score a 6 out of 10 in this metric. Here again it was able to produce crisp, clear text and near perfectly rendered handwriting. It did create some smudges when scanning receipts, but nothing that affected readability. It lost some points because color documents tended to look fairly washed out and dull when compared to the originals.
High End models like the Epson WorkForce (left) have no problems with receipts, whereas lower end models like the Brother ImageCenter (right) tend to make them look smudgy.
At this point in the scoring, models started to show some deterioration in general text quality. The Brother ImageCenter ADS-200e
was the best of the low performing models, earning a score of 5 out of 10. Text scanned on this model was always completely legible, but it often came out somewhat light where better performing models were able to make text look bright and bold. This problem was exacerbated when scanning receipts, though everything did remain legible. It also distorted colors quite a bit, with the scans looking completely different shades than the originals.
The Scanner Pro App, which uses your smartphone's camera to create PDFs, created the best some of the best color scans in our testing.
The Brother DS-620
and the VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand
were the worst performers in this metric, scoring 4 and 3 out of 10, respectively. Everything the Brother
Scanned was perfectly legible, but both text and handwriting looked somewhat blotchy and heavy. The Magic Wand
produces good text when it works well, but it is so easy to nudge it out of place a bit when you're scanning, which leaves you with an unreadable jumble of distorted lines of text. Both of these models also lack color accuracy, with color scans looking faded with an almost sepia overtone.
Let's face it, nobody likes the process of scanning, so the faster you can get it over with, the better. To test speed we scanned a double-sided, 10-page document on each scanner and timed how long it took from loading the first page to opening a complete PDF. We then turned these times into page-per-minute (ppm) figures. Generally models with automatic document feeders were much faster than those that required loading each page individually.
The fastest model we tested was the Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
, which earned a score of 9 out of 10. It blew through our 10-page duplex document in just 13 seconds. That's right, just 13 seconds. This speed was largely aided by its automatic document feeder, which can handle up to 50 pages. This means you could buzz through a 46 page document in just one minute.
The Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed
was just slightly behind its sibling, scoring an 8 out of 10. Its page-per-minute figure of 29 was well short of its sibling's speed, but it has a larger, 80-page automatic document feeder. This allows you to blitz through an 80 page document in just under 3 minutes, a feat that would require slowing down to reload the document feeder of the iX500
. This earned the Fi-7160 Sheetfed
our Top Pick for High Volume Scanning award.
Though we love the Scanner Pro App, taking photos of every page gets tiresome if you're scanning a long document.
Also earning scores of 8 out of 10 were the Canon imageFormula DR-C225
and the Brother ImageCenter ADS-2000e
. These models posted page-per-minute rates or 24 and 30, respectively. The Brother
has a larger automatic document feeder (50 page capacity), than the Canon
(30 page capacity), which allows you to take greater advantage of that speed.
Just behind the top scorers was the Epson WorkForce ES-400
, earning a score of 7 out of 10. It logged a speed of 14 pages per minute. It also has a 50-page automatic document feeder, so it can handle large stacks of paper in a single bound. The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i
was just behind the Epson
, posting a speed of 13 pages per minute. However, it only has a 10-page automatic document feeder, making it less suitable for longer documents.
The Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap was the fastest model we tested.
The Pro App
actually did much better in our speed testing than we expected. We were able to snap and save 3 double-sided pages a minute, which earned it a score of 4 out of 10. Sure, this process was hands on from start to finish, but it was easy enough that we wouldn't mind using the app for the occasional 10-page document. The Brother DS-620
logged the same 3 pages per minute speed in our testing, but it also jammed a few times, so we gave it a slightly lower score of 3 out of 10.
The worst model in this metric was the VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand
. We didn't even measure a pages per minute figure for it because trying to create legible scans with any sort of efficiency was near impossible.
The Fujitsu Fi-7160 has the largest document feeder of any mode we tested (80-page capacity), and has good software to boot.
A scanner can only be as good as its associated software. Ideally you want software that makes installation easy, provides intuitive file management, and uses optical character recognition (OCR) to create PDFs that can be searched by keyword. For our software testing we installed every scanner onto both a PC and a Mac, closely evaluated their file management systems, and spot checked the accuracy of their optical character recognition.
The Canon imageFormula DR-C225
has our favorite software package, earning it the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric. It offers easy installation and multiple scan modes that make sure your files end up exactly where you want them. It also has automatic character recognition, so every PDF you make has searchable text. We found the Canon
's text recognition to be the most accurate of all the models we tested, with only a very occasional incorrect character or two.
A surprise runner up, the Pro App
earned a score of 8 out of 10. It produces PDFs that can easily be managed via your phone's native file management system. It also has optical character recognition that can be turned on and off, and is nearly as accurate as that found on the Canon
's software. We did find a few missed words, but such a small amount that it really didn't affect how well we were able to search the document.
