High resolution: Measured in pixels
per inch/dots per inch (dpi), the number that matters is the optical
Large scanbed size/scan read area: The larger the scanning area, the larger the document or
photo you can reproduce (and the more smaller images you can scan at a time).
High color depth: A measurement of how
many variations of colors the scanner can see, this number is generally not
important on document scanners -- but it is very important on photo scanners
and especially when scanning drawings.
Ability to handle duplex documents: Duplex scanning is a feature on document scanners, which
allows both sides of the page to be scanned at once.
Large-capacity document feeder: Again for document
scanning, this feed tray allows you to set up a stack of pages and go. The best
scanners don't jam, stick or pull in crooked.
High number of pages per minute: This figure is tricky, PCMag.com notes, because higher
resolution scans take more time. But for document scanners in particular, you
want those pages to go as quickly as possible while still producing good
Connectivity speeds of USB 2.0 or higher: The faster the
connection to your PC, the faster your documents will appear once they've been
High-end software packages: Software can add a
lot to the value of a scanner. Adobe Photoshop Elements, for example, which is
included on several models in our report, costs an estimated $70 if bought
separately. If you want to convert scanned text into an
editable document, you need optical character recognition (OCR) software, which
is included with many document scanners.
A limited one-year warranty: Standard among all
the better-quality scanners in our report, a one-year warranty should be your
minimum bar for a new scanner.
Easy returns: Complaints about how difficult it is to get
service on a defective scanner are legion. Users like Canon's return policy,
which they say was easy to use, but read those warranties carefully.
Know Before You Go
What will you be scanning? There are three main types of scanners: flatbed, sheet-fed
(semi-portable and fully portable models) and dedicated film and slide
scanners. Flatbed scanners are the most versatile since they can scan
documents, film, slides and three-dimensional objects.
Flatbed scanners include a hinged lid, much like
that of a copier. You place your original document or photo print on the plate,
then close the lid and scan.
If your scanning needs involve documents rather
than photos, film or slides, a sheet-fed document scanner is a good way to
convert reams of paper documents to digital. A dedicated slide and film scanner
can only scan slides and negatives; this category is ever-shrinking, though.
Watch the video
To learn more, watch this About.com video on how to buy a scanner.
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