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3 document scanners: Move your data from paper to pixels

Brian Nadel | March 8, 2013
While the dream of a paper-free world has yet to materialize (assuming it ever will), using scanners to store digital copies of hardcopy documents has become de rigueur for most businesses, from enterprise-level operations to single-person startups.

All three of the scanners include a variety of software that allows you to organize your scans. The Brother ImageCenter offers applications for the widest number of devices: It can work with Windows PCs, Macs and Linux computers as well as Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices. The Fujitsu ScanSnap works with Windows, OS X, iOS and Android, while the Panasonic currently works only with Windows.

All of the scanners let you save your output to the cloud, using online storage repositories like Dropbox.

None of these are inexpensive -- two of the scanners reviewed here list for $495 and the other goes for about $800. If you only need to scan the occasional tax document or photo, you'd probably be better off with an all-in-one device or even a smaller mobile scanner. But when it comes to cleaning up the paper clutter in the typical office, one of these desktop scanners can help do the trick with speed and grace.

Brother ImageCenter ADS-2500W

If you're the tactile type, the Brother ImageCenter ADS-2500W has something you'll like: an innovative touchscreen that controls many of its functions.

Brother ImageCenter ADS-2500W

Easily the largest of the three scanners reviewed here, the Brother ImageCenter takes up 11.8 x 8.7 x 7.1 in. width/depth/height (WDH) of desk space; when fully opened, the two trays extend its depth to 19.4 in.

The center of attention, though, is the 3.7-in. color touch display that responds to taps and swipes. Three hardware control buttons on the right side of the scanner let you go back a screen, go to the home screen and cancel an operation.

Tap the display to wake the scanner up and you have the choice of scanning to a variety of destinations, including a computer, network file server, FTP server or USB drive.

You can also save to an assortment of online services, including Evernote, Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and SharePoint using the scanner's built-in Wi-Fi or Ethernet connections. It takes a little extra setup time, but the versatility that it adds is more than worth it.

The Brother ImageCenter's display offers shortcuts for eight preset scans; however, I actually found the Panasonic's three hardware buttons (to which you can assign different pre-scans) easier to use.

With a pair of 600dpi optical scanning elements, the Brother ImageCenter can digitize both sides of a sheet in a single pass. It is the only one of the three to come with interpolation software, which uses numerical analysis techniques to take information in a 600dpi scan and boost it to the equivalent of 1,200dpi.

The scanner can create single-bit, grayscale or 24-bit color images, accommodate sheets up to 14-in. long in batches or single sheets up to 34-in. long, and handle up to 53-lb. stock originals. Brother rates its 50-sheet document feeder at 24ppm.


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