Scanners come in a few different formats from flatbed to portable to sheetfed. For people who will be primarily scanning paper documents in bulk, buying a document scanner is a wise choice.
Document scanners are designed for high speed scanning. They are sometimes referred to as sheetfed scanners or ADF (automatic document feeder) scanners because they will pull one document at a time from the feeder. This allows the user to place multiple documents into the feeder and walk away while the scanner does its work, just like a copier.
The Best Document Scanners for 2021:
1. Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
The ScanSnap iX500 from Fujitsu was designed with one goal in mind – to serve as a powerful workhorse for your entire office. It fulfills all your digitization needs, quickly and accurately and has been a top seller for years.
Anything you feed it will be expeditiously processed and ready to be copied and edited, with just one click of a button. It takes in all kinds of documents, notes, receipts, business cards, images, hi-res photos, drawings…you name it, you get it in a perfect digital mirror copy.
This is made possible by several key features:
- Everything is scanned on both sides thanks to its advanced paper feeding system, which can hold up to 50 sheets of paper.
- Scanning speed. Depending on the setting, you can achieve an amazing scanning rate of 25 double-sided pages per minute, at 600 dpi x 600 dpi, which is sufficient for even high quality photographs.
- A suite of automatic corrections: color detection, auto rotation of documents so no matter how you feed it, or if you feed it a couple of upside down pages, all will come out correctly so you don’t have to waste time on editing. It even skips blank pages.
- Direct upload to cloud service, either for backup or for sharing. All the major ones are supported: Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Evernote, etc.
Both Windows and Mac platforms are supported, along with WiFi connectivity to laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Unfortunately, this all comes at a premium price tag. However, if you want a robust, fast, flexible, and accurate office scanner you will have difficulty in finding a better one.
2. Brother DS-620 Mobile
Cheap and ultra-compact, the DS-620 is not your ordinary flatbed scanner, but a lightweight ‘brick’ type scanner measuring just under 12” in length and weighing less than 1lb.
It is not the fastest around, but at 8ppm, be it color or black & white scanning, it does the job well. If you have occasional need for scanning, such throughput will not be a great hindrance, especially not when you consider the under $100 price tag.
Besides being lightweight and compact, to the point where you don’t even have to plug it into electric outlet as it takes care of that via USB cable, Brother DS-620 has one additional nifty feature – compatibility with BR-Receipts; the software’s receipt management features allow for quick organization of receipts and exporting all the receipt data into Quicken® and QuickBooks®.
Of course, in addition to receipts you can feed it all kinds of paper documents, photos, recipes, business cards, laminated ID cards, invoices, etc…as long as they don’t exceed 8.5″ x 32″ size.
The maximum optical resolution is 600dpi x 600dpi, or double that interpolated. You would be surprised to know that besides Windows and Mac, it fully supports Linux as well, which is almost never the case. Perhaps not suited for frequent office use, Brother DS-620 Mobile is nonetheless ideal for mobile use with laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
3. Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i
At about half the price of the outstanding ScanSnap ix500, the S1300i is nonetheless of the same series, so you can expect similar office digitization efficiency and quality.
It too offers double-sided scanning, which alleviates a lot of worries when you need to digitize batches of documents, not to mention saving time.
For half the price, you would expect half the efficiency and you would be right:
It can only hold up to 10 pages in the automatic document feeder (ADF), and the scanning speed is less stellar as well at ‘only’ 12 double-sided pages per minute (the ix500 has 25ppm).
Fortunately, some features remain intact as it uses the same intelligent software that auto-corrects for upside down documents, color detection, and blank pages. It is fully integrated with online cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, and others, making backups and sharing a breeze.
It’s all about the scale. Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i offers the same flexibility, scan quality, and ease of use, but just not as fast. If that factor is not relevant to you, then for this price range it’s a hard offer to pass up.
4. Canon LiDE220
Traditional flatbed scanner with no double-sided scanning, but cheaper than the ultra-mobile Brother DS-620. What first stands out with LiDE220 is its sleek, black, elegant design, definitely something that would be easy on the eye as a part of your desk setup.
As you would expect for such low price range, its scanning capability is for low throughput use only at 10 seconds for a letter-sized document. However, what it lacks in speed (compared to other office scanners) more than compensates when it comes to scanning quality – superb 4800 x 4800 dpi maximum optical resolution (600 x 600 is enough for most documents), coupled with 48-bit vivid color depth.
Furthermore, the ease of use is heavily augmented with its Auto Scan features, auto-detecting what kind of document is being scanned and tuning up proper scanning settings accordingly. In addition to premium level of scanning quality, the front area of the scanner has all the shortcut buttons you would need: PDF, copy, auto-scan, and send (to cloud services like DropBox or Google Drive).
If you need to scan a thick book, the LiDE220 offers enough flexibility to make that possible with its Z-LidTM Expansion Top, giving you one-inch extra space to work with. It takes power from only the USB cable, and supports both Windows and Mac, but not Linux.
Canon LiDE220 offers quite a bargain; it is surprisingly cheap, offers premium-grade scans, and you could say that the speed is respectable. However, as it doesn’t offer duplex scanning and higher speed for frequent office use, it is best suited for personal needs or for someone who may need to scan photos and graphics.
