Whether you’re scanning specialized items, keeping
your luggage light, or yearning to be free of cables
and cords, you’ll find the perfect
portable scanner on our list.
The Best Portable Scanners for 2021
By William Harrel
December 8, 2020
Undaunted by the Covid-era reduction in business travel, the category of portable scanners is growing by leaps and bounds to support taking all kinds of work on the road. Portable scanners come in several different flavors, with widely varying features and capabilities—and some are more portable than others. We’ve pulled together our favorites for a broad range of applications, including specialty scanners for collecting business cards at trade shows or digitizing book pages in libraries.
Most portable scanners don’t need to be plugged into an AC power source to function. A few have batteries, and others get their juice via a USB tether to a desktop PC or laptop. Truly wireless scanners transmit data to your computer, phone, or tablet over Wi-Fi, and some support memory cards that allow you to scan without a device present at all.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a scanner. Frequent business travelers will need to balance wanting the smallest and lightest scanners with the need for particular features such as two-sided scanning, high resolution, and high scanning speed. If you’re scanning documents, you’ll need good optical character recognition (OCR) that converts scanned text to editable text; if you scan at high volume, you’ll want to consider the scanner’s daily duty cycle, which is the recommended number of pages it can scan per day. On the other hand, if you mostly scan invoices, sales receipts, applications, and other short documents, a more costly portable with a 20-page automatic document feeder (ADF) is overkill.
Before delving into our top picks for specific scanning-on-the-road scenarios, let’s first take a closer look at what features make specific types of portable scanners best suited for particular tasks.