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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.

In contrast, Fujitsu's ScanSnap ix500 covers the connection bases well with PC and Mac compatibility along with the ability to take control of the scanner with a phone or tablet. On the other hand, its single scan button means that choosing different scanning parameters needs to be done from your computer's screen.

The Brother ImageCenter ADS-2500W picks up where the others leave off and is the only one of the three to have a touchscreen control panel. The best connected of the three with USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi, it can work with Windows, OS X and Linux computers as well as a variety of phones and tablets.

The Brother ImageCenter's only drawback is its price tag. But it is money well spent for those drowning in paper.

How we tested

To put these devices through their paces, I used each daily to digitize a variety of items, from manuals, reports and memos to business cards, magazine articles and invoices.

I started by setting each up and loading its software on a Dell Inspiron 15Z running Windows 8. After measuring each device when it was closed, I opened the automatic document feeder and output tray and measured how much room each takes up on a desk. I tried out the feeder guides and tried out several different-sized originals.

After going over the device's buttons and switches, I looked at the software that comes with the scanner and paid particular attention to how hard it is to change its settings and configure it to automatically place the digital images into a folder on a computer or network; I also noted the presence of preset modes for different documents. If the system included networking, I connected it to my office network.

I set up three timed tests, where the stopwatch was started when I pressed the scan button and stopped when the last image became visible on the computer's screen. Each scanner was set to de-skew and automatically orient the image. Scan tests included:

A 10-page stack of originals of varying sizes, which were scanned in 200 dot-per-inch single-bit mode

A magazine cover, which was scanned in duplex mode and the scanner's top color resolution

A stack of 5 business cards, which were scanned at 200dpi

My driver's license, which was scanned at 600dpi

After each run, I looked at the image files and compared them to the originals and to the output from the other scanners and a 600 dpi flatbed scanner. I looked for artifacts, lines, skewed images, blurred details and blank images that represented a scan of the back of a sheet. I used the scanner's software to correct any problems, such as skewing and visual artifacts.

I then tried to save the file in a variety of formats and places. I looked over the software's ability to arrange and store the scans, including its cloud abilities. I also tried out any associated tablet or phone apps.


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