Flatbed scanners still offer the highest quality scans for graphics work. For document scanning, though, where you don't need fine graphics quality, machines like the ScanSnap are the better option. The price is high but you get a lot for your money.
The 50-sheet document feeder and one-button control panel means anyone can dump a load of documents into the tray and get a lot of scanning done quickly. It's also a duplex scanner, so it scans both sides at once.
This latest incarnation of the ScanSnap is just under 30cm wide and 15cm deep, which is good news for reducing desk clutter. Paper chutes fold out neatly to cradle the documents and plastic guides slide to the paper size. The maximum size is A4 (legal) and there are no film or card scanning options.
With the scanner comes a copy of PDF manager, Adobe Acrobat 7. ScanSnap scans directly to Acrobat by default, but will also scan to Mac OS X's Preview app, or save files straight to a folder. ScanSnap only saves the files as PDFs for black and white documents, or PDF and JPEG for colour. These options are set in ScanSnap Manager.
Changing settings is easy and you get basic controls over the destination and quality. There's no ABBYY FineReader support, which enables you to create editable documents with optical character recognition (OCR), so you won't be able to make changes to your initial scan.
The preview options add time to the scan, but it's still very fast at 18ppm (pages per minute). This figure rises if you choose to scan at a higher quality. The high-end Excellent setting takes twice as long, but produces significantly sharper images for documents with grey areas of shading or graphics.
If you are just scanning sheets of text, the low quality Faster setting is fine. The colour scanning is superb considering the speed it scans at and the convenience of this design, but it's not as good as the higher-end flatbeds. James Ellerbeck