The best cheap scanner

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer's guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

By Lizz Schumer

After more than 40 hours of researching scanners and testing the four units that made our final cut, we found the $90 Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 is the fastest, most accurate, and most intuitive flatbed scanner for everyday users. Whether you're saving an old photo, a child's artwork, or an excerpt from a book, the LiDE 220 produces the clearest scans with the sharpest lines and most vivid colors. In our tests, it also offered the most accurate text recognition across all documents. This light and compact unit can work upright, as well, and because it requires just one USB port, it won't clutter up your workspace.

How we picked

Testing scanners with photo prints.

We searched for a scanner that is equally capable of scanning text documents for work, making a shareable version of treasured photos, or preserving a copy of a first-grader's finger-painted masterpiece. Beyond making an excellent scan of anything we put inside of it, our scanner pick also had to be fast, easy to use, and affordable. That gave us just four models to test, which we put through a battery of comparisons by scanning books, printouts, newspapers, photographs and images in various colors and styles, finger painting, and film negatives (when appropriate).

Our pick

The CanoScan LiDE 220 is fast, accurate, and affordable.

The $90 Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 captures cleaner images than the competition, offers easy setup and use, accurately scans text documents, and can fit into small spaces when not in use. When you're done scanning, it's compact enough to fit on a bookshelf, out of the way. Using the LiDE 220, you can scan written material, photos, artwork, or other hard-copy materials quickly and with a minimal learning curve. Although it does not scan photo negatives and stalls periodically when faced with high-volume scanning, it does what the average user needs it to do, without too many unwanted features, for less than $100.

One caveat: Some users are reporting trouble with Canon's drivers and Windows 10. This problem doesn't appear to be universal, though, and Canon is investigating.

For film buffs

If you want to scan your own film and can afford to pay a bit more, the Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II is the way to go.

The runner-up, the $170 Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II, provides almost identical functionality to the LiDE 220 but also gives you the option of scanning film negatives. That's a hefty premium for a fairly minor feature, but if you're intent on digitizing old film and slides via an easy-to-use interface, it's the way to go.

For accuracy above usability

Accurate images—at the cost of usability.

If you want to scan film but need a more accurate image than the Canon 9000F Mark II can produce, consider the $170 Epson Perfection V550. You'll have to battle a confusing interface, and we encountered some issues with setup and functionality, but once we had the V550 up and running, it scanned with more accuracy than the Canon models did, with less post-processing or sharpening built in. If you value getting the truest possible scan over anything else, this model is a sensible purchase, but otherwise we suggest going with Canon for a product that's much easier to use.

Wrapping it up

If you want to digitize a child's artwork or preserve old photos on the Web, and if you don't need to scan film, the $90 Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 is the right choice. It's easy to use, simple to set up, capable of capturing bright and sharp images, and designed to stow away easily when not in use.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.