3 document scanners: Move your data from paper to pixels

Alternatively, to start a scan with the default settings (which can be set through the scanner's software), just feed a sheet of paper into the scanner -- it starts up automatically and sucks the sheet in. It's the only one of the three that offers this.

The Panasonic is equipped with two 600-dpi optical scanning elements that can create double-sided single-bit, grayscale and 24-bit color scans. The document feeder works with sheets up to 100 in. long, holds up to 50 sheets at a time and works with up to 55-lb. paper stock; Panasonic rates it at 20ppm.

To prevent originals from getting damaged, the Panasonic has a built-in ultrasonic sensor. As soon as it senses a change in the scanner's vibration level -- an indication that two originals are being simultaneously fed into the mechanism -- it shuts down the scan process so you can rescue your documents.

Because the scanner can work only with Windows PCs -- although the company says it's working on Mac software -- the Panasonic comes up short on compatibility compared to the Fujitsu ScanSnap and Brother ImageCenter. The Panasonic comes with document management and sharing package Presto PageManager 9, Presto BizCard 6 and Panasonic's own Image Capture Plus, which helps you edit and organize your scans.

The Panasonic doesn't have either an Ethernet connection or Wi-Fi, so you have to be connected to an online computer in order to scan to any type of cloud storage. Once you are connected, Panasonic's software lets you store scans in Evernote and Google Drive, and can synchronize contact info with Salesforce.com data.

At a Glance

Panasonic KV-S1015C

Panasonic

Price: $495.00

Pros: Relatively inexpensive, instant feed, 3 programmable scan buttons, 3-year warranty

Cons: Windows only, slow scans, no networking ability

Performance and quality

The Panasonic was the slowest of the three scanners reviewed here. It scanned the stack of 10 originals at 13.9 ppm, one-third slower than the Fujitsu ScanSnap. At 2.0ppm, it took roughly twice as long for it to scan the magazine cover in color as the Fujitsu ScanSnap or Brother ImageCenter took.

The exception to this was the stack of five business cards, which it scanned at the rate of 40.3ppm, slightly faster than the Fujitsu ScanSnap and more than twice as fast as the Brother ImageCenter.

I did note that the software was very effective at correcting problems. When I scanned in my driver's license, the document went in crooked, but the software de-skewed the image and the scan looked great. Overall, the system produced sharp edges and quality scans.

Bottom line

While it costs the same as the Fujitsu ScanSnap, the Panasonic KV-S1015C offers (unlike the other two scanners) a three-year warranty that includes shipping out a replacement machine next day. At $495, it's a great scanner at a great price, even though it's a bit slower than its rivals.

Conclusions

To my mind, desktop scanning is all about ease of use and flexibility. If it isn't easy and quick, the paperwork will pile up.

These three desktop scanners have vastly different ways of fulfilling their mission of turning paper into pixels. For instance, the Panasonic KV-S1015C has three preset scanning buttons for different types of originals and includes a three-year warranty. It, however, lacks networking, apps for phones or tablets and is limited to working with Windows PCs.

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.

This story, "3 document scanners: Move your data from paper to pixels" was originally published by Computerworld.

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