Brother's ADS-1100W is a good value portable document scanner with some nice features, but rivals have better software
Scanner type: Document scanner, Maximum optical scan resolution: 600x600dpi, Dimensions (HxWxD): 84x285x103mm, Weight: 1.5kg
The Brother ADS-1100W is a sheet-fed A4 document scanner with duplex (double-sided) scanning and a claimed 16ppm top speed, but it faces stiff competition from rivals including Fujitsu’s ScanSnap S1300i and our long-time favourite, Canon’s ImageFormula P215. The Brother device’s speed and 600 dots-per-inch (dpi) maximum resolution aren’t exceptional, but at less than £200 it’s surprisingly cheap, all the more so because it supports both wireless networking and direct scanning to a USB host.
You’d be forgiven for wondering why a compact document scanner needs to support Wi-Fi, but Brother raises a couple of valid scenarios. In a conventional office it’s easy to share the ADS-1100W between several users whether they’re using PCs or mobile devices (iOS, Windows Phone and Android are supported through Brother’s iPrint & Scan apps). The ability to put the scanner into access point mode means that tablet and phone users can connect to it away from a fixed network, which could be useful in certain niche scenarios. In practice, though, we suspect that its USB host port could prove just as useful, simply allowing mobile workers to scan straight to a USB flash drive without needing a PC.
^ Wi-Fi interfaces can slow down scan speeds, but we didn’t see that here
Happily, the ADS-1100W’s design means it should put up with a few knocks. The paper input doubles as a robust lid that latches into place, while the power and data sockets are recessed slightly into the back, making their leads more resistant to being knocked out or bent. A slit at the rear allows business cards to be scanned in a straight path, and the ADS-1100W comes with software to manage scanning and exporting them.
It’s simple to install this scanner on your computer, but there’s no obvious start or stop button, and Brother’s floating help bar in Windows doesn’t provide any scanning controls. You must use Control Center 4 utility to configure and start scans, or define the behaviour of two ‘scan to network device’ buttons on the top panel, which only light once they’re configured properly. Each can be set to trigger a scan to file, image, OCR or email direct to any of the PCs on which you’ve installed the driver.
The scanner’s two other action buttons light up when it’s connected to a PC via USB, or when a USB drive is inserted. Unhelpfully, the host port is located at the rear of the device. Again, the settings for both can be configured via Control Center 4. With Twain and ISIS drivers available, you can also scan from almost any imaging application.
^ You can operate and configure this scanner from Brother’s Control Center 4 software – it’s OK, but not the best
^ For many options, Control Center 4 redirects you to the web admin interface. Here we’re configuring the USB host settings
We tested the ADS-1100W over a wireless connection, and repeated key timed tests over USB, and it quickly proved to be a fast scanner, and unusually so over Wi-Fi, which can often be much slower. For example, capturing an A4 page took just six seconds at 150 dots per inch (dpi) or seven at 300dpi. Over Wi-Fi these figures rose to 11 and 12 seconds respectively, which is a smaller discrepancy than we usually see. We measured an identical time of 60s to scan 10 6×4″ photos at 600dpi whether we used USB or Wi-Fi; this result on a data-heavy test suggests that the Wi-Fi interface isn’t much of a bottleneck.
We subject document scanners to a battery of tests that are designed to catch them out. The ADS-1100W coped well with our 10-page torture test, which is comprised of badly cut-out, tissue-thin magazine pages and regular A4 sheets printed on one side only. With de-skew, blank page skip and automatic orientation enabled, the ADS-1100W managed to straighten up all but one magazine page, although a single blank side crept into the results; we couldn’t find an option to tweak the sensitivity. The ADS-1100W produced a 17-side PDF file with searchable text in two minutes, which isn’t bad at all.
Unusually, we experienced more trouble with better quality paper. The scanner was fine on our regular single-sided 10-page A4 test, and it produced a searchable PDF in one minute and 17 seconds, but we had repeated mis-feeds when scanning our 24-page mixed graphics document. There’s no help from automatic mis-feed detection on this scanner, but to be fair its ADF is only rated for 20 pages. We completed the test by carefully fanning the leading edge of the paper stack slightly, as directed on the input tray, after which creating a regular PDF at 150dpi took one minute and 33 seconds. Finally, we scanned 10 single-sided pages to a USB flash drive at 300dpi with duplex and blank page skip, which took just over two minutes.
Scanned images were well exposed and sharp, producing clearly legible documents. Optical character recognition seemed accurate, too. Although photos scanned using the TWAIN driver looked to have been sharpened subtly, they were comfortably good enough for most purposes. Unfortunately, photos scanned via Control Center 4 showed a clear lack of dynamic range, with blue skies looking blocky, and the light sky of one test shot being bleached out altogether. As such this wouldn’t be a good scanner for archiving stacks of photo prints.
^ Scan quality was fine, except when capturing photos with Control Center 4 where dynamic range appeared limited
While Brother’s software is functional, it could be easier to use. Unfortunately it doesn’t provide users with the chance to review and tweak a scanned document before saving, which is a great way to fix minor issues such as orientation or blank pages without having to re-scan. As such, the ADS-1100W can’t match its best rivals, such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i for outright ease of use or scan quality, but it is fast, unusually flexible, and great value.
|Scanner type||Document scanner|
|Maximum optical scan resolution||600x600dpi|
|Output bit depth||24-bit|
|Automatic Document Feeder capacity||20|
|Standard interfaces||USB, USB host, 802.11b/g/n wireless|
|Operating system support||Windows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Linux (through SANE)|