Brother’s DSmobile DS-940DW ($179.99) is a manual-feed portable document scanner designed for low-volume, one- and two-sided scan tasks on the road. Similar to our current top pick, Epson’s DS-80W Wireless Portable Document Scanner, the DS-940DW is accurate; comes with a comprehensive software bundle, a battery, and wireless connectivity; and goes the DS-80W one better by allowing you to scan to microSD flash memory cards. (In other words, when scanning to microSD, you don’t need to lug along a laptop—the scanner is self-contained.) All this taken together, the DSmobile DS-940DW cops an Editors’ Choice for single-sheet portable document scanners.
Small, Light, and Wireless
Before diving into a description of the DS-940DW, let’s look at an important distinction between two types of portable scanners: single-sheet or manual-feed models that accept just one page at a time (and must therefore be fed by hand), and sheet-fed travel scanners with automatic document feeders (ADFs) that hold multiple pages, such as the Editors’ Choice Epson WorkForce ES-300W Portable Wireless Duplex Document Scanner.
The capacity of the ADF varies by product; the ES-300W and several similar sheet-fed portables come with 20-sheet feeders. Obviously, the ES-300W and its ilk are better equipped to handle multipage scan jobs, whereas the DS-940DW and its competitors are designed for shorter, one- or two-page documents. The advantages of manual-feed devices are that they typically cost less and are significantly smaller and lighter.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the Brother scanner. It measures 1.8 by 12.6 by 2.5 inches and weighs about 1.5 pounds (or about half the ES-300W’s weight). Interestingly, though, the Epson DS-80W is a little shorter, about 2 inches narrower, and lighter still. (It weighs half as much as the DS-940DW.) However, aside from the Brother’s slot for a microSD card, the two devices are configured nearly identically. Both come with built-in rechargable batteries, and both support Wi-Fi and USB connectivity (though the DSmobile comes with a much faster USB 3.0 port and cable).
Even lighter is the Epson DS-70, which is essentially the DS-80W sans the battery and Wi-Fi. IRIScan’s Anywhere 5 Wi-Fi is also a little smaller and leaner than the DS-940DW, and it, too, comes with a battery and microSD support. Another PCMag favorite with a rechargable battery, the Xerox Duplex Travel Scanner, also takes up a little less backpack space than the Brother tested here, though it lacks wireless networking.
Wireless support and an internal power source, of course, allow the scanner to operate with no cords or cables, which is convenient, but the DS-940DW’s and Anywhere 5’s flash card support (a 4GB card is included with the latter) lets you scan autonomously, without being connected to a laptop, desktop, or handheld device. When you return to your home or office, you simply transfer your scans to your computer—a lot less to carry and fuss with.
You can operate the DS-940DW from your laptop or mobile device via the bundled software (which I’ll get to in a second) or from the control panel, which consists of three toggle buttons and corresponding status indicators. The three toggles are: color or monochrome scanning, saving to PDF or JPG file formats, and one-sided or two-sided scanning. There are also power and start/stop (Scan/Cancel) buttons, and on the right side of the chassis, just beneath the control panel, you’ll find a slider for selecting USB, Wi-Fi, or microSD operation and a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button for connecting to a wireless network with entering credentials.
As I said earlier, the microSD slot is located beneath the input slot, and the USB cable plugs into the left end of the chassis.
When working in tight spaces, lifting a tray on the back of the scanner reduces its footprint by redirecting the output flow upward, a feature Brother calls a U-Path Paper Feeding System.
The maximum optical resolution is 600 dpi, with an interpolated 1,200dpi. The minimum document size is 2 by 3.4 inches and the maximum size is 8.5 by 72 inches, with the smallest and largest supported plastic card sizes being 2.05 and 3.4 inches square, respectively. Brother rates the device’s maximum daily duty cycle at 100 scans.
Convenience and Productivity Software
A document scanner is worthless without software, and nowadays most manufacturers ship well-developed, feature-rich scanner interfaces for operating the hardware, optical character recognition (OCR) apps for converting scanned pages to editable text, and PDF creation and editing programs. Some companies, including Brother, also throw in fairly robust document management and archiving solutions.
