[IMGCAP(1)]In my last post, I went into some detail about my travel kit, which in many ways is probably similar to the one many of you pack when on the road. Probably the biggest difference is that my travel kit frequently contains a portable scanner. I tend to do a lot of scanning, often turning documents into PDF files, or scanning a document and using OCR (optical character recognition) to turn it into a Word file.

When I’m at my desk and need to scan documents, I usually use the scanner built into one of the Epson MFPs I have on the network. Both MFPs have ADFs and can duplex a scan, so they are great for pretty much all of my current scanning needs. The scanners in the MFPs have fairly high optical resolution, on the order of 1200 x 2400 dpi (dots per inch).

In reality, I generally scan at 300 dpi, which is generally the best resolution for performing OCR or creating sharp PDFs. If I really need higher resolution, to blow up a hi-resolution image or photo for printing on one of the wide-format printers, I use a photo scanner. These have higher optical resolution, and I usually calibrate them for best color accuracy. But scanning at 2400 dpi produces some truly humongous files, so this isn’t something I do every day.

At the moment, I have four portable scanners, all but one of which contain rechargeable batteries and all of which can scan 8 ½ x 11 inch documents. My go-to in the past has been a Xerox branded scanner from Visioneer. I’ve had several over the past two decades, and they’ve all been reliable and have easily taken a drubbing. The latest in my arsenal is the $250 Xerox Mobile scanner. It weighs in at 1.5 pounds, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider that many users pay a premium for a lightweight Ultrabook over a laptop, and is the heaviest of the four portable scanners I have. It also comes with an AC adapter (which also recharges the internal batteries), a USB cable, and a 4GB Eye-Fi SD card and Wi-Fi adapter. Software includes Nuance PaperPort (which is what I use when I’m not using Sharepoint) and OmniPage, arguably one of the best OCR applications available. On the downside, it doesn’t come with a TWAIN driver, so unless you’re using one of the applications it directly supports, you need to scan to a file (or to the cloud) and import that file into your application.

The doxie go, from Apparent, is smaller and lighter than the Xerox, but also uses an Eye-Fi Wi-Fi card to give it wireless capability. The doxie is very light (about 15 ounces) and measures only 10.5 x 1.7 x 2.2 inches. It sells for about $230 and if you don’t need the Wi-Fi capability, you can get the non-wireless version for about 50 bucks less. Apparent includes ABBYY OCR with the scanner.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap ix100 is about the size of the doxie, but it doesn’t require a separate Wi-Fi adapter. It sells for just about $200, and comes with a suite of software. It’s an attractive unit, but I’m not a big fan of proprietary software, and the scanner, like several other portable ones, doesn’t support TWAIN. But there are a lot of things about the ix100 that I like. There’s a small switch in the rear to turn the Wi-Fi off if you connect via USB, and the scanner opens up to provide a small sheet feeder and output tray.

The newest model in my lineup is a just released Workforce DS-40. I haven’t had a lot of time to play with it yet, but my first impressions are positive ones. The scanner comes with a nice suite of software (Epson’s own scan utility and Capture Pro, ABBYY OCR, and downloadable apps for the iPad and Android tablets), and four alkaline non-rechargeable batteries. It’s also TWAIN compatible, so you can scan directly into applications that support that driver. And Wi-Fi is built in—it doesn’t require a separate card.

All four of these scanners have pluses and minuses. The Xerox is the largest and bulkiest, and requires an external Wi-Fi SD card adapter. It’s not TWAIN compatible, but I really like the software it comes with, and the Nuance PDF Converter can pretty much format the scan into whatever you need. It’s also built like a truck. The doxie is very small and light, but like the Xerox requires an Eye-Fi card for wireless operation (or use with my iPad) and lacks an ADF.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap ix100 also lacks an ADF, but it’s small, light, and doesn’t need an external Wi-Fi card. My only real complaint with it is that the PC and Mac drivers don’t support TWAIN and that the software is completely proprietary, though it seems to work well. As with all four scanners, the Fujitsu supports portable devices including Android tablets and the iPad.

But if I had to choose only one of the four, it would likely be Epson’s DS-40. I like the included software and the fact that it’s also TWAIN compliant, though that’s more important when I’m traveling with a laptop rather than my iPad. But what really sold me was that it uses standard AA batteries that you can buy anywhere in the world. Rechargeable batteries are nice, but you either have to have a charger, or drain your laptop’s battery to charge the scanner through the USB port. Being able to use easily obtainable throw-away batteries might not be the most environmentally responsible approach but, for me, it’s the most practical.

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