Updated December 2018
In our latest round of testing we added the new Epson Perfection V39 flatbed scanner to the review. This model surprised us, performing just as well as its more expensive sibling (the Perfection V600). It lacks the V600's ability to scan film negatives, but if you're looking for a flatbed scanner to digitized some printed photos, the V39 is a great deal, and our new Best Buy Flatbed Scanner.
Best Overall Scanner
Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
Pages Per Minute
: 46 | Automatic Document Feeder Capacity
: 50 pages
High quality scans
Character recognition not perfect
For those that need blazing speed and top notch scan quality, look no further than the Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap. This model combines a large document feeder, crystal clear clarity, and user-friendly software to create a near perfect scanner. It is especially great if you have to scan documents while an impatient client is waiting, as it can rip through a 10-page document in just 13 seconds. The only downside is its high cost, but if you're scanning multiple long documents a day the speed and convenience are well worth the price.
Read review: Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap
Best Bang for the Buck
Brother DS-620 Mobile
Pages Per Minute
: 3 | Automatic Document Feeder Capacity
Fairly simple to operate
A large improvement over a flatbed model for making PDFs
Poor text recognition
Not great for long (10+ page) documents
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. At $110 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
Top Pick for High Volume Scanning
Fujitsu Fi-7160 Sheetfed
Pages Per Minute
: 21 | Automatic Document Feeder Capacity
: 80 pages
80-page automatic document feeder
High quality scans
Text recognition not perfect
Somewhat complicated installation
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 teh Ferrari of document scanners.
The Fi-7160's one drawback is a whopping $1200 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
Pages Per Minute
: 2 | Automatic Document Feeder Capacity
Excellent photo scan quality
Software can be a bit clunky
Very slow for long text documents
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 $100, 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
Pages Per Minute
: N/A | Automatic Document Feeder Capacity
High quality scans
Great text recognition
Slow and laborious for multi-page documents
If you're thinking about buying your first scanner, you should first figure out if you need a scanner at all. Enter the $4 Scanner Pro App. This app turns your smartphone's camera into a scanner, turning photos of everything from receipts to long documents into near perfect PDFs, in color or black and white. It is even capable of optical character recognition, and can link directly to your Google Drive. Before you shell out for an actual scanner, spend $4 on this app. You may find that it's all you really need.
The biggest flaws of the Scanner Pro App are speed and usability. Since you have to frame and take a photo of every page you scan, digitizing long documents takes some time and effort. Also, you have to pay attention to shadows, as they can affect the quality of your scans. finally, if you put the paper down on an uneven background the app's autocropping feature may have some difficulty. Despite these difficulties, if you just need to scan some short documents so you can clean up the clutter on your counter, this app is a cheap and effective option.
Read review: Scanner Pro App
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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.
When it comes to document scanners you're mostly paying for two things: speed and scan quality. High priced models like the Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap and Fi-7160 Sheetfed get you crystal clear text and can tear through pages in 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.
Four 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.
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.
The Epson Perfection V39 creates great scans of everything from photos to book pages.
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.
The Epson Perfection V600 also creates great photo scans with a slightly higher resolution than those from the V39.
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 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 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 iX500 was the fastest model we tested, and has a 50-page document feeder.
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.
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.
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 model's associated software 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 models.
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's.
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 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 extra features like the ability to automatically recognize the fact that you're scanning two photos at once, and create two seperate 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 $5 Scanner Pro App can accomplish) and we found it a bit difficult to select the folder where the scans would actually be saved.
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 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 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.
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.
Both of the flatbed models we tested have similarly sized scanning beds.
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.
The VuPoint Magic Wand again brought up the rear in this metric. Setup is relatively painless, but actually keeping the wand perfectly level as you drag it over a page takes the skill and precision of a surgeon. Most of our scans came out with weird waves and looked like text-based versions of "The Scream." The vast majority of the time you'd probably get a better outcome by just taking a photo of the page with your phone.
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.