How to Pick the Best Computer Scanner for You

The computer scanner is an essential bit of kit, whether you’re backing up business documents in the office or filing tax receipts at home.

Zero-footprint digital files are now the preferred storage method among individuals and enterprises. Cloud storage and file archiving innovations allow us to scan and organise information easily—no more combing through a disorderly filing cabinet to retrieve decade-old documents.   

But not all computer scanners are created equally. Some specialise in large-scale document replication, while others are suitable for ad-hoc at-home use.

We’ve put together this in-depth guide to help you pinpoint the best scanner for you.

Common scanner types

Modern computer scanners come in five types: flatbed, sheet feed, all-in-one, overhead, and portable.

Flatbed scanners

The flatbed scanner has you place documents on a flat plane of rectangular glass and close the lid on top of it. It’s the fastest and most hassle-free way to scan individual documents and photos, including those of irregular shapes and sizes. Generally speaking, it also achieves the best results.

Many flatbed scanners have a sheet-feeding function with an Automated Document Feeder (ADF). While flatbeds are large and somewhat expensive, they also offer the most versatility.

Good for: office use, large-scale scanning projects, documents of varying size, delicate documents

Sheet feed scanners

The sheet feeder lets you put your ready-to-scan documents into a printer-like paper feeder. The device runs the sheet through its roller mechanisms, scans and stores the information, and then feeds each sheet out the bottom.

Sheet feeders are relatively small, so don’t expect to scan anything bigger than an A4/A3 sheet. While they do work on delicate documents, you risk damaging the paper. Moreover, sheet feeders won’t work with thick or pint-sized documents like a driver’s license.

Good for: home and office use, regular-sized sheets (A3/A4)

All-in-one printer

The all-in-one (AIO) printer is a scanner and printer built into the same box. The best scanner printers are versatile, space-saving machines covering most everyday tasks, including printing, scanning, and faxing.

However, they don’t offer the same heavy-duty capability as a standalone scanner and entail higher maintenance and ink-replacement costs. AIO printers use either the sheet feed or flatbed method.

Good for: light or infrequent home or office use, compact spaces 

The overhead scanner

The overhead scanner resembles one of those old overhead projectors, with an elevated head that peers down and scans the media beneath it. These relatively uncommon scanner types are ideal for books, magazines, and thick or bulky objects that don’t fit in a flatbed or sheet feeder.

While scanning books on a flatbed is possible, it’s also quite tiresome. The overhead scanner speeds up the book-scanning process and helps to flatten the curve in the spine.

Good for: frequent book and magazine scanning, irregularly shaped objects

Portable scanners

As the name implies, the portable scanner is designed for creating digital copies on the go. The best portable scanners easily slip inside your suitcase and take up minimal space on a desk.

The downside is these are much slower and more laborious to use.

Good for: scanning while on business travel

The key scanner considerations

Once you’ve settled on the ideal scanner type, there are many other features to consider.

Automatic document feeder

While the flatbed scanner is superb for making quick one-off copies, lifting and closing the lid becomes a chore when scanning long, multi-page documents. However, the best models offer a handy workaround: the ADF. This functionality lets you place a thick document stack into a sheet feeder-like input and automatically scans each page for you.

Think about how many pages you would typically scan at once, then look for a suitable ADF capacity. If you occasionally need to scan more pages, you can always add them manually.

Two-sided (duplex) scanning

Duplex functionality is essential for anyone who expects to scan double-sided sheets.

The fastest, most high-tech option is an automated duplex scanner with two scanning elements, one on each side of the sheet. These specialist machines scan both sides simultaneously, allowing you to churn through substantial two-sided documents at record speed. However, a high price tag means they’re only really viable for heavy-duty duplex scanning use.

The more common and cost-effective solution is manual duplex scanning. With this function, you let the scanner copy the entire document on one side, then flip it over and re-feed it into the sheet feeder to scan the other side. In-built software will automatically sort each page so it appears in the correct order in your digital file.  


Although resolution can be a consideration, any modern scanner is suitable for everyday use. For example, document replication only requires 200 dots-per-inch (DPI), while scanned photos will look fine on 600 DPI. A decent modern scanner boasts 600 DPI, more than enough for normal use.  

However, a higher DPI can come in handy in certain situations. If you need to zoom in on photos or scan small, highly-detailed items like postage stamps, then the stock-standard 600 DPI won’t cut it.

Sheet size

The minimum and maximum sheet size determine the dimensions of the documents you can insert into a sheet feeder or ADF. The flatbed-style scanner, however, is only limited by the maximum size.

Any decent scanner will let you scan an A4 document (210 × 297 mm), the United Kingdom’s most common sheet size. However, should you need to scan A3 sheets (297 x 420 mm) or larger, you’ll need to ensure your scanner is compatible with these dimensions.

