How to select a document scanner
While many of the other scanners we tested have similar specifications in scan quality and design, the Brother ImageCenter has far more connectivity options to send documents to the cloud.
This heavy-duty machine does everything you need from a standalone scanner with extra durability and precision. It’s a big device weighing 10 pounds and taking up a lot of desk space. With dimensions of 10.2 x12.1 x 9.8, it’s the largest scanner we tested. But, this heft seems to give it certain advantages over the competition; you can scan at a speed of 30 pages per minute at a resolution of 300 dots per inch, which is faster than other scanners.
It’s also nice that you can customize the speed to get the quality that you want on the 3.7 color display. At slower page per minute speeds, you can get the resolution up to 1200 dots per inch, which means the quality of your scan will be sharper and cleaner.
You can scan differently sized documents as well as many different textures and materials, like IDs or business cards. While the document feeder is a standard 50-page tray, the Brother ImageCenter has a nifty feature that lets you scan up to 96 inches long in case you’ve got long receipts or other lengthy documents.
When we tested this machine, we noticed an overall better build quality with this device. We also liked all the connectivity options that let you email scans directly to different operating systems and cloud support. This machine’s quality, speed and connectivity make it our best overall document scanner.
Read the full review of the Brother ImageCenter ADS-2800W.
Smaller than a sheet of paper without the feeder, the NeatConnect doesn’t take up much space on a desktop and features a lot of connectivity options and specifications of larger scanners.
Without its paper trays, the NeatConnect scanner is smaller than an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. There’s a lot of value in having a stand-alone scanner take up less desk space because it only performs a single function. It’s also five pounds lighter than our best overall pick, which makes moving it around much easier.
Even though it's smaller, it doesn’t lose a lot of functionality. It can still hold the standard 50 pages in its tray, and it offers double-sided scanning and text identification software. It can also process receipts up to 30 inches long if you’re trying to keep spending records. And with an average scan speed of 24 pages per minute, it keeps up with many other heavy-duty scanners.
One concern with the NeatConnect is that, rather than fixing slanted pages digitally, which is the best way to solve document feeder problems, it uses several slots in the paper tray to keep differently sized materials straight as they go through the machine. This design may mean you’ll have to be more careful when putting your document through the device than you would with other scanners.
NeatConnect comes with a cloud subscription service – you get a free 90-day trial when you buy the scanner—as well as other wireless connectivity options. The scanner’s smaller size makes it a great option for a tight office space.
Read the full review of the NeatConnect scanner.
Kodak ScanMate i1150
The first ten pages of every document move along at 40 pages per minute. After that, the scanner slows to 30 pages which is still one of the highest speeds available.
If you’ve got a lot of scanning to do, you might want to look at the Kodak ScanMate i1150. It has the same speed as our best overall pick, but the first part of your document whips through the machine at a speed of 40 pages a minutemaking it the fastest scanner we reviewed.
Like other scanners, the ScanMate can create multiple file types for you to send to your cloud as well as the create PDF files with searchable text. It offers some additional settings that make it useful in business settings, like a way to detect barcodes or spreadsheet information. You can also feed cards, with different textures, through a smaller, separate slot.
The Kodak ScanMate also comes with a larger 75-page, paper tray making it easier to scan long documents. It can digitally fix documents so that they appear straight even if move around a bit or tilt during scanning.
This scanner doesn’t feature mobile, Ethernet or wi-fi connectivity, so a USB cable is needed to export documents, and it means this scanner lacks some of the most up-to-date features available. We’d recommend this device to those who are looking for a workhorse that can handle lengthy documents and those who don’t need many connectivity options.
Read the full review of the Kodak ScanMate i1150.
Why trust us on document scanners?
We’ve paid attention to what’s going on in dedicated scanner tech over the last five years. We used hands-on testing to find the best standalone document scanner available. We regularly update this site to make sure we offer timely information. We read customer reviews, sift through manufacturers specifications to find important information, and learn what there is to know about current scanning tech available. After we find what we think represents the best of the best of these devices through intensive, multi-day research, we’re able to compare these devices side-by-side in the lab. We test their speed, accuracy and evaluate their connectivity options, all while looking at their quality of the materials used to make them.
How we tested document scanners
After hours of research reading through manufacturer’s pages, specifications, and reading forums and looking at our competition, we narrowed down our search to the best stand-alone scanners on the market.
After determining which scanners to evaluate in the lab, we run them through a series of standardized tests to be able to compare them objectively. We used the scanners to save files to our desktops and used all their connectivity options.
To compare these machines, we ran speed tests to see how quickly they could process documents. We ran some standard paper type documents of different lengths through each scanner and averaged times.
After testing their speed, we looked for errors in their ability to reproduce our original documents by checking them to see if they keep pages straight or if they had any printing errors.
We also used the text function in the files we saved to make sure they were searchable. We loaded the scanners with different types of documents, including a few greasy receipts, to see how well they did with feeding different paper types through the machine.
Key features to look for when buying a document scanner
When we test document scanners, we look for speed, accuracy and connectivity. We’re able to run tests on each device to see which performs the best over time. If you’re looking for a dedicated scanner, there are some specifications you can look for to make your own comparison.
First, consider scan resolution. All the scanners we reviewed can at least do 600 dots per inch, but some of them -- if you’re willing to lower the overall speed -- can capture images at an even higher resolution for those times that precision is more critical.
We also think it's important to look for digital straightening programming that can fix a slight misfeed of your document to ensure professional results. It's also helpful to have optical text recognition to detect the content of whatever you’re scanning so that it’s searchable in the future.
As we get closer to going completely paperless, it can be helpful to get lengthy documents scanned to the cloud as quickly as possible. It's also something that we can look at to determine the very best in scanner tech. Manufacturers usually provide an estimate that’s not far from the actual speed of the scanner.
It’s not the journey; it’s the destination. Being able to decide where your document ends up can be useful especially as technology changes. Scanners that connect easily in a variety of ways, like ethernet, wi-fi, over a mobile device or directly to the cloud are more versatile and useful. You’ll just want to make sure that the scanner lets you connect the way you prefer.