Last updated: September 8, 2021

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Even though we're living through the digital age, physical documents are still an important part of life. We often need to digitize such documents for alteration, email attachments or just to store them more securely on a computer. Having a high-quality scanner at home or in your office will help you achieve all those things.

It's important that you think about how you plan to use your scanner if you intend to get the best value possible. So, for example, you should know what kinds of materials you'd like to scan and how often you plan to use the device. Do you need to digitize standard paper documents or family photographs? Whatever your needs, we've got you covered. Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about the best scanners available on the market.




Key Facts

  • The first, and more important, step toward getting your scanner is deciding which kind best suits your intended use. There are three main kinds of scanner out there: flatbed, automatic and portable. You will also see all-in-one printers, which are designed to print, scan, photocopy and sometimes even fax. Being familiar with the characteristics of each model will help you make the right decision.
  • Another important thing to keep in mind is how exactly you will use your scanner. If you're hoping to scan large amounts of documents at once, we would recommend an automatic model. However, a flatbed scanner may better suit your needs if you only intend to scan things sporadically. The material you need to scan and digitize will also need be considered.
  • The resolution capability of your scanner isn't as important if you just plan to scan standard paper documents like invoices or contracts. But if you're looking to scan photographs, the quality is critical. This is especially true if you plan to alter the images after they've been scanned.

Our Selection: The Best Scanners

If you're looking to boost efficiency in your work or home life, a quality scanner is key. But not all scanner models are the same. As we mentioned above, the product you need will depend on intended use. To help you pick the best product, we've picked out the best scanners available in 2022.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Scanners

If you spend your days in an office, you may need to scan various documents to alter them, or quickly send them to a colleague or client in an email. There's a scanner out there for you, it just depends on what kind of documents you're looking to digitize. To choose the best option, you should be familiar with how scanners work. In the next section, we go through some of the key aspects of scanners.

Scanners basically function by receiving light that's reflected through a series of mirrors.
(Source: Elnur Amikishiyev: 97181108/ 123rf.com)

What types of scanners are there?

Different kinds of scanners can be found on the market, each with specific characteristics. The most common type is the manual scanner, which is also known as a flatbed scanner. Flatbed scanners feature a lid that you lift up, exposing the glass surface where you place an item you'd like to scan. Some models are more versatile and have the capability to digitize books or even objects.

Another type of scanner features an automatic document feeder (ADF). In offices, this kind of scanner is the most commonly used, because it can scan large quantities of documents automatically. Nonetheless, the image quality for these scanners tends to be a bit worse than other models. The last kind of scanner we'll mention is the portable scanner, which is designed to be easy to carry around with you, no matter where you need to go.

How do scanners work?

The world's first scanners were invented in 1984 by the Taiwan-based company Microtek. Scanners function by receiving light that's reflected by a sensor through an array of mirrors. The sensor transforms light energy into electrical signals. Those signals are then made into a digital format that a computer can interpret and display for you on your screen.

Scanners are generally very easy to use. If you're using a flatbed scanner, all you need to do is put the document under the lid and press the appropriate button. Repeat the same procedure with whatever documents you need digitized. Automatic scanners are even easier: just put all the sheets in the tray and sit back and wait. Portable scanners, meanwhile, have a designated slit into which you feed the documents.

What does a scanner's color depth signify?

Expressed in bits, the color depth setting indicates the amount of information about the document or photo that the scanner gathers. The best scanners on the market are usually able to process 24 bits. This provides a range of over 16 million possible colors. Scanners below 24 bits may result in scans of lesser quality.

More color depth will allow for a more technically accurate reading of the scanned item. But keep in mind that achieving a higher quality will also slow down the digitizing process and leave you with much larger files. Still, if you're planning to alter your scans, higher quality is important, especially if you're working with photos.

Expressed in bits, color depth signifies the amount of information that a scanner gathers.
(Source: Kirill Kedrinski: 37053003/ 123rf.com)

What kinds of documents do scanners support?

All the scanners that we've discussed thus far can digitize paper documents at least up to the most common size, which is A4. They can scan all kinds of paper documents, from receipts to invoices and study notes. Automatic scanners are the most limited in terms of scannable material, since most can only handle paper.

Flatbed scanners, however, are more versatile. You can scan the usual documents, but also various other items like business cards, photos or stamps.

Did you know that some scanners have special attachments or compartments to scan your negatives and slides?

How do I connect my scanner?

Most scanners can be hooked up to your computer via a USB cable. However, the latest trend is to include Wi-Fi connectivity as a feature. This is especially convenient, because it allows a greater distance between the scanner and the computer or other receiving device.

If you intend to use your scanner from your smartphone or tablet, WiFi capability is particularly important. Additionally, many offices have an internal local network via which you can send images or documents to different devices. Lastly, some scanners on the market come with a memory card slot, so you can immediately store your scanned documents.

What is a charge-coupled device?

