Portable scanners, what a time to be alive, am I right?
In a typical week, I find myself needing to scan half a dozen documents and typically I either simply take a photo with my phone, or I run to a local Fedex shop and have it done there. Last week, I decided to change that, I felt that instead of lessening my own pockets while padding the pockets of FedEx, I should go out and buy my own scanner.
I’ve been reluctant of purchasing a scanner previously due to the lack of desk space that I have in my home office. I simply didn’t have any table space to place a scanner on, and my drawers were cluttered to the top, so that was out of the question. When I noticed that there were portable scanners on the market, that are literally less than a foot long with a width less than 4 inches, I realized I might have found the perfect solution.
If you’re here from Amazon.com, then you would know what dilemma I faced, what portable scanner do I purchase? None of the popular scanners on Amazon have 4.5 stars or higher, and each one is littered with a bunch of complaints. Ultimately, I chose the Brother DS-920DW Wireless Duplex Mobile Color Page Scanner. This scanner sells for between $140-$180 depending on what merchant you purchase it from and compared to its competitors (such as Aspen), it’s a bit on the high end.
The few things that I liked about the “Brother” portable scanner was it scanned in both black and white. You’re able to transfer scans either by a memory card, USB cord, or even wirelessly. That you’re able to scan the front and back of a document in on go, that’s very convenient. Most importantly, the quality, it’s able to scan at a 1200 x 1200 resolution, which is quite impressive.
I’ve been using the scanner now for a few days, so I believe I’m in the position to discuss how it works, and any shortcomings that come with the purchase of this scanner. Let’s begin with the unboxing!
The brother scanner arrives in a large, sturdy box…what else is there to say? It’s a box! But feel free to click on the images to enlarge them if you care to read what the packaging actually says.
Let’s open the bad boy up now!
The good news is that your brand new portable scanner is packaged quite well. The scanner itself is wrapped up in material, snuggly fit inside the placeholder with a soft sponge on both ends. You can already get a basic idea on the size of the scanner itself compared to the documentation that it comes with to the right of it.
Time for an ariel shot! Notice that in this image, I’ve actually labeled several parts with a letter, that way I easily refer to them in this post.
a. This is the calibration sheet. This is a piece of paper that is white on one-half, and black on the other half. It is recommended by the manufacturer that after 8,000 scans, you re-calibrate the scanner to make sure the colors are correct. Planning on using the scanner rarely? Well, the same manufacturer also states that after a prolonged period of non-use, you should calibrate it. We’ll cover how to do this a bit later in the review.
b. That is downloadable software. In other words, throw it out – right now. It’s absolutely useless and there is ZERO use for that software. Again, throw it out, please.
c. The company is kind enough to ship your scanner with a 4GB memory card that slides right into the scanner. That’s awfully nice of them and gets them a thumbs up from me.
d. Mico-USD cable. You should have about twenty of them laying around your house already, but if you don’t, then welcome to the interwebs. This cable will be used to transfer images from the scanner to your PC/laptop AND to also charge your scanner.
e. The black box is a charging adapter for the lithium battery that this scanner runs on. If you do not want to charge using the Micro-USD cord, then you can simply pop the battery out of the scanner, insert it into the charging adapter, and then plug the adapter into the outlet. Simple science.
At this point, I’ve taken off all the protective wrapping off the scanner and laid everything else out nicely for a stylish picture. Take notice of the lithium battery, it’s a 3.7-volt battery. Everything is laying on a nice black carrying case included with your purchase, the scanner slides perfectly inside and then can be tightened at the top of the bag. Again, thumbs up to the company.
Time for the money shots!
Whenever you feed paper to the scanner, you must always place the edge of your paper against the left side. It may not be visible in this image, but there is a “sensor” about half an inch of the left wall when that sensor is tripped, it lets the scanner know that you are attempting to scan a document.
Lots of goodies in this image. Take note of the slot at the very bottom, that is where you insert your memory card. Right above that, the “hanging black thing” is your document guide. Whenever you plan to scan a document, make sure to drag this guide over to the right edge of your document. This lets the scanner know the exact width of your document. If you fail to do so, then you’ll notice that your scan will appear with a lot of empty space on the side.
Up and above we have the actual controls. Turning the scanner on is quite simply, it’s the power button – just click. The LSD display will always show you the current settings. It will let you know whether you are scanning in black or white if you’re printing one side or both sides if you care for it to be a jpeg or pdf file, and how much battery your scanner has left. If you want to switch any of those settings, you simply tap the button that coordinates with that settings. If the LSD display says that you are scanning in “black/mono”, then simply click the associated button, and it will switch over to “color”. Same for all the other options.
Now that we have all that out of the way, how did the darn thing scan? I’m glad you asked.
When I first turned the scanner on, I attempted to scan a document right away – that didn’t work. Not sure why, but it looks like you may need to give the scanner a few minutes from when you first turn it on for it to operate. Do make sure that the memory card is inserted, as well as the battery before attempting any scan.
