Home > Computers & Electronics > Scanners > Best Document Scanner

Best Document Scanner

By: Amy Livingston on December 18, 2017

Dedicated document scanners for the office

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. Most 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.

For example, experts rave over the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 (Est. $420). 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) in professional tests. 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 one-year manufacturer warranty.

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 highly accurate. Owners generally find the scanner easy to set up and use, and they say it's remarkably quiet and compact for such a powerhouse. One complaint we saw from users is that Fujitsu doesn't update its software often enough. This caused the scanner to stop working or become unreliable when they upgraded the operating systems on their computers.

However, a bigger problem for users is that the ScanSnap iX500, unlike most scanners, doesn't have a TWAIN driver. This driver 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 many users, it adds extra steps to the scanning process for those who rely on specific image software.

We also found very good reviews for the Epson WorkForce ES-300W (Est. $250). This little scanner - just under 3 pounds – is the top pick in a test of portable scanners at Wirecutter and also earns an Editors' Choice pick from PCMag. Like the Fujitsu, the ES-300W can scan either over a USB connection or wirelessly, and it allows you to scan directly to cloud services such as Dropbox. In professional tests, it's a bit slower than the Fujitsu, with top speeds between 23 and 29 ppm for single-sides scans and around 55 ipm (images per minute) for duplex scans. Its OCR is also highly accurate, recognizing text as small as 6 points without errors.

The ES-300W's small size is both a plus and a minus. Its ADF can only handle around 20 sheets, and reviewer Amadou Diallo of Wirecutter says it has a tendency to jam when loaded to capacity. On the plus side, you can power the ES-300W with just a USB connection, or run it on batteries. You can even fold it down to a compact block and take it with you on the road – something you definitely can't do with the Fujitsu.

We found somewhat mixed feedback for the Epson WorkForce ES-300W at Amazon and Office Depot. Users love its speed, clear images, and long battery life. However, many reviewers say that setting up the printer in wireless mode is a nightmare, especially for Mac users. Numerous owners report spending hours trying to configure the scanner, and they say Epson's tech support is no help at all. Fortunately, hooking up the scanner through a USB connection is usually much simpler.

If you're looking for a scanner with maximum speed and power, the Brother ImageCenter ADS-3600W (Est. $765) is a good option. It's much more expensive than the Fujitsu and Epson scanners, but it's also much faster; in tests at PCMag, it achieves speeds of 50 ppm for simplex pages and 100 ipm in duplex mode. Its OCR is also highly accurate, recognizing text as small as 6 points. Reviewer William Harrel of PCMag names it the top scanner of 2017, with praise for its speed, accuracy, and wide variety of mobile and cloud scanning options. However, we couldn't find a significant amount of user feedback to back up this recommendation.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Scanners buying guide

What every best Scanners has:

  • High scanning and processing speed.
  • Accurate OCR.
  • Jam-free operation.

Read More »

Learn More »