The charge-coupled device (CCD) is a sensor present in some scanners. These sensors are also used in fields like photography and astronomy. The CCD sensor allows you to scan images with less noise or grain and higher quality.

The very first CCD sensors were invented in 1969 by two American scientists at AT&T Bell Labs. The high sensitivity of charge-coupled devices means they can recognize a range of light colors. This is critical for getting scanned results that are as accurate to the original document or photo as possible.

All the scanners that we've discussed in this article can digitize standard paper documents.
(Source: Piotr Adamowicz: 87844671/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different scanner models?

As we mentioned already, there are three primary kinds of scanners that you can find on the market. To help you make the right choice, we've laid out the pros and cons of automatic scanners:

Advantages
  • Faster than manual scanners
  • They allow you to scan batches of documents
  • They usually support double-sided scanning
Disadvantages
  • Many can only scan in black and white

And here are the pros and cons of flatbed scanners:

Advantages
  • They produce scans with higher resolution
  • They offer better color depth
  • Some models are able to digitize negatives and slides
Disadvantages
  • You have to scan the documents individually
  • The devices are not as fast

Shopping Criteria

Our world is becoming more and more digitized, and dealing with burdensome paper documents is an issue for many. You may find that you need to modify them, archive them on your computer or send them off via e-mail. That's why having a quality scanner at your home or office is essential. In this section, we'll go through some key factors that you should keep in mind as you pick the scanner that's best for you.

  • Resolution
  • Sensor
  • Speed
  • Size of accepted documents
  • Type of user

Resolution

The resolution of a scanner plays a big role in determining its quality and value. Resolution is expressed in dots per inch (dpi). The higher the resolution of your scanner, the higher the quality of the scanned result will be. Still, don't forget that higher resolution also equals a larger file size.

Keep in mind that resolution isn't the same as the size of the document. While these aspects are related, they mean different things. The resolution specifically refers to the quality of the scanned document or image. A higher quality scan means that you can reproduce or enlarge the result without having unwanted pixelation. Furthermore, a high resolution will allow for easier and better modification of the digitized product.

Sensor

The technology used in scanners is very similar to that used in cameras. Both methods utilize light to capture the subject of an image. This is all made possible by the sensor, which receives and interprets the light and then converts it into electronic information. This information will form a digital image that mimics the original.

There are two kinds of sensors found on the market: the CCD we talked about earlier, and the CIS (contact image sensor). The CIS is the most commonly used, since it provides a good balance between manufacturing price and image quality. Nonetheless, the CCD is the preferred sensor for professional scanners, especially those tailored for photography and other types of art.

Speed

If you're planning to use your scanner in an office, speed may be a key factor for you. Note, however, that the speed of a scanner also depends on the material you're digitizing. For example, a photograph will usually take much longer than a text document. As we mentioned, the resolution of your scan also influences the speed of the process.

The kind of scanner you pick for will also play a role in determining the scanning speed. With manual models, you will need to scan your documents one by one, which can take a while. Meanwhile, if you use an automatic scanner, you just place a batch of documents in the tray and press go. The device will digitize the entire set at once.

Size of Accepted Documents

The size of your scanner will largely determine the size of the documents or photos it can manage. The most common size is the A4 format, and most manual and automatic scanners are meant to handle documents of this size. Still, if you have particularly sizes you need to can, get what works for you.

If you plan to digitize documents that are smaller than A4, you shouldn't have any issue with the average scanner. Larger documents are where you might face some issues though. You may be able to work around this problem by scanning your document or photo in several parts, but the final result may not be exactly what you want.

If you're looking to scan a lot of larger documents or photos, there are a number of models that can handle larger items. These may be more cumbersome and some are designed for very specific tasks. Larger scanners might be especially useful in architectural studios where people work with large plans, for example. In general, A4-size scanners are the most common in homes and offices.

Type of User

There is an appropriate scanner for every type of user. If you want to quickly scan large batches of documents, you'll probably prefer an automatic model. That model will save you time that you can spend on other important tasks at work. But keep in mind that automatic scanners are best for standard documents.

Manual models may be better if you have fewer scans but want higher quality results. This is probably the case if you're scanning photographs, and you'll want the higher quality as well. Last but not least, a portable scanner is best for those looking to scan on the go, wherever they may be.

Summary

A quality scanner will help anyone be more efficient at work. Whether you're looking to make a digital copy of important documents or need to share them via email, a scanner can be extremely useful. Make sure you consider the amount of documents you're looking to scan and in what time frame; this will help you decide on the best model.

As we discussed earlier, you'll also want to bear in mind factors like resolution and the quality of the final product. The kind of material you're going to scan is also crucial to evaluate if you're hoping to get the most out of your new scanner. And don't forget that various types of sensors can be found, so think about which type meets your needs.

We hope that our guide will help you pick out the very best scanner for your home or office. Please share our tips via social media, and if you found this article helpful, leave us a comment below!

(Source of featured image: Andriy Popov: 39430637/ 123rf.com)

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