After researching more than 40 scanners, we spent 3 weeks scanning over 1000 pages with the 8 best on the market in 2020, all to find the best way for you to digitize your documents and old photos. In doing so we carefully evaluated each model's scan quality, speed, and how easy it is to manage the resulting files. Whether you're just looking to digitize a few receipts here and there, have a stack of old photos that you want to preserve digitally, or have mountains of documents that need to be saved for posterity, our testing results can help you find the right scanner at the right price.
The Best Scanners of 2020
Best Overall Scanner
Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500
If you have a job or small business that demands you scan a healthy amount of documents quickly, and that the resulting PDFs must be of the highest quality, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 is far and away our top recommendation. Thanks to a large automatic document feeder and blazing speed, this machine can turn a 50-page document into a PDF in just over 2 minutes with only a single push of a button. The resulting PDF will look great as well, as this machine was able to accurately and crisply render everything from tiny text to intricate graphics in our testing. The user experience is quite streamlined to boot, as the iX1500 offers a large, intuitive touchscreen interface that makes both setup and use a breeze.
Apart from some errors in its optical character recognition (a very common problem) really the only bad thing we can say about the iX1500 is that it is quite expensive. The vast majority of people out there likely don't scan enough to justify this exorbitant cost. However, if your job requires that you scan multiple hundreds of pages a day, that investment is well worth the time and effort you'll save, and the high-quality scans to which you'll be treated.
Read review: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500
Best Bang for the Buck
Brother DS-620 Mobile
Many people's scanning needs amount to a steady stream of bills and account statements with the occasional longer insurance policy or rental agreement sprinkled in. If you fit into that category the Brother DS-620 Mobile offers a great combination of performance and price. It is much cheaper than the high-end models, but can still zip through a single page document in a flash, and is exponentially faster than a flatbed scanner for the occasional longer document. It also offers the benefits of optical character recognition. Though this aspect isn't perfect, it is more than adequate for allowing you to find a document on your hard drive by searching for a keyword.
Our only complaints with the Brother DS-620 Mobile are minor. The scan quality is somewhat mediocre when compared to the high-end models, but all of the documents we scanned were perfectly legible. It is also tedious to scan lots of long documents with this device because you have to feed in each page individually. However, if you want something that is much faster than a flatbed for scanning the occasional long document, this model is a great deal.
Read review: Brother DS-620 Mobile
Best for High Volume Scanning
Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed
If your job or business requires that you digitize many long documents every week, the Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed will save you a ton of time and effort. It sports a gargantuan 80-page automatic document feeder, so it can zip through very long documents with a single button push. Despite the expediency, the scan quality is still top-notch, and good software means managing the resulting files is easy and intuitive. Top all that off with good character recognition, and you've got the Ferrari of document scanners.
The Fi-7160's one drawback is a whopping price tag. Obviously this machine is only worth purchasing if you consistently have a very long scanning to do list, in which case the time savings will be worth the big investment.
Read review: Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed
Top Pick: Flatbed Scanner
Epson Perfection V39
If your scanning tasks skew more towards photos and book pages rather than text documents, a flatbed scanner is definitely the way to go, and the Epson Perfection V39 is one of the most effective and inexpensive options we've found. In our testing it produced crisp, vivid photo scans and did so without much fuss or hassle. It generally sells for less than three digits, making it a very economical way to digitize your photo collection. It is also fairly slim, has a kickstand that allows it to stand up vertically, and can be powered through a USB port, so it's very easy to stash away when not in use and then get it up and running quickly once it's needed.
Like all flatbed models, it does take quite a long time to scan long text documents with the Epson Perfection V39. It also cannot scan film negatives, something many longtime photography aficionados may be looking for in a photo scanner (if you need this function, you could upgrade to the V600). However, those are very minor downsides for someone simply looking to digitize a collection of photos, which is where the V39 excels.
