If you have lots of loose pages to scan, but you don't need to scan film, photo prints, slides, books, magazines, or other media, a sheet-fed document scanner is the best way to get the job done. Document scanners are designed to process large batches of unbound paper, and to do so quickly. Many come bundled with optical character recognition (OCR) software, which can turn an electronic image into searchable text in a document.
Most document scanners come equipped with an automatic document feeder (ADF), which will automatically load page after page in a stack. Many ADFs on document scanners have a duplexing feature, which enables them to scan one side of a page, flip it, and immediately scan the reverse side. These are less expensive than duplexing document scanners with two scanning components, which can scan both sides simultaneously. High-volume document scanners can cost into the thousands of dollars, but we found some less expensive models that are very suitable for small to mid-size business use.
Experts rave over the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 (Est. $415). This sheet-fed scanner is an excellent value, producing highly detailed scans of text documents at speeds of up to 30 pages per minute (ppm). Experts say turning countless pages into searchable PDF files is quick and painless. The scanner has a top-quality ADF, which can hold up to 50 sheets and scan pages in simplex or duplex mode. It can also scan business cards, post cards, and legal-size sheets, automatically detecting the document size. It has a USB 3.0 port for speedy connection speeds, and you can also scan wirelessly to PCs, Macs, and Android or iOS devices via Wi-Fi. The scanner comes with a copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard, though it's only compatible with Windows computers.
Both professionals and users describe the ScanSnap iX500 as fast and reliable, churning through paper with no jams or misfeeds. They also agree that the OCR software is also highly accurate. Owners find the scanner easy to set up and use, and they say it's remarkably quiet and compact for such a powerhouse. We saw some complaints about quality control from users who say they received scanners that didn't work, failed within a few weeks, or had repeated, unpredictable shutdowns. However, the ScanSnap comes with a one-year manufacturer warranty, which, judging from feedback, doesn't seem to be too much of a hassle to invoke.
One quirk of the ScanSnap iX500 is that, like other Fujitsu scanners, it doesn't have a TWAIN driver. This driver, used with most scanners, allows you to launch the scanning process from within an application, and the scanner "pulls" the scanned document into the program. This Fujitsu scanner, by contrast, uses a "push" system: first you scan the document, and then you open it in the program of your choice. The scanner gives you a menu of recommended programs, and you can add other programs to the menu if you prefer. Although this system appears to work fine for most users, it can add extra steps to the scanning process for those who rely on specific image software.
For users who find the lack of TWAIN support a deal-breaker, reviewers recommend the Canon imageFormula DR-C225 (Est. $400). A top pick at PCMag.com, this Canon scanner is a match for the Fujitsu in speed and accuracy; reviewer Tony Hoffman says it performed one-sided scans at just over 24 ppm and two-sided scans at 48.4 images per minute (ipm). Unlike the Fujitsu, the Canon doesn't offer Wi-Fi connectivity, and Hoffman reports that it's not as good at scanning business cards. However, its OCR is more accurate than the Canon's, and he finds its bundled software to be "more capable" for document management. Not all users agree with this assessment, though; although the scanner gets good overall reviews at Amazon.com, most of the comments we saw focus on the software, which user say is cumbersome and not very intuitive.
If you're looking for a document scanner with even more speed and power, it might be worth ramping up to the Epson WorkForce DS-860 (Est. $800). It's nearly twice as expensive as the Canon and Fujitsu scaners, but it's more than twice as fast; in tests at PCMag.com, it achieves speeds of 73 ppm for simplex pages and 146 ipm in duplex mode. Professional reviewers and users also gives the scanner high marks for its text recognition and document management. However, they also complain that the software package is skimpy; the only bundled application is an OCR program, and only the "lite" version at that.