Far more powerful computers coupled with much better tools (like cloud-based services) have slowly transformed the way scanners are being perceived – not to mention the arrival of smartphones with multi-megapixel sensors.
While these versatile, ubiquitous devices can compete with dedicated scanners in ad-hoc scenarios, they are inadequate for anything that requires a more professional touch or as part of a business workflow.
Below we've picked out our top five scanners, both for personal and for business usage – these are devices that cover a wide range of use cases and will transform how individuals and companies handle their document management processes.
- Also check out our list of the 10 best office apps for Android
1. Brother ADS-1600W
Best scanner for portability
Optical scan resolution: Up to 600 x 600dpi | Scanning speed: Up to 18ppm | Interface: USB, Wi-Fi | Feeder capacity: 20
A portable scanner is all about compromises – you swap the convenience of having a large flatbed area for mobility. The best models will do duplex scanning (the ability to scan both sides of a sheet), scan more than one page at a time, offer macOS and Windows compatibility and a decent software package. Optionally, they can be battery-powered, offer Wi-Fi and the ability to scan to the cloud.
The ADS-1600W from Brother fits the bill in terms of cramming features in – despite its diminutive size, this device sports an LCD touchscreen, a 20-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), and can scan up to 18 pages per minute. It also comes with built-in TWAIN and ISIS drivers, a USB port and Wi-Fi connectivity. Surprisingly, it even supports Linux and has a clever slot allowing you to scan plastic IDs.
2. Panasonic KV-S1027C
Best scanner for documents
Optical scan resolution: Up to 600 x 600dpi | Scanning speed: Up to 45ppm | Interface: USB | Feeder capacity: 100
Document scanners are all about being able to process large amounts of documents in a trustworthy, seamless and intuitive fashion, and being able to integrate the information collected in existing document management systems. You're almost certainly looking at a sheet-fed scanner rather than a flatbed one, and there are plenty of models on the market to fit most needs including, at the very high-end, devices that can scan A3 sheets and perform 30,000 scans per day.
The Panasonic KV-S1027C represents an ideal middle ground in that it's fairly affordable but delivers the sort of performance you'd expect from a more expensive model. It scans up to 45 pages per minute, has a USB 3.0 port and can scan anything from embossed ID cards to passports. Add in a 100-sheet ADF, integrated ISIS/WIA/TWAIN drivers and a three-year warranty as standard and you have a pretty compelling offering.
3. Canon Canoscan 9000F Mark II
Best scanner for photos
Optical scan resolution: Up to 9600 x 9600dpi | Scanning speed: Up to 8ppm | Interface: USB | Feeder capacity: N/A
Flatbed scanners are the only way to go should you want a versatile unit to scan photos at high resolution, and the Canoscan 9000F Mark II ticks all the right boxes. It might be three-years-old but like the scanner market in general, there hasn't been a lot of meaningful innovation in this particular arena.
The 9000F offers a scanning resolution of up to 9600x9600 dpi for film/slides and a quarter of that for photo and documents, all at 48-bit. It can handle negatives and filmstrips thanks to a built-in adaptor. It doesn't require warm-up time and can also scan straight to a number of cloud-based services. It might be a tad bigger than its cousins (many of which would be using CMOS rather than CCD technology) but features like FARE (Film Automatic Retouching and Enhancement) will more than make up for that.
4. Epson Workforce DS-860N
Best network scanner
Optical scan resolution: Up to 600 x 600dpi | Scanning speed: Up to 65ppm | Interface: Ethernet, USB | Feeder capacity: 85
The most important feature in a network scanner is the presence of an Ethernet port. Many high-end document scanners will have one by default since they're expected to service more than one person. The better models will offer a fast scanning speed coupled with integrated drivers, high daily duty cycles, the ability to scan to multiple destinations and a decent size document sheet feeder.
The Epson Workforce DS-860N offers all this and more – there's a five-year warranty as default, and the ability to scan oversized folded documents (e.g. A3). It can scan at up to 65 pages per minute at a resolution of up to 600 dpi, with a daily duty cycle of 6,000 sheets. Two other smart features include colour enhance or colour dropout which either highlights or removes a particular colour from the scanned document.
5. HP Officejet 7612
Best scanner for small businesses
Optical scan resolution: Up to 1200 x 1200dpi | Scanning speed: Up to 10ppm | Interface: USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi | Feeder capacity: 35
SMBs must be flexible, and the same is true for the office equipment they use, which is why the ideal scanner for a small business may well be one that combines scanning, printing and, more often than not, faxing. Purists might not agree, but a single unit that can handle all these essential business functions is often a better option than having dedicated devices, especially if you are a one-man-band or a small team.
The HP Officejet 7612 is near that sweet spot: it copies, scans and faxes, has an Ethernet port and offers Wi-Fi, scans up to A3 size (and to several destinations) and doesn't cost the Earth. Users will love the fact that it supports both Mac and Linux, and that it sports a large touchscreen control panel.