5. Epson WorkForce ES-400
When they named this scanner lineup WorkForce, they were not exaggerating. At 35 pages per minute for single-side scanning and 25ppm for two-sided scanning, it is capable of digitizing your office in record time. Plus, the ADF (Auto Document Feeder) is capable of holding up to 50 pages.
Everything about Epson Workforce ES-400 can be described in 3 words – robust office use. The maximum optical resolution is standard for office scanners – 600dpi x 600dpi, with 30-bit color depth for input and 24-bit for output. Overkill for what you would use it for: documents, invoices, business and ID cards, receipts, extra-long pages, etc.
Although it is quite hefty at 8.1lbs, it is more compact than many other scanners in the same category, measuring 6.6 x 11.6 x 6.3 inches. With a push of a button you can convert any text into searchable/editable PDF, Word, or Excel files, with the help of the included OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software.
It is now standard for modern devices to have included support for online cloud services, and Workforce ES-400 is no exception; you can directly save the scans to Dropbox, SharePoint, Google Drive, Evernote, OneDrive, and others. It networks via traditional RJ-45 input, not WiFi. Windows and Mac compatibility is solid, but no Linux support.
Why a Document Scanner?
There are actually a few different type of scanners that can be purchased, each with it’s own perks. What you need will depend on what you primarily need to scan.
For example, I actually own a multipurpose scanner which can scan, copy, print and fax. I also own a photo scanner although I have had to move it to the closet to make room for the multi-functional printer (scanner). Because of limited desk space I needed to find a unit that could do all the things I needed to do.
A document scanner would be a good fit for someone who does large volume scanning of documents. In those cases you need a scanner equipped with a feeder tray that can scan many pages per minute. People who run a small business or process a lot of paper electronically would find this type of scanner to be best.
Fujitsu has really captured the market share in home document scanners, both standard size and portable. Their scanners are very well rated and seem to have a dedicated following so you probably can’t go wrong with a Fujitsu.
Of course, top quality usually comes at a price and some people will have to opt for a lower-priced option. In that case you may have to consider Epson over Fujitsu. That said, Epson is no slouch when it comes to scanners and has some of its own advantages which are highlighted later on.
When shopping for a document scanner there are a few key features to compare across models.
1. ADF Size – this tells you how many pages of paper can be placed into the automatic feeder. If you need to scan large stacks at a time, this value will be important.
2. PPM Speed – tells you how many pages per minute (ppm) can be scanned. If you plan to just load the feeder and walk away you may not worry about the speed as much. A small business would probably prefer speed, though.
3. Duplex or Single Side – a duplex scanner can scan both sides of a two-sided document automatically. A single side scanner would require you to do this manually.
4. Software Compatibility – PC, Mac, or Dual compatibility. Some households have more that one operating system. Make sure everyone in your home and office is compatible with whatever scanner you choose.
5. Optical Resolution – given in dpi (dots per inch), tells you the quality of the image scan. This value is usually more important when you are scanning photos than documents. Most doc scanners will have more than enough resolution.
6. Footprint – check the dimensions, especially of you are limited on space. These scanners can be larger than you might expect so make sure you take some measurements prior to purchase.
In general the most important feature to evaluate is usually speed. Sheetfed scanners are the best for the bulk scanning of documents – you load up the feed tray with a bunch of papers and walk away. When comparing these types of scanners you will be looking for the PPM measure which is “pages per minute” that can be scanned. You also will want a scanner that can perform duplex scanning which is simply scanning double-sided documents (which all the scanners above can do).
Other features to compare in this category would be the capacity of the automatic document feeding (ADF) tray as well as the size of the tray. The capacity of the ADF tray tells you the maximum amount of pages you can load into the tray for a single scan run. The size of the tray will tell you the maximum document size that can be scanned. These parameters may be more or less important depending on the volume of scanning you plan to do.
Fujitsu ScanSnap vs Epson Workforce
You can get everything you need if you are willing to pay for it, but what if there is a window opened due to competition, one that offers more features than you would usually be able to get? That seems to have happened when you compare the Fujitsu ScanSnap lineup with the Epson WorkForce lineup of scanners.
For example, Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, although outstanding, is almost twice the price as the WorkForce ES-400, but both offer a key feature for office scanning use: 25ppm duplex scanning, with 50 pages ADF capacity. The closest to ES-400 in terms of price is the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i, but its scanning speed is mere 12ppm and the paper ADF load is only 10 pages.
Both Fujitsu and Epson are highly reputable companies with long histories of innovation and excellence; however, in this case it’s clear who is the winner here when it comes to performance to price ration – the Epson WorkForce ES-400. With that being said, if the price is not really that important factor in your consideration, you still might want to choose Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 due to its numerous time-saving auto-correct options. And the fact that the Fujitsu iX500 has been the bestselling document scanner on Amazon for years with very high customer ratings.
Document Scanner vs All-in-One
There are also all-in-one printers that have ADF trays for bulk scanning of documents. You will gain the extra functionality of printing and copying but you will also gain a larger footprint. All-in-ones are also not likely to have the same speed or duplexing capabilities of a dedicated scanner and generally have smaller sized ADF trays. You can learn more about the pros and cons of a multifunctional printer for scanning by reading my Scanner vs Printer article if this is an option you are considering.
If you need assistance with some of the scanner terminology used here or on the product pages linked to above, be sure to check out our buying guides listed in the sidebar.