Large Format Scanner Review
How to Select a Large Format Scanner
The world is going digital at a dizzying rate, but not every document destined for digitization is 8.5 x 11 inches. Our review of large format scanners should aid in the selection of a product that can scan documents larger than a normal page. It should come as no surprise that the more expensive large document scanners are not necessarily better.
Large Format Scanner Buyer’s Guide
Examine the specifications with a critical and objective eye. Avoid the temptation to prefer a product just because it has a brand that you know or have trusted. Technology vendors are engaged in a game of perpetual leapfrog, which means that on any particular day your favorite brand may or may not be the most prudent purchase.
Ask yourself a few questions to narrow the field. Which features matter to your situation? What is the maximum size of a document that you might need to scan? Do you want an automatic document feeder or would a flatbed scanner be better? How important is it to get the maximum pixel density? Is 4,800 dots per inch required or could you get by with 600 dots per inch? Does the product work with Windows and Macintosh? What kind of technical support do you prefer? How important is it that the large document scanner be ENERGY STAR and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive) compliant?
Are legal-sized documents the largest that you will scan, or will you need to scan up to two regular 8.5 x 11-inch documents at the same time? The large format scanners in our review have a wide variety of capabilities and prices, but when it comes to maximum document size, there are just two choices: 8.5 x 14 inches or 11.68 x 16.52 inches (A3, the metric functional equivalent to 11 x 17-inch paper). If you need to scan larger documents, then you will need to move up to a range of large scanner products that cost thousands, not hundreds, of dollars.
Some of the large format scanners in our review use photoelectric devices called contact image sensors and some use a color charged-coupled device. What is the difference? Contact image sensors use red, green and blue light-emitting diodes to produce white light. Charge-coupled devices use mirrors and lenses in combination with a cold cathode ray fluorescent lamp. Contact image sensors cost less, draw less power and occupy less physical space than charge-coupled devices. However, charge-coupled devices provide higher quality scans than contact image sensors and are capable of a greater field of focus. Greater depth of field is important for copying opened thick books, so that the gutter is included in the scan. Greater field of focus is also important for practitioners of scanography, a form of art that involves scanning three-dimensional objects.
Help & Support
All of the large format scanners in our review have one-year manufacturer warranties. The technical support policies have differences, varying from email support during the warranty to telephone and email support during the life of the product.
For further information, we invite you to read articles about large format scanners. The winner of our large format scanner review is the Mustek Scan Express A3 USB 2400 Pro, which, coincidentally, has the best price in our large scanner lineup. It has the best price partly because it uses contact image sensors, which means that it is not best when it comes to field of focus. If you often copy large books simply by opening them and placing them face down on the scanner, our second place large scanner, the Plustek OpticPro A320, would be better because it is more likely to copy the book’s gutter. If maximum density of scan is of highest importance, then our third-place large format scanner is indicated: the HP Scanjet 8300.
At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™