Choosing a flatbed scanner
This type of scanner is used on a flat surface to capture a document, without moving the paper around to capture all elements.
It’s an optical scanner and can be used for fragile documents such as older photographs or any document which has degraded slightly over time. A flatbed can usually accommodate thicker densities due to an adjustable lid. Compared to handheld or drum scanners, a flatbed scanner is a lot less risky to use with delicate materials. They are considered the most suitable type of scanner to use when converting older documents to a digital format.
The things that you should consider when choosing a flatbed scanner will depend on your environment, budget, and the tasks you need to complete.
Optical or output resolution is the most important consideration for most people. Optical resolution refers to the actual resolution capability of the scanner. Output resolution is always higher than optical. This doesn't mean that the scanner adds higher resolution, it refers to a process of enhancing resolution that can be achieved using interpolation. This means that when an image is enlarged, the scanner can artificially add more pixels.
Most scanners are divided into the following size limit categories - A4/legal; A3 and larger than A3. Unless you are primarily going to be scanning photos, which are usually smaller than A4, it’s recommended to go for an A3 scanner to cover all eventualities. If you need to scan larger documents, especially those that are horizontally longer, your choice will be more limited.
It may seem intuitive to select the fastest scanner in your budget range but the output may not necessarily match the speed. This is because it may not be able to feed documents at its stated speed and will become idle. In today’s market, page-per-minute capabilities range from 20 to 200 ppm. Unless you know that you may need to scan large volumes at high speed, the lower speed ranges of the average scanner will be sufficient.
Drivers and capture software
Flatbed scanners will arrive with one or more applications and drivers to connect to your PC and network and manage your scans within the software and storage options you use. Most will be suitable for use in both home and work environments but always check before you purchase.
Check driver compatibility if you intend to use a different application to capture your scans, than the one that comes bundled with the scanner. To create a convenient workflow for frequent scanners, choose a model that is compatible with the software you use to store and share documents.
Other features to note:
- Most flatbed scanners come with a duplex option as standard.
- Colour modes - black and white/bitonal; grayscale; colour is often included
- Image enhancement options
Check out our guide to some of the current models on the market.
Canon LiDE 400 Colour Flatbed Scanner
This entry-level scanner is perfect if you want to produce high-resolution copies at home or in a small office. Unlike other models, this scanner has a compact slim build that will fit easily into your workspace. It can also be stored and operated in an upright position to free up further space.
Canon’s LiDE technology allows you to produce high-res 4800 x 4800 dpi scans in only 8 seconds. Just one click creates an optimal quality scan, and the double hinge Z-Lid feature means that you can scan materials up to 21mm thick.
- Compact and flexible storage
- More document-type options than handheld scanners
- Light usage only
- No transparency support
EPSON WorkForce DS-7500N
If you’re looking for something that can cope with heavy workloads, you’ll need to look for something at the higher end of the price spectrum. This networked scanner can be shared between multiple users, making it an ideal office solution. It incorporates double feed detection, 100-page ADF, and one-pass duplex scanning, perfect for fast, error-free duplication.
Epson’s Document Capture Pro feature allows you to send scans directly to your document management system, saving time and allowing quick sharing between users. It integrates with almost any repository or storage system. It also scores high on eco-friendliness - ReadyScan LED technology requires no warm-up time, removes mercury, and reduces energy consumption.
- Suitable for heavier workloads
- Networked for multiple users
- Environmentally friendly
- Bulkier than simpler models
- High price point
ImageAccess WideTEK® 25-600 Wide Format Flatbed
This large colour model can accept documents measuring up to 18.5 x 25", and outperforms its nearest rival with a scan time that’s twice as fast, at three seconds.
Transparent source material can be scanned, thanks to an x-ray-style backlight. As well as x-rays, it’s ideal for those who need to reproduce sepias, cutout stencils, glass negatives, film and 35mm microfilm aperture cards.
As the world’s fastest-performing large colour flatbed, it integrates with applications used in every market. This includes great coverage across specialist software in professional sectors, including industry, government, medicine, and creative.
- Transparency and specialist materials support
- Fast reproduction
- Integration with popular applications in multiple sectors
- Slightly bulkier than standard models
Fujitsu Fi-7260 High-Speed A4 Colour Sheet Fed & Flatbed Duplex Scanner
This model incorporates both document feed and flatbed scanning and is able to manage up to 80 sheets at a time, and 9000 sheets per day.
The Skew reducer feature ensures that high-volume feeding is stable and Fujitsu’s Paper Protection feature also ensures that documents can be processed risk-free. Its ultrasonic multi-feed function guards against lost images, with a backlit LCD light to enable you to view your operations with ease.
- Good value
- Hybrid document feed and flatbed scanner
- Risk-free processing of large-volume documents
- No specialist material support
- May require more space than other models