With the DS-940DW you get Brother’s iPrint&Scan (available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android) for interfacing with the scanner; BR-Receipts for scanning and storing financial data; Kofax Power PDF Standard for creating and editing PDFs; Nuance PaperPort SE 14 for document management; and Presto! BizCard for scanning and archiving business cards.
Between them, these apps should provide everything you need to scan, save, convert, and manage your scans. Many of them, in fact, have overlapping functions; you may find yourself trying to decide which programs will serve your needs best—a quality problem.
How Fast Can You Feed It?
Timing how fast a manual-feed scanner and its software process one-sided pages per minute (ppm) or two-sided images per minute (ipm, where each page side is an image) is hardly an empirical endeavor. Since every sheet is fed to the scanner by hand, much depends on the user and how diligently he or she readies and feeds the next sheet, then the next, and so on.
Brother rates the DS-940DW at 16ppm for both one-sided (simplex) and two-sided (duplex) scans, though a more accurate rating for the latter would be 32 images per minute (ipm). If you stay on top of the manual feed process, that sounds about right. I tested the scanner over a USB connection from our standard Intel Core i5 testbed PC running Windows 10 Pro. The best the DS-940DW, its software, and I could manage when scanning and saving our two 25-page text documents (a simplex document consisting of 25 pages and a duplex sample containing 50 page sides) to image PDF was 13.5ppm and 27ipm. But then, I’m easily distracted.
Keeping in mind that the DS-940DW and competing single-sheet portables aren’t designed to scan long documents like our test files, these scores aren’t bad. The scanner and its software managed almost 30 seconds per page side while scanning, converting, and saving our duplex document. Epson’s DS-80W managed 11.6ppm and 23.3ipm when scanning and processing the same text pages, and its DS-70 sibling did the same work at 8.2ppm and 18.7ipm.
The Xerox Duplex Travel Scanner and IRIScan Anywhere 5 Wi-Fi both yielded around half these speeds on one-sided pages, but the Anywhere 5 doesn’t support automatic two-sided scanning, requiring that duplex pages be scanned twice.
With desktop scanners, saving a scan job to the more useful searchable PDF format required for document management and other applications takes a bit longer than saving to image PDF. My experience with most manual-feed portable scanners is that they don’t scan fast enough to overload the processing software, so there isn’t a significant difference between the time required to save a scan job to image PDF or searchable PDF.
While we don’t record searchable PDF scanning and saving speeds for single-sheet portables, I can say that the DS-940DW’s performance in the searchable PDF file tests I ran was similar to its image PDF throughput.
OCR Accuracy and Business Card Scanning Tests
While the other portable scanners mentioned here converted pages to editable text as well as many larger and much costlier desktop document scanners, the DS-940DW’s OCR accuracy is among the best I’ve seen. It scanned both our Arial and Times New Roman font test pages without errors down to 5-point font sizes. The Epson DS-80W, at 6 points without mistakes on both test pages, performed almost as well, as did the DS-70. The Xerox Travel Scanner was accurate down to 5 points with Arial and 6 points with Times New Roman, and the IRIScan Anywhere 5 WiFi managed 8 points for both tests.
For most applications—business, home, church, the kids’ soccer league, or whatever—the above accuracy scores are more than sufficient. Few documents, even legal documents such as loan and real estate contracts, contain type 8 points or smaller.
I also scanned several business cards into BizCard, with, as I’ve stated in other reviews, predictable results. The DS-940DW handled the cards nimbly enough, and the BizCard software converted the digitized text to editable text and populated its database fields with acceptable accuracy. As with all the business card software I’ve tested, however, accuracy depends mostly on card design. Plain white cards with common fonts required far less after-scan error correction than swankier cards with elaborate design features such as colored backgrounds or text superimposed over logos. The amount of retyping and the viability of scanning business cards depends primarily on the cards you scan.
Easy, Fast, and Standalone Scanning
There are so many single-sheet portable scanners available, and for the most part they’re so similar, that I went into this review with ho-hum expectations. But the DS-940DW has essentially raised the bar in a few key areas, including speed and accuracy. The software bundle is complete, and while not unique, the ability to scan to a microSD card makes carrying the scanner with you and scanning on the road less cumbersome and less complicated. Add it all up, and the Brother DSmobile DS-940DW advances manual-feed portable scanner technology enough to earn an Editors’ Choice.