Which portable scanner is best?

Despite the overwhelming amount of daily life that takes place in digital spaces and on digital devices, some things remain physical. Important documents, pictures, even receipts can be scanned and converted into digital files with a portable scanner. You need to choose a good one, though, or you could end up with grainy images or complicated transfer processes.

The best portable scanner is the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 Wireless Mobile Portable Scanner. It can scan a full-color document in under six seconds.

What to know before you buy a portable scanner

Size and weight

Portable scanners come in a variety of designs that can make carrying them easier — or not. Some scanners marketed as portable are too large and heavy for comfortable portability. Most portable scanners weigh 1-2 pounds and are roughly 1 foot long. The smallest and lightest weigh less than a pound and are smaller than 1 foot.

Connectivity

Portable scanners connect to a computer or mobile device using a USB cable, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or a mix of the three.

  • USB is the most stable, but the most limiting. There’s no risk of a scan being interrupted by an unstable connection, but you can only use it with computers and you have to carry the cable along with the machine.
  • Bluetooth is the standard. It can connect to any device so long as it is Bluetooth capable, including phones and tablets. It doesn’t require an internet connection, so you can use it truly anywhere.
  • Wi-Fi can send your scans to the cloud service of your choosing, but you must have a stable internet connection to use it. This makes it a good choice for office-to-office or office-to-home traveling, but a poor choice for coffee shop-style work spaces.

Power source

Portable scanners are powered via battery, USB, outlet or a mix of the three.

  • Battery power is the most common, as it makes the scanner usable anywhere. Battery life varies greatly, so make sure to double-check it before purchasing.
  • USB power is a good alternate, but it’s somewhat limiting. If you’re on the go with a laptop — it doesn’t work with tablets and phones — you shouldn’t have a problem unless you have limited USB ports and need several accessories. 
  • Outlet power is the most stable, but the most limiting. If you’re moving between your home and an office it shouldn’t be a hassle, but trying to find an outlet and a good working space together while traveling is an exercise in frustration.

What to look for in a quality portable scanner

Resolution

The scans’ resolution is given in dots per inch. Dpi is far more important if you’re scanning images — if it’s too low, the image will be grainy and poor. For images, look for a scanner with 450-600 dpi minimum. If you’re only scanning text, any scanner should do.

Document coding

Portable scanners used to only scan what they took in as an image, so it was impossible to do anything but look at it. Today, top-quality scanners can scan a document and convert it into a searchable PDF, an editable Word file or both.

Automatic document feeder

If you need to scan a large number of documents regularly, make sure your portable scanner has an automatic document feeder — otherwise, you need to manually push and pull each document through.

How much you can expect to spend on a portable scanner

Portable scanners can cost as little as $30-$50, though these options are rarely worth it. Better models for occasional or one-off needs are available for $50-$100, but you’ll need to spend $100-$400 for serious scanning.

Portable scanner FAQ

How much noise does a portable scanner make?

A. Surprisingly little. In fact, most are quiet enough to use in a library without bothering anyone nearby, and especially quiet enough for your local coffee shop.

Does the physical size of the document matter when using a portable scanner?

A. Yes, to an extent. Portable scanners are rarely too small to be able to scan an average-sized document — that’s 8 1/2 by 11 inches. However, due to their portable nature, they’re rarely large enough to scan anything bigger. Especially small items, such as business cards or small photos, can also be hard to scan; however, some scanners include special slots or accessories for these small items.

What’s the best portable scanner to buy?

Top portable scanner 

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 Wireless Mobile Portable Scanner

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 Wireless Mobile Portable Scanner

What you need to know: It’s high-quality and works quickly.

What you’ll love: It can scan a complex color document in 5.2 seconds and is compatible with all major desktop and mobile operating systems. It weighs just under a pound and has a rechargeable battery with a good lifespan. It connects with USB or over Wi-Fi.

What you should consider: It has no onboard memory and no option to insert removable memory — essentially, it only works when connected to a computer.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples

Top portable scanner for the money

Brother DS-720D Mobile Color Page Scanner

Brother DS-720D Mobile Color Page Scanner

What you need to know: It’s an older scanner but a good value.

What you’ll love: It can scan double-sided pages and can send the scans to several destinations at once. You can choose to have each scan saved individually or several scans saved together as one file. It scans at up to 600 by 600 dpi.

What you should consider: It has no battery — it must be connected to a computer to function. It cannot communicate with computers using macOS.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Doxie Q Rechargeable Document Scanner

Doxie Q Rechargeable Document Scanner

What you need to know: It’s a well-performing scanner for a reasonable price.

What you’ll love: It has an automatic document feeder that can be broken down to save space while traveling. It can connect with most OSs, including Apple computers and mobile devices. The controls are easy to use and its scans have a resolution of up to 600 dpi.

What you should consider: Some purchasers had issues with the scanner breaking down after a few months. Others had issues with the software, especially on iPhones.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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