Free alternatives to MS Office include open source suites and web-based tools. The cost, though, is some limitations on functionality.
Best Cheap Scanners
If you're a serious amateur photographer (or a professional, for that matter), it may be worth spending more for a high-end model rather than a cheap scanner. Higher-priced scanners offer higher scanning resolution and often have more features, including one-touch buttons for tasks such as scanning several pages of a document. The main benefit of costly models is the quality of photo scans, which tends to be superior to what you get with inexpensive scanners. But the difference in quality generally isn't significant enough for casual or frugal users to worry about. The point-and-shoot camera crowd will be more than satisfied with the best cheap scanners.
Epson Perfection V300
Loaded with features at a reasonable price, the Epson Perfection V300 includes everything you could want in a budget scanner, like an LED light source, high optical resolution, and support for slides and negatives scanning. This may not be the perfect scanner, but it's fast, delivers very high quality scans, and is definitely the best cheap scanner.
Cheap Scanners Buying Guide
According to our research, most cheap scanners do a fine job with scanning text documents, so the features and performance that frugal shoppers should pay most attention to are those concerning images. The two most important features are resolution and color depth.
When it comes to performance, cheap scanners should meet your expectations. The best cheap scanners scan quickly while still churning out very high-quality images. These two attributes are a bit at odds, though. It's hard for a cheap scanner to scan an item fast while still capturing a lot of detail in the photo while a slow scan will capture a higher quality image. Having said that, most cheap scanners today deliver images nearly identical to the original in less than 60 seconds. Most also let you adjust the settings, so you have some control over the speed vs. quality issue.
Most companies that make printers also make scanners. We found only a few companies, however, that make good cheap flatbed scanners; Epson, Canon, HP, and Visioneer are the names to look for. Many producers combine scanners and printers into one machine, called a multifunction device (MFD) scanner, which often includes a fax in the mix, giving you three products in one. (See our Cheap Multifunction Printers Buying Guide.) Some home office/small office users prefer an ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) scanner to a flatbed scanner. ADF scanners are designed to scan lots of pages of documents quickly, so ADF scanners aren't ideal for scanning photos. They tend to have less color depth and resolution than budget flatbed scanners because scanned pages of text simply don't require high resolution or color depth. ADF scanners tend to be expensive, however, usually costing $300 or more. You can also find an array of specialty scanners, like those designed for business cards or small photos, or others that are portable and can be used without a computer.
Our focus here is on cheap flatbed scanners. Flatbed scanners tend to be less costly than ADF and MFD scanners, and if you already have a printer, you may not want to buy a second printer just because it has a scanner built into it. The cheap scanners we like, because they sport the all-important features and perform at high levels, include the Epson Perfection V300 (starting at $80), Canon CanoScan 5600f (starting at $105), Canon CanoScan Lide 200 (starting at $60), and Visioneer OneTouch 9520 (starting at $60); two models that fall short in one or more critical dimensions are the HP ScanJet G3110 (starting at $87) and Canon CanoScan Lide 100 (starting at $53). Please continue reading for more detail.Back to top »
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