If you travel for business or do a lot of library research you may find a portable scanner indispensable. These small or handheld scanners can keep track of business cards, scan receipts, or be used for scanning library references.
The best mobile scanners are not only compact but were also designed for on the go. Some can be run with batteries and almost all are utilized without a computer. Some now have bluetooth capabilities for a completely wireless transfer.
Portable scanners make a great gift idea for the business traveler, college student and the family genealogist. They are also great for the person who has hundreds of old photos to archive but doesn’t have the room for a full-size scanner.
The Best Portable Scanners of 2023:
1. The Brother DS-620 Scanner
This bestselling mobile scanner from Brother has been popular for the last few years. While primarily a document scanner it can also be used for scanning photos and receipts. For more detailed information, read our Brother DS-620 Scanner Review.
2. The Doxie Go SE
The Doxie Go SE with it’s rechargeable battery and internal SD card make it a truly portable scanner. Take it anywhere to scan papers and photos and transfer your scans to your computer at your convenience. You can even go completely wireless with a WiFi model that can be synced with not only your desktop, but with your iPhone or iPad.
3. The Vupoint ST470 Magic Wand
This is a neat little scanner. It can be used in the dock to autofeed papers and photos like the other scanners above, but it can also be used as a wand scanner. For larger or bound pieces, simply move the wand over your source to capture the scanned image. These are great scanners for students or anyone who needs to scan books or other materials away from home.
As someone who has spent more than their fair share taking notes and making copies at the library, I think a portable scanner is pretty cool. These little gadgets can save a lot of time by letting you scan pages from a book at the library or scan historical documents at the county archives for a genealogy project. Or you can take it with you to your next family reunion and scan old photos from Grandma’s photo album.
The important thing to consider with mobile scanners is power and capture. The smallest models generally run off batteries which is convenient. A portable scanner should also contain an SD card for storing your scans until you can get back to your computer to download if you plan to travel with it.
A handheld wand scanner like the VuPoint Magic Wand is key for scanning books or magazines. The feeder type mobile scanners won’t work in those cases but are better suited for standard size documents, receipts and business cards. Be sure you think through what you want to scan before choosing the type of portable scanner to buy.
Handheld vs Sheet fed Portable Scanners
There is one important distinction to make when talking about portable scanners and that is the method of scanning. Handheld scanners like the Magic Wand are waved over a document or photo to create the scanned image. The advantage is that you can scan items like books or basically anything that is flat. You can’t scan a page of a book with a sheetfed portable scanner. This versatility is great for students or people who need to scan outside of the home (like at the library).
The disadvantage of a wand-type scanner is that moving the unit across a page can take a little practice to get right. Otherwise you end up with blurred images. It can also get tiring if you have many pages to scan.
A portable sheetfed scanner draws a document through the feeder to make a scan. The advantage is that the scanner will do all the work for you to create the perfect scan. The disadvantage is that you cannot scan bound items like a page from a book nor can you scan on the run.
Portable Photo Scanners
Imagine if that stack of photos you have in a shoebox under the bed could all be digitized. Not only would all your photos be safe from being lost or damaged, but you can have some fun posting old high school pictures on Facebook. Not of yourself, of course, but of your best friend with the funny hair-do.
If you would like to convert all your old photographs to digital images and you don’t want to pay a service to do it for you, you will need to get a scanner. Photo scanners come in main two varieties: flatbed and portable.
A flatbed photo scanner will offer higher image quality and usually come with some imaging-editing software. It is a better choice if you are serious about photography. A portable photo scanner is a compact unit without many bells and whistles but gets the job done.
The Pros and Cons
Portable photo scanners are a great idea, but as with any item, they have their pros and cons over the alternative – a flatbed scanner. To help you be sure that a portable photo scanner will accomplish what you want, let’s cover the pros and cons of these devices in comparison to a traditional photo scanner.
Pros of Using A Portable Photo Scanner
1. Ease of Use.
Portable scanners are usually very easy to use. Place the photo into the slot, press a button and you are done. No complicated software to use and no complicated settings to navigate and tweak. Some portable scanners can even be used without a computer.
2. Small Size
Flatbed scanners can be very large and not everyone has the space to fit them. A portable photo scanner is small and can easily fit on the side of your desk or even be stored on a shelf. This also means you can scan from wherever you want within the house.
3. Will Travel
Want to take a trip to Grandma’s house and scan some of her old photos? You can do that with a portable unit.
The simplicity of a portable photo scanner makes the scanning process faster. If you simply want to have your photos backed up to digital without any grand plans for enlarging or restoring, then speed will important to you.
Cons of Using A Portable Photo Scanner
1. Lower image quality
A portable scanner just can’t provide the same image quality as a flatbed unit. Even if it seems you can scan at the same resolution with both a portable and flatbed scanner, there is more to image quality than just resolution.
2. Can’t scan other items
With a flatbed scanner you can also scan documents, magazines, books, etc. With a portable photo scanner you are limited to mainly photographs.
3. Limited or No Image Editing
While I suppose you could buy your own image-editing software, most flatbed photo scanners come with at least some basic editing features. If you have some damage on your photos or some red-eye issues, you don’t have a built-in system for correction.
4. Mixed Customer Reviews
Portable photo scanners much like slide converters have very mixed customer reviews. Some people will be happy with their purchase and others will have nothing but complaints. Make sure you check the customer reviews on any item you are thinking of purchasing.
A portable photo scanner is a nice device and may be the only option for people who are short on space or need a traveling unit. But considering that the prices between the portables and the higher-quality flatbeds aren’t all that different, make sure that you are willing to lose quality for portability.