The same applies to the minimum sheet size. If you need to scan tiny A6 sheets (105 x 148 mm), check whether the sheet feeder can handle something that small.

Scanner size

Computer scanners come in various shapes and sizes, from big bulky flatbeds to petite sheet feeding machines. Consider how much space you’ve got to spare and shop accordingly.

An AIO can save precious desk real estate if you need to squeeze a printer and scanner into a compact space.

Scanning speed

Investing in a high-speed scanner could be worthwhile if you expect an intense workload. On the other hand, intermittent users could make do with a slower device.

Manufacturers measure speed in Pages Per Minute (PPM). The actual PPM will depend on the resolution (DPI), the sheet size, the shading (mono, grey scale, or full colour), and whether it’s one-sided or duplex scanning.

Duty cycle

The recommended duty cycle refers to how many pages the scanner can handle daily.

Again, offices with heavy-duty needs want a high-duty cycle, while infrequent or home users needn’t worry too much. Even the more basic models are suitable for 3,000 or more daily scans.

ADF capacity

ADF capacity determines how many sheets you can load at once. If you regularly work with thick lengthy documents, aim for 80 or more.

Nonetheless, most users could get away with the industry-standard 50-capacity ADF. Remember, you can always manually add more sheets when scanning long documents.


Some scanners work seamlessly with Windows, iOS, and Linux. However, not every scanner is compatible with every operating system.

Always check before you buy.


The best computer scanners include complimentary software capable of performing various useful tasks. Examples include cloud integration, automated document management, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert scanned text into an editable Word file or PDF.

Other handy in-built software applications let you edit and catalogue your images on the fly.

The best scanners from HP

Now you’re up to speed on what to look for, we’ll do a quick round-up of the best computer scanners from HP®.

Best flatbed: HP ScanJet Pro 4500 fn1 Network Scanner

HP ScanJet Pro 4500 fn1 Network ScannerHP ScanJet Pro 4500 fn1 Network Scanner
  • ADF capacity: 50 sheets

  • Duplex: Yes

  • Scanning size: Letter; Legal; Executive; A4; A5; A6; B5; B5 (JIS)

  • Resolution: ADF 600 dpi, 1200 dpi flatbed

  • Speed: 30 ppm

  • Duty cycle: 4000 pages (ADF), 100 pages (Flatbed)

Get the best of both worlds through this top-of-the-line flatbed scanner with an in-built ADF. The HP ScanJet Pro 4500 fn1 is a brilliant option for office workers who require a heavy-duty device capable of large scanning workloads. Furthermore, the rapid single-page convenience of a flatbed makes it the best scanner for photos.  

Wireless connectivity, a high-resolution DPI (1,200 on the flatbed), and a zippy scanning speed let you breeze through all sorts of documents with ease.  

Best sheet feed for office use: HP ScanJet Enterprise Flow 7000 s3

HP ScanJet Enterprise Flow 7000 s3 Sheet-feed ScannerHP ScanJet Enterprise Flow 7000 s3 Sheet-feed Scanner
  • ADF capacity: 80 sheets

  • Duplex:  Yes

  • Scanning size: U.S.-Letter, U.S.-Legal, U.S.-Executive, B5, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8

  • Resolution: 600 DPI

  • Speed: 75 PPM

  • Duty cycle: 7,500

Busy workplaces should invest in this enterprise-level scanning workhorse. HP ScanJet Enterprise Flow 7000 s3 is capable of pumping out a whopping 75 PPMP, it’s the fastest sheet feed option from HP and our best scanner for documents.

The impressive 80-sheet capacity lets you scan thick documents with less effort, while the high 7,500-page daily duty cycle ensures it’ll withstand frequent use for years to come. Despite the high-end specs, the slender unit fits snugly on a small corner of your desk.

Best sheet feed for home use: HP ScanJet Pro 2000 s2 Sheet-feed Scanner

HP ScanJet Pro 2000 s2 Sheet-feed ScannerHP ScanJet Pro 2000 s2 Sheet-feed Scanner
  • ADF capacity: 50 sheets

  • Duplex: Yes

  • Scanning size: U.S.-Letter, U.S.-Legal, U.S.-Executive, B5, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8

  • Resolution:  600 DPI

  • Speed: 35 PPM

  • Duty cycle: 3,500

At home or infrequent office users don’t need to spend big on a lightning-fast machine. This sleek little sheet feeder covers all your essential everyday scanning tasks for an affordable price. An instant-on feature lets you start your scanning with one touch, while a resolution of up to 600 DPI ensures crystal clear clarity.

While the HP ScanJet Pro 2000 s2 is slower than our heavy-duty options, its respectable 35 PPM speed is rapid enough for any light to moderate user.

Choosing the best scanner for you

HP sells computer scanners for numerous users, from interment work-at-home freelancers to heavy-use enterprises.

Scan (pardon the pun) through the key considerations and device types to help you identify which of these three models is the best bet for you.