Stand-alone Document Scanner vs All in One Printer: Which is Better?

With all the available options for just about anything, just deciding on which side to take in the battle of dedicated document scanner vs all in one printer can be overwhelming.

How far is the quality of the scan results from a specialized scanning tool to that of a multifunction printer or MFP? Is it worth sacrificing the other functions that come with the MFP?

Conversely, what features do I forgo by choosing all-in-ones? The answers to these questions and more will help you determine which one will serve your purposes better. 

Points for and Against Standalone Scanners

Flatbed, sheet-fed, and portable scanners are dedicated tools to make electronic copies of documents and photos. Here are some of the reasons they may or may not work for you: 


Generally speaking, dedicated scanners are lighter than multi-functional printers. The most lightweight, of course, among dedicated scanners, are the handheld types.

Still, if you’d compare all-in-one scanners with desktop scanners, the latter weighs less since they don’t carry the additional parts and gears that come with MFPs. 


Regarding space, standalone scanners require less space than all-in-one units. Some may be of the same width and length as compact MFPs, but the width is significantly slimmer.


If you’re looking for equipment to perform your scanning duties fast, standalone scanners are the way to go. Because they are built explicitly for scanning, their scanning specs are greater than those that you can find in all-in-one printers. Some can scan documents in 5.2 seconds.

Scan Quality

Again, being made specially for scanning, the scanning specs of standalone scanners are superior to those that you’d find in MFPs. That includes the scanning resolution.

Still, if you have a constant demand for high-quality scans for photos, it’s best to get not only a standalone scanner but a dedicated photo scanner.

Duplex or double-sided scanning functionality

While there are standalone scanners that do not have this function, the capability is easier to come by in standalone scanners. If you constantly deal with a lot of documents to scan, the duplex scanning feature found in some dedicated scanners will help you save a lot of time. 

Automatic document feeder or ADF

This feature found in most sheet-fed scanners allows you to do some multi-tasking. You just stack the documents to be scanned on the ADF, and the scanner performs continuous scanning unattended.

Some can handle eight at a time, while others can do 200. A few of these scanners even have a double feed detection tool to avoid skipping a document.

WiFi connection

Advance dedicated scanners—desktop or handheld—have WiFi connectivity. This makes it easy to transfer data from the scanner to a mobile device, computer, cloud storage, or email. 


Document scanners are more expensive than all-in-one units. The cheapest desktop standalone can be had at around $50. With that price, you can already buy an all-in-one scanner from a similar brand and get some change. 

Points for and Against Multi-function Printers

Multi-function printers are equipped with a scanning capability for documents and photos. On top of the other tasks that they can perform, there are different reasons to love them—or not: 


All-in-one units are heavier than standalone units. But if you’d consider that you are getting three or four equipment in one unit, it’s actually lighter in that sense.

But of course, there’s no way just yet to make an all-in-one portable the way that you could with a dedicated scanner. 


Regarding space, MFPs can be space-savers in a sense that you have three or four equipment in one unit—a scanner, a copier, a printer, and a fax machine. Plus, all these only need one electrical outlet for all four functions.


Efficiency is not a strong suit for all-in-one printers, especially in scanning, more so if you consider that people with different needs are competing for the use of the same unit. If you are scanning, the one who needs to use the unit to print, another to photocopy, and a third person to send a fax will have to queue for their turn to use the machine. In this sense, time is not used efficiently.

Thus, if there are a lot of people with various needs involved, it’s best to just get separate units for each.

Scan Quality.

Although not a specialized scanning tool, some MFPs can produce high-quality scans for documents. Admittedly though, that’s a hard find.

Duplex or double-sided scanning functionality.

This time-saving capability is not common to MFPs, but there are multi-function printers that support this. 

Automatic document feeder or ADF.

Most MFPs have a flatbed scanner, so you need to place the document to be scanned one at a time. With advance all-in-ones though you can already find the ADF feature.

Do take note that no ADF is not particularly bad; flatbed scans will allow you to work with materials that cannot be fed through a scanning machine like the artwork on canvas. Nevertheless, if having ADF is important to you, you can either get it in specific standalone or multifunction models.

WiFi connection.

Next generation all-in-one printers have this technology. So, depending on what you’re getting, your MFP may be able to scan and send data to your computer, cloud storage, or email. This is no longer a feature you can find in select standalone units but also with some all-in-ones.


Even without considering that you’re getting three or four functions in one unit, the all-in-one scanner is already cheaper than dedicated scanners. In the long run, the price gap becomes wider, especially if with your standalone scanner you also have a separate printer, copier, and fax machine running on electricity.

Dedicated Document Scanner vs All in One: Which One to Choose? 

Basically, in the battle of standalone document scanner vs all in one printer, the decision rests upon you.

And in this time and age where technological advancements are constantly breaking performances and efficiency boundaries, you won’t be hard-pressed to find one that matches your needs. What once was a unique feature to a standalone is fast becoming assimilated by the all-in-one.

With some research skills and patience, you’ll find one that suits your needs.

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