Document scanners, with their automatic document feeders (ADFs) and workhorse builds, are great for offices where they can sit in one place and churn through paper, but they're far too clunky to even consider taking them on the road. Sometimes you need to be able to scan documents while on the go, and that's where portable sheet-fed scanners come in. These lightweight scanners are small enough to tuck into a backpack or laptop case. Most are USB-powered, so you won't need to lug around an extra power brick everywhere you go. Typically they require users to feed one sheet through at a time, and their scan quality and capabilities are limited compared to their full-featured desktop brethren.
In this category, we found the most recommendations for the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i (Est. $270). It's a little on the large side for a portable scanner, weighing just over 3 pounds and measuring about 11 by 4 by 3 inches. It has an automatic sheet feeder (officially rated at a 10-sheet capacity, but reviewer Amadou Diallo at The Wirecutter says it can actually handle up to 20 sheets without jamming) that can make duplex scans. It can be powered directly off AC or via a USB connection to your computer, though you need to use two USB cables to give it all the juice it needs.
Its comprehensive ScanSnap software suite is compatible with both Macs and PCs. This software, according to Diallo, is the ScanSnap S1300i's greatest strength. It comes with special applications for reading receipts and business cards, and it can export scanned information to a variety of file formats, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and iPhoto. In Diallo's tests, the optical character recognition (OCR) is outstandingly accurate, reproducing 99 percent of all words correctly. Diallo also describes the software as logical and intuitive to use without having to consult the user's manual. On the down side, the S1300i, like other Fujitsu scanners, doesn't come with TWAIN or ICA drivers, so you can't initiate a scan from within an application. However, Diallo thinks the ScanSnap suite is good enough that this is a small loss.
The S1300i's chief weakness is speed. Although it's not the slowest portable scanner in TheWirecutter.com's tests, it isn't the fastest either. It takes just over 2 minutes to scan 20 sheets in duplex mode at 200 dpi, giving it an overall rate of 9.4 pages per minute (ppm). At its maximum resolution of 600 dpi, the rate drops to 1.5 ppm. The thousands of owners who review the scanner at Amazon.com and OfficeDepot.com agree that it's fairly slow, but they love its accuracy. Users rave that it can scan any document, including receipts and business cards, and it automatically corrects documents that are put in crooked. They also say it seldom jams, but if it does, it's easy to clear.
If the Fujitsu's slow speed is a deal-breaker for you, consider the Canon imageFormula P-215II Scan-tini (Est. $250). It's the fastest portable scanner in TheWirecutter.com's tests, with a rate of 16 ppm at 200 dpi and 4.5 ppm at 600 dpi – faster than even some desktop models. It's also lighter than the Fujitsu, at 2.2 lbs., and slightly more compact. Another plus is that, unlike the ScanSnap S1300i, it can run at full speed off USB power alone. However, it can't match the S1300i's accuracy when it comes to OCR. In According to TheWirecutter.com, it captured only 96 percent of all words correctly compared to the Fujitsu's 99 percent – a small but significant difference.
Another problem with the P-215II is its software. Diallo notes that the Canon software suite is available only on CD-ROM, which makes it impossible to install on newer Macs that don't have an optical drive. This means you're stuck with third-party software that doesn't perform as well. And even those Mac users at Amazon.com who were able to install the software say it didn't work with MacOS 10.10 (Yosemite). Many of them also find the document management program, Nuance PaperPort, to be awkward. However, users do like the P-215II's small size, fast speed, duplexing ability, and plug-and-play setup.
Elsewhere in this report: