The Best Portable Document Scanner

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After putting in more than 100 hours for research and hands-on testing since 2013, we think the Epson ES-300W is the best portable document scanner for digitizing documents without taking up half of a desktop. It combines scan speeds usually found on full-size scanners with extremely accurate text recognition. And thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi and battery, you can use it almost anywhere—even with a phone or tablet.

Last Updated: Three months ago
After additional testing we’ve confirmed that the Epson ES-200 requires AC power to match the scanning speed of our top pick. Powering the scanner via the USB connection results in considerably slower scan times.
Expand Most Recent Updates
Three months ago: Epson has released the DS-320 portable document scanner. It’s virtually identical to our runner-up pick, the ES-200, in features and specs, so if you have the choice just get whichever model is cheaper.
Four months ago: The Epson ES-300W is our new top pick, offering the fastest scan speeds in its class, outstanding text recognition, plus the options of battery power and wireless connectivity. If you don’t need Wi-Fi or battery power, you can save a few bucks with our otherwise identical runner-up choice, the Epson ES-200.
Five months ago: Epson has announced the WorkForce ES-200 and ES-300W duplex portable document scanners, as well as the DS-320. We’ve added them to the What to look forward to section below.
Eight months ago: Fujitsu, the maker of our top pick, has released an update to correct the data-loss bug we noted last month. See below for instructions on how to install the patch.
Nine months ago: We added a recommendation for a document scanner that can also scan photos—but it’s significantly larger and more expensive than our main picks.
Nine months ago: We’ve learned that Mac owners who have updated to macOS Sierra are having problems using our top pick, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. Fujitsu is aware of the issue and working on a solution. We’ve reached out to the company, and we will update this guide when we have more information.
One year ago: Although we haven’t yet tested any new scanners in 2016, we’ve gone through this guide and made some minor changes to keep our descriptions of the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i and its competitors up to date. We still think the Fujitsu model is the best portable document scanner for most people.
Two years ago: After using our main pick for the last six months, we've updated the guide with our extended testing notes.
Two years ago: We spent 70 hours on research and hands-on testing to find that the $260 Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i is the best portable document scanner for most people. It’s small enough to take anywhere and can be powered by your laptop’s USB ports, making it more versatile than the others we tested. Plus, it has the most user-friendly scanning software compared to the competition’s.
Three years ago: We have a new pick for best portable scanner, the Fujitsu Scansnap S1300i, and a new runner-up, the Canon P215 II. We're putting the finishing touches on the new guide, but hope to have it published in the next few weeks.
Our pick
Epson ES-300W
The Epson ES-300W delivers the fastest scan times we’ve seen to date, outstanding text recognition, and cord-free operation with battery power and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Epson ES-300W is the fastest, most accurate portable scanner we tested for creating searchable PDF files—and unlike our previous pick, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i, it doesn’t slow down when you use USB instead of AC power. Thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi and battery, you can scan to multiple computers and a phone or tablet (using an iOS and Android app), cable-free. And it’s both TWAIN and ICA compatible for scanning through third-party software like Photoshop. But if you don’t have scanning software you like, Epson’s free software bundle, while not without some minor quirks (at least for Mac users), lets you convert documents, receipts, and business cards into formats that can be read by word processing, spreadsheet, and contact management software.

Also great
Epson ES-200
The Epson ES-200 lacks Wi-Fi and battery power, but is otherwise identical in functionality to our main pick and comes in a slightly lighter, more compact form factor.

The Epson ES-200 is our slightly more affordable recommendation if you don’t need Wi-Fi connectivity and can live without battery operation. Powered via your computer’s USB port or the included AC wall plug, the ES-200 is slightly lighter and smaller but offers all of the other functionality as our top pick. You’ll certainly want to use the AC adapter, though: In our tests, its scan speed was almost three times as slow under USB power. Epson also offers a nearly identical scanner, the DS-320. Throughout this guide, except where noted, comments about the ES-300W apply to the ES-200 as well.

Upgrade pick
Epson FastFoto FF-640
The Epson FastFoto FF-640 is a much larger and more expensive option but handles a wide variety of photographic prints and delivers faster scans of business documents.

Most document scanners aren’t ideal for scanning photos because they bend documents as they scan them. But if you have boxes and albums full of film photos that you’d like to digitize yourself, the Epson FastFoto FF-640 combines a capable document scanner with the ability to scan photos at speeds of up to one per second without bending them. It typically costs about twice as much as our top pick, which is a high premium to pay for a convenience item. But if you have a lot of photos to scan and you don’t want to outsource them to a great scanning service, it’s a good option to consider.

Table of contents

Why you should trust me

I’ve written about photo and imaging gear for The Wirecutter since 2013, and I’ve worked as a professional photographer and digital-imaging consultant for 15 years. I also ran my own digital-printmaking shop for a nearly a decade, producing exhibition-quality prints. I’m on the faculty of New York City’s International Center of Photography, and I lead photography workshops around the country.

Should you upgrade?

If you already own a document scanner, even one that’s a few years old, our general advice is to keep on using it.

If you already own a document scanner, even one that’s a few years old, our general advice is to keep on using it. Scanners have a very long shelf life by tech standards, and software hasn’t changed much either. Even though our new picks are markedly faster compared with older models, scanners from four or five years ago are still plenty accurate. So unless slow speed and/or unsuccessful keyword searches are holding you back, or you absolutely must have Wi-Fi, we don’t see the wisdom in replacing something that already gets the job done.

Who this guide is for

The reason for buying a portable document scanner is fairly straightforward. If you have stacks of documents and receipts filling up filing cabinets or cluttering your desk, converting them to digital documents not only frees up physical space, but it also makes your information much easier to find. On both Windows computers and Macs you can do word searches that include the contents of searchable PDF files. Instead of having to recall a PDF’s obscure filename, you can search for terms inside the document, like your doctor’s name when searching for a medical record or your Social Security number when looking for a tax form.

Search capability aside, another benefit of digitizing your documents is simply that they won’t get lost or inadvertently thrown away in a flurry of spring cleaning. Warranties and receipts for appliances can be crucial if they ever need to be repaired. Remember that the IRS requires you to keep tax records for a full seven years after the filing date.

Even if you start out with a big backlog of documents to scan, chances are you won’t always need to scan on a daily basis. What makes portable scanners attractive is that they’re designed to fold down into an even more compact form when not in use. A stationary desktop scanner will be faster to scan your documents, but you probably won’t need to use it often enough to warrant it taking up a permanent space on your desk. A portable document scanner can be kept tucked away in a drawer until you need it, freeing up even more space in your work area.

Can you just use your phone?

If your scanning needs are limited to the occasional medical form or travel receipt for work, there are several Android and iOS apps that can turn photos shot with your phone into PDFs. Some will even use OCR to convert them to text you can copy/paste. But this is one of the slowest ways to digitize your paper trail and simply isn’t viable if you need to scan lots of documents on a regular basis.

What makes a good portable document scanner

The first must-have feature of any document scanner is the ability to save scans as searchable PDFs. To do this, scanners rely on OCR (optical character recognition) software to “read” the document and convert its text so you can search and copy/paste just as you would with any other PDF file. Whether the scanner maker uses its own OCR engine or licenses one from a third party, an accuracy rate above 90 percent is crucial.

Scanning mounds of documents is no one’s idea of fun, and to really stay on top of things you’ll need to do this regularly. So the faster you can get through the process, the better. Speed goes beyond just the manufacturer’s page-per-minute rating, however. I don’t recommend any of the ultra-portable “mobile” scanners since they can only scan in simplex mode. This means that it scans only one side of the page, so if you have a double-sided document you’ll have to feed it through the device twice. Duplex scanners, like our picks, feature two scanning heads, one on each side of the document, so that both sides of the page can be scanned simultaneously.

”Our pick” document scanner next to a MacBook.

A portable document scanner like the Epson ES-300W is compact enough to carry in a shoulder or tote bag along with a laptop. Photo: Amadou Diallo

Ultra-portable models also typically lack any sort of ADF (automatic document feeder). With these models you have to hand-feed each sheet, page by laborious page. And for double-sided documents you have to flip the sheet over and repeat the process. That’s an incredible time suck and can actually take longer than just photographing the documents with your phone.

Not everyone needs a document scanner that can fit in a briefcase, but most of us would at least like one that uses as little desk space as possible and is easy to move from room to room if there are multiple computers in the house. And unless you’ll be using it every single day, it’s nice to have a unit that folds down into a more compact form when it’s not in use.

How we picked

I started my research for this guide by painstakingly logging specs for every document scanner I could find available for purchase in the US through Amazon and other online retailers.

This turned up about 100 scanners in total. I winnowed down this list considerably by eliminating bulky desktop models like the NeatDesk, simplex scanners like the Doxie Go, those without an ADF like the IRIScan Executive 4, and models that only work on Windows machines. This left me with just a handful of document scanners from familiar names like Canon, Epson, Brother, and Fujitsu. You can learn more about what didn’t make the cut and why by reading about The competition.

In a previous version of this guide we tested the Canon P-215II, Fujitsu S1300i, and Brother ADS1500W models alongside a few desktop models for reference, including the Canon DR-C225, Brother ADS-2000, and NeatDesk scanners. For this guide we called in the more recently released Epson ES-300W and ES-200 to compare results.

Four portable document scanners on a coffee table.

Our latest round of scanner testing included the Epson ES-300W, ES-200, FastFoto FF-640, and Fujitsu S1300i. Photo: Amadou Diallo

How we tested

For our in-house comparisons we focused on text accuracy, speed, and software usability. We ran dozens of test pages, business documents, tax forms, a variety of receipts, business cards, and photographs through the scanners to see how the machines measured up.

To evaluate the accuracy of the OCR engine, we scanned an IRS 1099 instruction form, a text document that includes a range of font sizes in both serif and sans serif versions, and an ISO standards document with both text and graphics using the most accurate OCR software that came with the scanners—for the ES-300w and ES-200, that’s ABBYY reader rather than Epson’s own stock software. We saved the scans both as searchable PDFs and as fully editable text files.

While we wouldn’t recommend a document scanner for digitizing your photographs, we ran a color and black-and-white print at 600 pixels per inch to see if the results could be sufficient for modest uses like email.

For our speed tests we loaded a 20-page double-sided business document into each scanner, set it to duplex mode, and created a searchable PDF in grayscale mode at 200 ppi. We timed the process from the press of the start button until the resulting 40-page PDF was ready to be saved to disk. We then ran additional tests in simplex mode, at 600 ppi, and in USB-powered mode when available.

Our most recent tests were done on either a 2012 Macbook Air running OS 10.12 or a 2013 iMac running OS 10.11. In evaluating the software, we considered how easy it was to change and verify scan settings as well as to save your options as presets. We also took note of whether or not the software could be installed on a computer without a CD/DVD drive.

Our pick

“Our pick” portable document scanner on a wooden desk.

Photo: Michael Hession

Our pick
Epson ES-300W
The Epson ES-300W delivers the fastest scan times we’ve seen to date, outstanding text recognition, and cord-free operation with battery power and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Epson ES-300W offers just about everything we could want in a portable document scanner, making it an easy recommendation as the best choice for digitizing your analog paper trail. In our tests it delivered (along with its sister model, the ES-200) the fastest scans we’ve seen from a portable unit, with flawless text recognition with fonts as small as 6 points when using the bundled ABBYY software. Scan speeds were virtually identical under both USB and AC power, making the included power brick largely unnecessary unless you have an older laptop fitted with USB 2 ports (USB 3 is required for supplying power). Even more impressively, there was no speed penalty when scanning over Wi-Fi versus a USB connection on computers, phones, and tablets (paired with a free iOS or Android app). This makes it more future proof as mobile-only workflows gain popularity, and as computer makers transition from USB 3 to USB-C while reducing the overall quantity and variety of ports in general. The Wi-Fi connection worked without any issues, save an installation snafu we’ll talk about in the Flaws but not dealbreakers section. The ES-300W isn’t the lightest portable unit we tested (due to its battery) but is still small enough to easily fit in a shoulder bag or carry-on.

“Our pick” document scanner next to a MacBook on a living room table.

In addition to having built-in Wi-Fi, the Epson ES-300W has a battery that powers about 700 scans per charge, enough to travel cable-free on a two-day business trip. Photo: Amadou Diallo

It delivered (along with its sister model, the ES-200) the fastest scans we’ve seen from a portable unit, with flawless text recognition.

All of the necessary drivers and software (both native and third-party) are included with the installer package, available for download from Epson’s site, so there’s no need for a CD drive, eliminating an issue we’ve faced with other scanner models like the Canon P215II.

A close-up of a slider button on “Our pick” document scanner.

A three-position slider on the ES-300W lets you easily verify whether the scanner is set for USB operation or one of its two wireless modes. Photo: Amadou Diallo

For our OCR test, I first scanned a text document that included both serif and sans serif fonts at type sizes ranging from 12 points down to 4 points. At a 300 ppi-resolution scan, all of the models we tested could read text as small as 6 points. The accuracy varied at the smallest 4-point type, however, as you can see in the comparison below.

Original He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous hands together.
Brother ADS1500W e chuckled to himself and rubOed his long. nervous hands together
Fujitsu S1300i Ho chuckled to btmtctf and rubbed bit tonf. nervous bands together
Epson ES-300W He chuckled to himsclr atrd rubbed Ills lt.ng. neT`.ous hands togo(her,
Canon P-215II a himselfand rubb”d his rong, nenous hands bgerher

The ES-300W is not as accurate at such a small font size as the Brother ADS1500W, which misread only three characters. But the ES-300W does manage to maintain a more accurate word count than the Canon P-215II, which makes manual correction a bit easier. Keep in mind that this is a very challenging test and you’ll rarely, if ever, be scanning text this small. So you’ll definitely see much better results with most of your own documents.

The ES-300W, when using the bundled ABBYY software, matched the accuracy of the original document, something none of its competitors could claim.

Next, I scanned an IRS 1099 form at 300 ppi, which is a good, worst-case-scenario test, since it’s very dense with lots of stylized type and some graphic elements. and using text analysis software, identified 10 of the most frequently occurring words in the original document. I then opened each of the PDF scans and did a search for each of those words.

The ES-300W, when using the bundled ABBYY software, matched the accuracy of the original document, something none of its competitors could claim, though the Fujitsu S1300i came very close. Out of 1,538 word instances in the original document, a word search on the ES-300W PDF returned 100 percent of them. You can’t ask for more than that. Can you imagine if you were looking for an important document by searching for a keyword, but your scanner read only 76 percent of the text correctly? That’s why we place so much emphasis on accuracy.

Original Epson ES-300W Fujitsu S1300i Canon P-215II Canon C225 Brother 1500W
Words found 1,538 1,538 1,529 1,489 1,299 1,164
Accuracy n/a 100% 99% 96% 84% 76%

To arrive at the figures you see in the table above we used each scanner at its optimum OCR settings. For some scanners, like the ES-300W and Fujitsu S1300i, that meant scanning via the bundled third-party ABBYY software. To use this, you have to open the ABBYY app, and use that to trigger the scanner to start, rather than just pressing the scan button on the device itself. The native scanning apps on the ES-300W use Epson’s in-house OCR engine, which is serviceable, but inferior—it managed only a 92 percent accuracy rate on the IRS document. But the Epson OCR performed well enough on simpler everyday documents like utility bills and bank statements. Many users may be just fine with Epson’s native apps, but if you need the utmost text accuracy, we suggest making a habit of using the ABBYY software. We didn’t test the Windows version of the ABBYY software but it should be on a par.

Although every manufacturer publishes scan speeds, these numbers can be deceiving since they’re often just measuring how quickly the paper comes out of the scanner. For a real-world speed test I set each scanner to searchable PDF mode. This enables the OCR conversion, adding a significant amount of time until you have a usable document. But this is, after all, how you’ll be using a scanner, as it makes little sense to scan text and not be able to copy/paste or do a word search.

I loaded a 20-sheet double-sided business document into each scanner, set resolution to 200 ppi, and measured the time from the press of the start button until the document was ready to be saved on my local drive. My test machine was a MacBook Air running OS 10.12.

As you can see below, the ES-300W is an impressively speedy scanner, capable of nearly 23 pages per minute (ppm) at 200 ppi. This is only bested by the much larger, heavier desktop Canon C225, and significantly faster than its portable scanner rivals.

We saved a total of 1,416 document pages before a low battery warning appeared in the scanning app, halting our progress.

The ES-300W, with its ADF fully extended, has a footprint of 11.3 inches by 9 inches by 9.5 inches, taking up slightly more desk space than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Of course, the scanner’s footprint shrinks dramatically when it’s folded closed, and it can easily slip into a shoulder bag when you’re traveling. Since it has both Wi-Fi and a battery built in you don’t have to pack a wall plug or even a USB cable. And even with its built-in battery, the ES-300W weighs no more than our previous top pick, the Fujitsu S1300i. Epson told us the ES-300W’s battery lasts for up to 700 page scans. Our tests bore that out almost exactly. With a fully charged battery we turned on the scanner’s Wi-Fi and fed the same 11 page double-sided document continuously for one hour. The scanner was set to grayscale duplex mode at 200 ppi, creating identical PDF documents of 22 pages each. We saved a total of 1,416 document pages before a low battery warning appeared in the scanning app, halting our progress. For most users we think this could easily translate into a busy weekend of cord-free scanning, but if you’re traveling on a business trip of several days, you’d want to have either the USB 3 or AC power option at your disposal.

The included Wi-Fi connection also means that the ES-300W will continue to be useful as some computers transition from USB 3 to USB-C, which has a different shaped plug. So if you have a new 12-inch MacBook, which has only a single USB-C port, you don’t have to worry about needing an adapter or anything else to have your scanner work.

Epson rates the scanner’s ADF as having a 20-sheet capacity, and we wouldn’t recommend going beyond this limit. On premium-weight laser printer paper we sometimes got paper jam errors when loading the ADF to its maximum. With regular weight paper, or slightly fewer sheets of the heavier stock, we had no problems.

Two images showing buttons and status lights on “Our pick” document scanner.

With the scanner in USB mode, a hardware start button (blue icon) lets you initiate scans directly from the unit. Helpful status lights (right) verify a successful Wi-Fi connection and show battery status. Photos: Amadou Diallo

Epson’s software bundle lets you save documents as PDFs, Word files, Excel spreadsheets, and unformatted text files, as well as image-friendly formats like JPEG, TIFF, and PNG. In addition to basic parameters like scan resolution and automated filenaming, you can choose from a comprehensive range of settings like the option to skip blank pages in duplex mode, correct skewed feeds, auto-rotate individual pages, and even digitally fill in paper punch holes. These choices can be saved as presets so that once you’ve configured things to your liking, you can use those settings in the future simply by selecting your named preset from a pulldown menu.

When scanning business cards I was able to load four to six cards at a time, depending on thickness. Anything beyond that would lead to multiple cards being pulled through at once, causing a jam. Text accuracy was very good, with occasional and minor typos. As with the other scanners I tested, though, text on photographic backgrounds isn’t recognized, though the included Presto Biz Card contact management software does retain an image of each scan so you can enter the information manually at your leisure.

A close-up of the front-feed slot on “Our pick” document scanner.

There’s a separate front-feed slot on the ES-300W for loading plastic cards like a driver’s license. Photo: Amadou Diallo

The ES-300W’s ADF handles receipts easily. Epson recommends loading them individually with the scanner set to Automatic Feeding Mode, but you can load receipts one after the other until the entire job is finished. I was able to consistently scan even long store receipts three or four at a time as long as they were of uniform width. If, however, your store slips have spent weeks crumpled up at the bottom of a grocery bag you’ll probably be better off sticking with Epson’s one-at-a-time advice. In any event, you will have to remember to set the scanner software to long paper mode. This is an easy change made via a pull-down menu. The frustrating thing is that Epson’s own scan preset, labeled “receipt,” doesn’t engage this mode, meaning that any receipt longer than 11 inches will trigger a scan error.

Unlike the Fujitsu S1300i, our top pick doesn’t come with any receipt management software so you’ll have to look to third-party software (some services like Expensify let you send scanned receipts directly to your account, converting them into expense reports) for automated entry or enter figures manually if you’re tracking expenses.

An animation showing how “Our pick” document scanner expands to support letter-sized sheets.

The Epson ES-300W, like all portable scanners, extends to support letter-sized sheets but folds down for more compact storage when not in use. Photos: Amadou Diallo

The ES-300W can join your existing Wi-Fi network for use with any other computer on your home network. Alternatively, if you’re beyond the range of an existing network, or at a hotel that still charges for Wi-Fi (grrrr!), you can configure the scanner as a wireless access point. In this mode, you simply connect your laptop to the scanner’s SSID, which is printed, along with its password, on the underside of the unit.

Two mobile phone screenshots showing the Epson DocumentScan app.

The Epson DocumentScan app lets you specify scan settings and saves the resulting document to your phone.

Epson offers a free mobile app for iOS and Android that lets you initiate scans right from your smartphone. You can choose many of the same scan parameters from the app that you can from the desktop software. In our testing the app worked smoothly and was easy to use. The scanned pages are saved directly to the app where they are stored by scan job and can be shared via email or text, or sent to any other app or service you have on your phone.

Two mobile phone screenshots showing sharing options for the Epson DocumentScan app.

You can text, email, or share scanned documents to apps or cloud services installed on your phone.

A document scanner would never be anyone’s first choice to reproduce a photographic image—Epson’s user guide even specifically warns not to scan photographs. When we reached out to Epson for clarification, a representative told us, “It’s not that you can’t put a photo through the scanner, we don’t support or recommend it … the scanner has a curve in the feed path so items thicker than paper, such as photos, may not feed properly.” With that restriction in mind, we did scan a color photo at 600 ppi to see if the ES-300W could be used as a last resort when image quality and detail are not priorities.

Two images comparing image quality.

The ES-300W (left) provides acceptable results if you just need a down-and-dirty photo scan for reference. But it’s much less accurate or pleasing than what the photo-oriented Epson FF-640 (right) can do. Photos: Amadou Diallo

The result is actually pretty good for a document scanner, more faithful in color and contrast than output from other portable units we’ve tested over the years. We would never recommend putting a fragile or torn photo through a slot-feed document scanner (see our photo scanning pick instead), and we stress that Epson does not support photo scanning on the ES-300W at all. But in a pinch, the results are eminently usable for non-critical tasks like emailing a birthday picture to a family member or a damage claim to your insurance company.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Our complaints with the ES-300W concern software, rather than the scanner itself. During the wizard-based install process, a setup screen allows you to enable either a USB or Wi-Fi connection. On a Mac, however, unless you have a WPS-enabled router (and there may be valid security reasons not to), you’re forced to make the Wi-Fi connection manually, using the EpsonNet Config utility—which is about as user-friendly as it sounds. During the manual setup, I mistakenly entered an incorrect password when trying to connect the scanner to my home network. Frustratingly, EpsonNet Config never told me the password was wrong, responding instead with a “successful connection” message, which led to 45 minutes of troubleshooting before realizing my error, which I could have corrected immediately had the software given me the appropriate password error message.

Epson, confusingly, has two separate and seemingly duplicative native scanning applications, Epson Scan 2 and Document Capture. Each offers the same quality options while letting you create custom scanning presets to suit your needs. According to the user manual, you use Document Capture to configure settings for the ES-300W’s hardware start button, which offers convenient one-touch scanning (you’ll need to be in USB mode for it to work). But the manual also states that the start button will work only if the Epson Scan 2 app is running. Confused yet? On our iMac running OS 10.11, it was actually the Epson Scan 2 software, not Document Capture that determined the scan parameters when using the hardware start button. And unlike Fujitsu’s S1300i software, which lets you right-click on the scanning app’s dock icon to quickly see the currently selected preset, with Epson Scan 2 you must bring the app itself to the foreground if you need to verify the active preset.

Epson’s native scanner software uses the company’s own OCR processing engine. And while it gives very good results, it couldn’t match the 100 percent accuracy with our IRS test document that the bundled ABBYY software provided. Unfortunately, there’s no way to trigger an ABBYY-enabled scan from the scanner’s convenient hardware start button. So if you demand the utmost in accuracy, you’ll have to manually launch the ABBYY software when creating searchable PDF or text documents. It would be great to have this level of accuracy available with the hardware scan button instead.

Runner-up

Our pick portable document scanner sitting on a desk.

Photo: Michael Hession

Also great
Epson ES-200
The Epson ES-200 lacks Wi-Fi and battery power, but is otherwise identical in functionality to our main pick and comes in a slightly lighter, more compact form factor.

If you’re always able to connect to a computer via USB, you’ll find Wi-Fi support and battery power of little use. And if that’s the case, you can save yourself about $50 (at the time of this writing) and buy the Epson ES-200. It lacks a battery and Wi-Fi support but is otherwise identical in features to our top pick. The units are so similar that they even share the same user manual. Our tests, however, revealed a notable shortcoming: Powered only by its USB port, the ES-200 slowed to scan speeds nearly three times as long as those of our top pick. To get the same impressively fast results we saw with the ES-300W on this model, you’ll need to plug in the ES-200’s AC adapter. The ES-200’s lack of a battery does make it lighter by half a pound and shorter by half an inch than our top pick, a consideration if packable size is your number one priority.

Lacking a battery, the ES-200 (left) is noticeably shorter and a bit lighter than our top pick. Photo: Michael Hession

In every other respect, however, the ES-200 and ES-300W are identical. Everything else we’ve said in this guide about the more expensive scanner applies to this one as well.


The ES-200 is also sometimes sold as the almost identical DS-320. If you see that model for a better price, it’s essentially the same device.


For photo scanning

The “Upgrade pick” on a wooden desk.

Photo: Michael Hession

Upgrade pick
Epson FastFoto FF-640
The Epson FastFoto FF-640 is a much larger and more expensive option but handles a wide variety of photographic prints and delivers faster scans of business documents.

If you’re looking for a document scanner that can also take photos without bending and crumpling them while scanning, we recommend the Epson FastFoto FF-640. In addition to being a competent document scanner, it can accurately scan photos without damaging them thanks to a reconfigured scan head and roller design that doesn’t bend documents as they pass through the scanner. With a maximum resolution of 600dpi, it can convert a 4-by-6 photograph into a roughly 8.5-megapixel JPEG in 3 to 4 seconds. It’s a welcome alternative if you have shoeboxes of family photos taking up space in your closet or collecting dust under your bed and you don’t want to send them out to be scanned professionally. However, it costs more and is significantly larger than any document-only portable scanner.

Digitizing your film-era photos has obvious benefits: You can share them online, make backups for safekeeping, and, of course, free up all that space in your closet. But manually arranging photos on a flatbed scanner and then cropping each one individually is absolute drudgery. For most people we recommend outsourcing the job to one of the shops in our photo scanning service guide. But the FF-640 makes the scanning process simple and fast enough that we like it as an option if you have a very large number photos to scan, need immediate turnaround, or simply aren’t comfortable putting precious family mementos in the mail—and have the time to invest in scanning them yourself.

The FF-640 makes the scanning process simple and fast.

With a launch price of $650, the FF-640 isn’t cheap. The average scan price of the services we researched in our photo scanning guide was 40¢ per photo. Factor in a typical shipping cost of about $10 to $15 per order, and we estimate you’d have to scan about 1,500 photos (that’s around two full shoeboxes) with the FF-640 before it’s more economical than outsourcing. If those numbers work for you—and you value your money more than your time—the FF-640 is the closest thing we’ve seen yet to pain-free photo scanning.

Screenshot of Epson FastFoto software.

Epson’s FastFoto software lets you assign a capture date and custom keywords to each batch of scans. These are used to create filenames and are stored in each JPEG’s metadata.

The setup process is quick and simple. Attach the scanner’s paper guide and download the Epson software. The installer wizard will prompt you to power on and connect the FF-640 to your computer via a supplied USB cable, and you’re ready to start scanning simply by pressing the blue scan button. You can load up to 30 photos at a time into the feed slot and the print sizes don’t have to be uniform. The scanner accepts bundles of prints sized 5 by 7 inches and smaller. You can also scan prints as large as 8 by 10 inches, but you’ll need to load those individually.

Before each set of scans you can batch-apply the year and month (or decade) the photos were taken and add descriptive text, both of which will be used to create filenames as well as embedded metadata. The FastFoto software can auto-create subfolders using this information as well to help keep images organized. The software also lets you connect to your Dropbox and Google Drive accounts for automatic uploading after scanning.

Screenshot of Epson FastFoto image correction options.

The FF-640 gives you some basic auto-correction options for faded photos and flash photos that show red eye in your subjects.

The FF-640 can automatically detect notes written on the back of your photo and scan that side simultaneously, appending the original filename with a “b” for “back.” This is a clever way to ensure that helpful information about your photos gets digitized as well. The software is smart enough to ignore things like the Kodak logos on the back of prints so that only those with personalized notes get the duplex scan treatment. On a Windows computer Epson’s FastFoto app automatically links the front and back photo files, allowing you to collapse them into a single item or view them side-by-side. As of this writing the Mac version of Epson’s app lacks any image-browsing capability.

Epson claims a scan speed of one photo per second. This is accurate if you scan at the lower 300 ppi resolution and discount the time it takes for communication and processing between the scanner and your computer. Using a MacBook Air we scanned a batch of 30 photos at a range of sizes up to 5 by 7 inches. With the FF-640 set to 300 ppi, the entire process, from pressing the start button to images appearing on screen, was 38 seconds. At the scanner’s maximum resolution of 600 ppi, this same batch of photos took 1 minute, 42 seconds.

The quality of the scans is far beyond what document scanners have typically produced. The FF-640 delivers colors that are reasonably close to the original with good detail and sharpness. We compared its output with that of some of the services in our photo scanning guide and found that though our top picks yielded more accurate skin tones, more neutral black-and-whites, and better results with faded and underexposed photos, the FF-640 actually held its own in well-exposed images that had vibrant color to begin with.

In addition to its photo capabilities, you can use the FF-640 as a regular duplex document scanner. Its input tray holds up to 100 letter-sized documents, and Epson claims scan speeds of 45 pages per minute. Epson has licensed the industry-standard ABBYY OCR software for both Windows and Mac users to create searchable documents—the same software that our top and runner-up picks use.

The FF-640 has its shortcomings. For a device aimed at preserving family photos, Epson’s lack of support for Polaroid prints is disappointing. In terms of image quality the FF-640 won’t come close to the detail and resolution of even an inexpensive photo-oriented flatbed scanner like the Epson Perfection V600, which can also scan slides and negatives.

Experienced users looking for advanced controls over color and output settings will be frustrated by the FastFoto driver’s lack of manual adjustments. Files can be saved only as JPEGs, for example, rather than the higher-quality TIFF format. And scans of black-and-white photos result in a noticeably cool rather than neutral tint. Both of these flaws can be overcome by using the standard Epson Scan driver but then you lose the batch-naming, metadata, and custom subfolder features.

The FF-640 has an auto-enhance feature to minimize red eye and restore color to faded photos. For the vast majority of images we scanned, however, the auto-enhance feature made things worse, with overly contrasty results and a less accurate white balance. We’ve seen examples of this kind of technology from the likes of Adobe, Google, and Apple that work much better than Epson’s foray. We recommend leaving it off.

The FF-640 is all about speed and convenience, so there are going to be trade-offs. But if you have literally thousands of photos to scan and don’t want to send them out, the FF-640 is the easiest, most efficient option we’ve yet seen for going DIY.

The competition

Of the nearly 100 document scanners I found in my initial research, I was able to rule out the overwhelming majority of them because they were bulky, lacked a duplex scanning mode or an ADF, and/or did not run on both Windows and Mac operating systems.

The Fujitsu S1300i was our top pick in a previous version of this guide. And we still think it offers the most comprehensive and well-integrated suite of scanning software of any unit we’ve tested. It offers less than half the speed of the Epson models, however, and that’s when it’s running on AC power. Operating it off of USB power from your computer results in glacial speeds of about 4 pages per minute, compared with 22 for our current top pick. And because the scanner uses separate USB interfaces for power and data, you’re stuck with having to carry at least two cables if you work on the road. The lack of TWAIN or ICA drivers for use with third-party software makes the Fujitsu a bit less versatile as well. If you’re still happily scanning with your S1300i, we wouldn’t suggest ditching it for one of the Epson ES models. But for those shopping for a scanner, Epson has, for now, set the benchmark.

The Canon P-215II was also a previous runner-up choice, primarily because it’s fast. That advantage has been wiped away by the ES-300W and ES-200, however, both of which are not only faster, but deliver more accurate OCR performance. We were also frustrated that installing the full complement of scanning software (including third-party bundles) required a CD/DVD drive, something most laptops have long since jettisoned.

I dropped both the Xerox DocuMate 3115 and Visioneer Strobe 500 from consideration. While each includes a separate docking station for ADF loading, the scanning units alone are already larger and heavier than both our top pick and runner-up, each of which have a built-in ADF.

The Brother ADS1500W offers both TWAIN and ICA drivers for the Mac so you can drive the scanner from a wide range of programs and a small LCD to confirm scan settings. But the scanner is both heavier and slower than our main picks and is noticeably less accurate, yet costs the same as the Fujitsu S1300i. A sister model lacking Wi-Fi or the LCD, the ADS1000W, is hindered by the same weight and performance shortcomings and doesn’t offer enough of a price savings to merit a budget pick.

Since the guide has been published, we’ve gotten a few questions about why we omitted the Doxie scanners. They are small and inexpensive, and some of our readers seem to like them. But the lack of duplex (two-sided) scanning is a dealbreaker for us. Manually inserting a document twice just to scan both sides is a real time suck, and we recommend you avoid any scanners that require you to do this.

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