The Canon ImageFormula has the best text recognition capabilities of any of the models we tested.
Three different models shared the third spot on the podium, all with a score of 7 out of 10. The Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
and the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i
both offer easy installation and file management. They both also offer decent optical character recognition. The OCR did miss some words in our testing, but never to an extent that it kept us from being able to find a document by searching for a keyword or phrase. The Epson WorkForce ES-400
's file management system isn't quite as intuitive as the Fujitsu
's but it gets the job done. The option for turning on OCR is also somewhat hidden, but once you get it working it is significantly more accurate than the OCR on the Fujitsu
The Fujitsu Fi-7160
and the Brother ImageCenter ADS-2000e
both earned a score of 6 out of 10 in our software metric. The Fi-7160
offered a balanced performance in this metric, with installation and file management being fairly easy but not quite as intuitive as some other models, and OCR that was accurate enough that you could definitely find a document using a keyword search, but you might miss some occasional phrases within the document. The ImageCenter ADS-2000e
's performance was very similar, though its OCR did miss just a few more words than the Fi-7160
All three of our award winners include good software packages.
The Brother DS-620 Mobile
was the only model to earn a 5 out of 10 in this metric. ITs performance was somewhat lopsided. On one hand installation and file management was a breeze, but the OCR performance was almost laughable. It turned documents into a jumbled mess of gibberish. If OCR is important to you, this is not the model for you.
The VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand
's software was about as bad as the scanner itself, earning a score of just 2 out of 10. It does not offer any sort of OCR, and files never seemed to end up exactly where we wanted them.
Most models have very simple and clear interfaces, like the Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed pictured here.
Initial setup, including unboxing, calibrating, and getting the scanner to talk to its associated software, can either be a simple and straightforward task or one so frustrating that it makes even the best model not worth buying. Additionally, small touches like how easy it is to load and unload paper and a clean user interface can make a model feel user friendly or like it's been sent to turn your office chores into a never ending purgatory. We connected each of our models with multiple different devices and spent hours scanning various documents, receipts, ID cards, and more to find all those little annoyances that might leave you wishing you'd bought a different model.
Luckily, the majority of our scanners were quite easy to use, with multiple models sharing the top score of 8 out of 10. These models had some minor annoyances, but on the whole provided a good user experience. The Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
only took us 15 minutes to get up and running, and it was easy to get it communicating with both Mac and PC devices. The automatic document feeder was easy to load, and the single button interface keeps everything simple. We also had the Epson WorkForce ES-400
up and running in just 10 minutes, and found installation straightforward on both Macs and PCs. The interface is a bit more complicated, but it has a nice autodetect feature that can tell when a document is not a standard size and adjust settings accordingly.
Continuing the slew of models that earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric, the Canon imageFormula DR-C225
took us only 15 minutes to get working, and it was equally painless to set it up with both a Mac and PC. The simple interface made initiating scans easy, and we loved that the OCR was always on by default. The final top scoring model was the Pro App
. Installation is as easy as a few clicks in the app store, and the interface clearly guides you through snapping photos and turning them into PDFs.
The DS-620 requires you to load each page individually, which is fine for short documents but can become tiresome for longer ones.
Just behind the top scorers, with a score of 7 out of 10, was the Fujitsu Fi-7160
. Once you get it set up it is incredibly intuitive to use, but actually getting it up and running can be a bit arduous. Getting it to talk to a PC with the associated software had a few bumps in the road, but wasn't too bad. Getting it to work on a Mac involved finding third party drivers online.
Three different models fell into the average category and earned a score of 6 out of 10 in our user friendliness testing. The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i
was setup easily in 15 minutes, but it has no collection tray. This definitely saves desk space, but we were amazed at how many pieces of paper managed to slide off the desk while we used this machine. The Brother DS-620 Mobile
performed similarly with easy setup, but the lack of a collection tray annoyed us much more than we would have anticipated. The Brother ImageCenter ADS-2000e
does have a collection tray, but its initial setup had more steps than most other models, taking us a full half hour to complete.
A good document feeder and paper tray, like on the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i pictured here, can make life much easier.
Again at the bottom of the scoresheet was the VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand
, earning a score of 3 out of 10. Initial setup was easy, but getting a usable scan proved near impossible unless you have hands as steady as the Sundance Kid.
While they're not the most exciting devices, the right scanner can make your life much more organized. We hope that our detailed testing results have shown you which model is best for your small or home office. If you're still not sure, take a look at our buying advice article
. It provides a step-by-step outline for determining which features, and thus which model, will perform best for your specific needs.