Should I Get a Stand-Alone Scanner Or an All in One Printer?


The question whether to buy a Stand-Alone Scanner or go for an All in One printer raises many questions. Do you have space for a scanner and a printer? Is the scanning function and resolution as good with an All in One printer as with the Stand-Alone Scanner model? What about price, is the combined price of Scanner and Printer much more than an All in One. Lets look at some of these issues and more.

Most modern scanners used in the home and in small businesses are used for optically scanning an image, a photo or a text document. The most popular type of scanner to be found is the flatbed scanner, sometimes also known as the desktop scanner. Documents are normally placed on a sheet of glass and the lid is then closed during scanning. There are other handheld scanners and also scanners that move the object over the light source, but we will concentrate on the flatbed scanner.

Flatbed scanners normally employ one of two methods for scanning an image, a Charge-Coupled Device (CCDD) or a Contact Image Sensor. The optical sensor, or array of sensors is normally on a moveable arm and contains red, green and blue (RGB) filters. Quality is usually determined by colour depth and manufacturers will often quote the resolution in PPI or Pixels Per Inch, with a typical figure being around 5400 PPI.

In order to process the image produced by a standalone flatbed scanner, then a connection to a computer is needed and most flatbed scanners connect to the parent computer by means of a high speed USB connection, although a Parallel Serial Port or SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) is sometimes used. Some of the clever stuff is not in the scanner itself but is to be found in the Computer Program that actually processes the image. These programs often provide a number of features designed to correct problems with the image, such as brightness and glare. Another important feature of such, often bundled software is the ability to edit the created images and to compress those images using some type of lossy compression format like the popular JPEG format.


Unless the flatbed scanner is an expensive, specialised scanner, then there is often little difference in quality between the average flatbed scanner and a scanner that is part of an All in One system. One of the important things to look for is that the colour depth is at least 24-bit and the optical resolution is around 1200 dpi (dots per inch) or better, although a resolution of 600 dpi is often good enough if the majority of scanning is to be text documents.

An often important aspect of an All in One Printer, Copier, Scanner is the ability to be connected to either a wired or wireless network, and sometimes both. This allows the output of the scanning facility to shared on the network or easily transmitted as a file or even a file attachment to an email.

Personally, I have used both Standalone Flatbed Scanners and All in One systems over the years and find little general difference in quality, but the All in One system is often more practical because of the space saving and the fact that a separate power outlet does not have to be found for the additional scanner. However, for a small business owner who scans a lot of documents, a separate stand-alone scanner will often provide the ability to scan and print simultaneously and allow multiple users easier access to the scanning device.

To sum up, there is often little difference in quality between material produced with the stand-alone scanner and that of the all in one system, except maybe in expensive high end stand-alone models. The all in one system is often a better purchase for the average home user, whereas a small business might consider the stand alone option for flexibility.

Most of the major Printer manufacturers such as HP, Brother, Epson, Lexmark and Canon provide good quality, relatively inexpensive All in One systems with the scanner function, and I would recommend purchasing one of the leading brands.

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David W Christie


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