Read review: Epson Perfection V39
Great for Small Scanning Jobs
Scanner Pro App
If your scanning jobs are generally just a few receipts and 1-2 page documents a week, the Scanner Pro App provides all the firepower you need for just a few bucks. This app uses some impressive software to essentially turn your smartphone's camera into a high-quality scanner. As long as you have a flat, relatively monochrome surface against which to photograph, the scans are automatically cropped and come out looking surprisingly crisp. Since the resulting files end up on your phone it is very easy to attach them to emails or texts, or upload them to the cloud storage service of your choice. It even offers optical character recognition that rivals the accuracy of the software found on dedicated scanning devices.
Using your phone's camera to scan documents does come with some inherent downsides. First off, since you need to frame each shot, the process is relatively slow. This isn't a big deal for 1 or 2 pages, but scanning multiple-page documents can get time-consuming quickly. Also, you have to be careful not to cast shadows on the documents you're scanning or they might come out looking smudged. That being said, this is an incredibly inexpensive way to be able to scan receipts and short documents on the go, and can likely replace a full-fledged scanner for many people.
Read review: Scanner Pro App
Why You Should Trust Us
Steven Tata and Max Mutter began testing small and home office products in 2016. In the intervening years they've used and analysed more than 200 scanners, printers, shredders, and Chromebooks. That experience has given them a unique understanding of quantifying the quality of both printed and digital text and images, as well as the common pitfalls of software meant to control all of the devices that occupy office desks. This bevy of knowledge allows them to accurately assess if a scanner can do all it needs to do without creating too many complications or annoyances.
This review comprises more than 150 hours of setup, software installation, scanning of both paper documents and ID's and passports, file management, and spot checking optical character recognition. We've used each one of these scanners in just about every way possible, so whether you just want an efficient way to digitize your receipts, or want to turn giant stacks of paper into text-searchable PDFs, we can lead you to the perfect device.
Analysis and Test Results
In a world where our lives are increasingly organized in the digital realm, many institutions still inexplicably communicate important information on paper. That's where a scanner comes in, allowing you to digitize the vital information on those scattered pieces of paper into an easily organizable, searchable, and savable format. As scanning is both an important and annoying task, we focused most of our scoring on how well and how quickly each model is able to digitize documents. We also considered the user experiences offered by both the devices themselves and their associated software.
When it comes to document scanners you're mostly paying for two things: speed and scan quality. High priced models like the Fujitsu iX1500 ScanSnap and Fi-7160 Sheetfed get you crystal clear text and can tear through pages in a flash. If you're fine with text that is perfectly legible, if not perfect, and don't scan enough to justify spending a premium for speed, a more inexpensive model like the Brother DS-620 Mobile will suit your needs. For scanning photos, the Epson Perfection V39 offers a reasonable value, but you do sacrifice the ability to scan long documents quickly.
A scan is useless if it isn't legible, so our first step in finding the best model 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.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 easily earned the top score of 9 out of 10 in our scan quality tests. It renders text documents and graphs to near perfection, producing crystal clear characters on a perfectly white background. It also does a surprisingly good job scanning photos, maintaining quite accurate colors and good composition. The only reason it didn't earn a perfect score is because occasionally it can make some photos look oversaturated, though it is still leaps and bounds ahead of all the other document-oriented models we've tested in that regard.
Two different models occupy the second step on our scanning performance podium, both earning an 8 out of 10. The Fujitsu Scansnap S1300i and the Epson WorkForce ES-400 both create clear and crisp text documents, but lack the ScanSnap iX1500's proclivity for maintaining color accuracy when scanning photos. Neither model does a poor job of scanning photos, the colors just look slightly muted in comparison. The Fujitsu Scansnap S1300i also tended to create some smudging issues when scanning receipts in, but it never produced anything illegible.
The two Epson flatbed models that we tested, the V600 and the V39, shared a score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. Both produce great quality photos scans and are more than up to the task of digitizing your family photo collection. The V600 can even scan film negatives, something the V39 cannot do. They can also create great looking digital copies of text documents, though they do so much more slowly than the dedicated document models.
Just behind the top scorers where three 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.
Earning a 5 out of 10, the Brother ImageCenter ADS-200e produced legible text in our testing, but the vast majority of that text had some sort of noticeable defect. Its biggest flaw was producing very light text where other models were able to produce bolder, more pleasant to read characters. This problem was especially bad when scanning receipts, though we never ended up with a receipt that could not be read. It also had some difficulty in rendering accurate colors, as non-black text generally came out looking multiple shades off from the original.
