If all you ever need to scan is text documents and the occasional batch of photos, then you can probably find a scanner that meets your needs without spending a lot. Cheap flatbed scanners, priced at $100 or less, can handle these basic scanning jobs, but they typically can't scan film or negatives. Resolution on budget scanners is often lower than on their pricier cousins, but experts say an optical resolution of 2,400 dots per inch (dpi) is more than adequate for most jobs. Also, these budget-priced scanners sometimes don't come with as complete a bundle of software.
In this price range, the scanner that earns the most recommendations is the Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 (Est. $80).
It can do just about everything the highly rated Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II (Est. $170) can do, with the exception of scanning film and negatives. It produces high-quality photo scans, with a maximum optical resolution of 4,800 dpi. It also provides basic image-enhancement options, such as color correction and dust removal. Reviewers at TheWirecutter.com and PCMag.com say it consistently produces clear, sharp images for all types of materials, although purists may be displeased with its tendency to automatically sharpen photographs. It's also not as fast as the pricier Canon scanner, taking about 10 seconds for a black-and-white page, 14 seconds for a color page, and 20 seconds for a photo.
The LiDE 220 offers you a good range of options for formatting and storing your scans. It can convert documents to searchable PDF and editable text formats, and reviewer Lizz Schumer at TheWirecutter.com says its optical character recognition (OCR) is highly accurate, though it sometimes runs into trouble with unusual or extra-small fonts.The LiDE 220 is also capable of sending scanned documents to the cloud, but you have to install the appropriate software on your computer to do that. Both Schumer and M. David Stone of PCMag.com note that the My Image Garden software that comes with this scanner is extremely limited, with very few options for editing your photos.
The CanoScan LiDE 220 is lightweight (just 3.4 pounds) and fairly compact. One nice feature is that you can store and use it in an upright position, so it takes up less room on your desk. It's powered via USB from a host computer or laptop. Some users like this feature, since it eliminates the need for a power cord, but others dislike having the scanner tethered to their PC. We didn't find enough user feedback on this scanner to evaluate its long-term durability. However, it's covered by a standard one-year warranty.
Another strong performer in this price range is the Epson Perfection V39 (Est. $60). It matches the CanoScan LiDE 220 in terms of optical resolution, and it's roughly on par in terms of speed – slightly slower for black-and-white and color documents, but slightly faster for photos. Like the Canon, it's lightweight, can be used in a vertical position, and requires only a USB cord for power. It also comes with the same limited one-year warranty.
Stone, in his review for PCMag.com, actually prefers the Epson Perfection V39 to the Canon, saying it did slightly better on text recognition. However, Schumer, who tested both machines on both Windows and Mac systems, could not get the OCR to work with a Mac. She also said the Epson's scans "weren't as eye-pleasing" as the Canon's, and she found its unlabeled buttons confusing and "finicky" to use.
Users who reviewed the Epson Perfection V39 at Amazon.com and OfficeDepot.com like its compact size; many users even describe it as "portable," although it's not designed for travel. They also say it's easy to set up and produces good images. However, we found numerous complaints that the scanner isn't very user-friendly. Some users describe the software as finicky, and many Mac users couldn't get it to work at all. Even those who had no problems using the software describe it as limited, offering few options for fine-tuning images.