Once I noticed that the scanner was operatable, I decided to take a piece of paper from a different review and scan it in color, the result:
I recommend clicking on the actual image to get a better idea of the quality. The quality, in my opinion, is that it’s quite good. When I zoom into the image itself, I can notice sharpness in the images and the text. Keep in mind that the background of the paper itself is actually not white, which is why you may notice that “greenish” background. Where the heck I get this paper from? Well, it’s from a separate review where I spoke about StitchFix, and in that review, I had to shamefully take a picture of the documents instead of scanning it.
What should stick out to you is the yellow outline on the left and bottom side. I consider this to be a flaw with the scanner, particularly in color mode. For some scans, you will notice this color in the margins, and I believe it’s simply an error with the scanner itself figuring out the dimensions of your paper. In this case, I made sure the document was to the left side as possible, and that the guide was properly used. Either way, this isn’t a huge problem, since it’s a quick process to crop the yellow margin out.
Here is the black/white scan:
Yes, I did scan a document that came with the scanner, but most importantly, the scan came out quite well! Everything is crystal clear with good quality. A flaw that you may notice here is that the scan itself is not perfectly straight, notice the top of the page? The grayness above the black bar on the right side is actually “emptiness”. In black/white mode, emptiness is gray, and in color mode, emptiness is in color. The reason why emptiness appeared in this scan was because the paper wasn’t fed completely straight. I’ll admit, that is obviously user error, but it’s not that easy to feed the paper at a perfectly straight angle. So for this, it should be 50/50 blame.
Overall, the scanning quality of the scanner is pretty impressive and definitely acceptable. You’ll definitely even see higher quality from an actual $300 scanner that is 4x the size, but for a portable scanner, the quality is acceptable.
How To Transfer Images To Your Computer:
We are going to cover three methods for transferring images, via memory card, via micro-USB cord, and wirelessly.
Memory Card Transfers: If you have a laptop that has a slot for a memory card, then you simply eject the card out of your scanner, and inject it into your laptop. From there, you will likely receive a popup from your laptop asking you what you want to do, in that case, you simply select the option view the folder. Nothing crazy here.
Mico-USD Transfers: Make sure that the memory card is inside the scanner, and turn your scanner on. Connect the right end of the cord to your scanner, and the other to your PC/laptop. Just as the last time, your computer should recognize a new device trying to connect, and it will ask you if you want to view the folder. Simple.
Wireless Transfers: When you read the reviews on the Brother DS-920DW scanner on Amazon, you’ll notice that many customers mention that the WIFI transfers with the scanner do not work. When I first tried to use the feature, I also was not able to make it work. BUT, my mother never raised a quitter! I dug a bit deeper into the user guide, and I was finally able to figure out how it’s done, and the best news – it works!
- Turn on your scanner.
- On the right side of your scanner, you’ll notice an on/off switch. Toggle the switch to “on”.
- Turn on your laptop, and look for a WIFI Network Name that contains “Brother DS-920DW-XXXX” in the name. Once you find it, connect to it.
- You will be prompted for a password to use the WIFI network, use “dsmobile” as the password.
- Once you’re connected to the network. Head over to http://10.10.100.1
- A screen will appear asking you to create a username and password. These will be your user credentials to access the images on your scanner.
- You’re done, you should be seeing the following screen now:
From this page, you will always be able to find any scans found on your memory card. New scans also appear quite quickly, you simply have to refresh the page to see any new scans. It’s worth noting that you will always have to connect to the Brother WIFI Network to access this page, and when doing so, you will not be able to use the internet to access any web pages. Nevertheless, WIFI transfers do work with this scanner, it’s simply a little complicated if you try to follow the user guide itself.
Calibrating Your Scanner
There are a couple cues as to when you want to calibrate your Brother scanner:
- You’ve scanned more than 8,000 times (keep count I guess?)
- The scan appears to be fuzzy
- The colors are darker than they should be
- You haven’t used the scanner for a long period of time
Fortunately enough, calibrating your scanner is quite simple.
- Turn on your scanner
- Click on the “Menu” button on your scanner.
- Use the arrows to move between options until the word “CAL” appear.
- Time to feed in your calibration paper that I’ve previously labeled in an image. Hold the paper horizontal and make sure to feed the white side in first.
- Press “OK”
- The scanner should now pull in the paper and complete the process.
You should be good to go!
Overall, the Brother DS-920DW scanner is a worthwhile purchase. For a portable scanner, it yields good quality scans with minor drawbacks. The two issues we discussed such as the empty space being caught, or the paper not being aligned are simply issues that I believe will be found with all portable scanners. It’s less of a drawback of this specific scanner, more so of the whole “portable scanner” niche. I’ve read a few complaints online in regards to the battery dying after a year or poorly charging but keep in mind, if the battery goes bad, don’t toss the scanner out, just simply buy a new battery. Lithium batteries (also found in your smartphones) are well known for charging fast, but also for deteriorating with each charging cycle.
If you’re sold on the scanner, click here to head over to Amazon to make your purchase. If you’ve already purchased the scanner but still have unanswered on your scanner, then make sure to read up Brother’s User Guide.