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 model 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 iX1500 ScanSnap, which earned a score of 9 out of 10. It blew through our 10-page duplex document in just 23 seconds. That's right, just 23 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 26
-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 21 was a bit 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 4 minutes, a feat that would require slowing down to reload the document feeder of the iX1500. This earned the Fi-7160 Sheetfed our Top Pick for High Volume Scanning award.
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 Pro App requires that you place each page you want to scan onto a monochrome surface, frame it within the camera on your phone, and snap a picture. This obviously takes more time than feeding a piece of paper into a machine, but that being said we were actually quite surprised by how quickly the app could scan a document. The app is able to recognize the edges of the paper automatically (as long as the light is ok) so you don't have to fuss too much about framing the image perfectly. This allowed us to scan 3 double-sided pages in a minute, earning the app a score of 4 out of 10.
In our testing we weren't even able to log a pager per minute figure for the VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand. Since you have to pull the wand across the page in a perfectly even manner, scanning speed is completely dependent upon your focus and fine motor skills. Even taking our time with this model most of our scans ended up with weird, wavy distortions, so trying to go fast just resulted in unusable and/or unreadable scans.
Since the flatbeds that we tested are geared for photo scanning, they take much longer to scan text pages than their document-oriented counterparts. Scan times were somewhat variable, but on average the V600 took 40 seconds to scan a single text page, while the V39 was slightly faster at around 30 seconds. Needless to say, neither of these models would be up to the task of scanning long documents.
Software can easily make or break your scanning experience. Ideally, you want software that makes installation simple, offers simple and intuitive file management, and that can make scanned documents text-searchable by applying optical character recognition (OCR). We installed all of our scanners' software packages onto multiple Mac and PC computers, managed thousands of files with each OS, and objectively rated OCR accuracy to find the best software of the bunch.
Somewhat surprisingly, we were most impressed with the software suite offered by the simple Scanner Pro App. It spits out PDF files that can easily be managed within your phone's native file system, or sent directly to cloud services like Google Drive, or even be put directly into an email or text message. It also has optical character recognition that we found to be around 95% accurate. finally, all of its various options can be changed via a familiar, mobile touch screen interface, which is much easier than sifting through the PC based software packages of the other models we reviewed.
Three different models shared the third spot on the podium, all with a score of 7 out of 10. The Fujitsu iX1500 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 models.
The Fujitsu Fi-7160 earned a score of 6 out of 10 in our software metric. It 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 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 Epson Perfection V600 also earned 5 out of 10 for its included software. We felt like we spent more time than should be necessary wading through clunky menus before getting the scan settings we wanted. The software also did not seem to run well on any of our Mac devices, often crashing or freezing. The Epson Perfection V39 has very similar software, with a couple of extra features like the ability to automatically recognize the fact that you're scanning two photos at once, and create two separate files.
The VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand's software, unfortunately, does not make up for the shortcomings of the wand itself. Without any sort of OCR the resulting scans are not text searchable (something even the inexpensive Scanner Pro App can accomplish) and we found it a bit difficult to select the folder where the scans would actually be saved.
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 models 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 iX1500 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. To top everything off, the relatively large touchscreen controls provide a much more intuitive interface than any of the other models we tested.
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.
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.
Both of our Epson flatbed models made it through our user friendliness testing with scores of 7 out of 10. Both the V600 and the V39 have easy to understand controls and talk to both Macs and PCs without any fuss. They do, however, lacks some of the convenient accouterments of the document-oriented models, namely an automatic document feeder, which can make scanning long text documents quite cumbersome.
Two 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 VuPoint Magic Wand was again the worst performer in this metric. While its general setup and use aren't very complicated, the task of keeping the wand exactly level while gliding it over the pages you want to scan is almost comically difficult. As a result, more than 80% of the scans we created had disorienting waves in them that made reading particular words quite difficult.
While they're not the most exciting devices, the right scanner can make your life much more organized. Even if your job doesn't require a scanner, having a quick and easy way to digitize receipts and the like can keep things tidier and more organized. We hope that our detailed testing results have shown you which model is best for your small or home office.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata