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Brother ADS-2800W review: A well-rounded scan system

The ADS-2800W sits near the top of Brother's extensive family of desktop scanners, and delivers all the document digitising features an SMB could ask for. That includes both wired Ethernet and 802.11n wireless connections (plus plain old USB), along with a 40ppm scan speed and a user-friendly touchscreen interface - all for a very reasonable price.

Brother hasn't skimped on the software side of things, either. Along with the company's iPrint&Scan and ControlCenter4 scan management apps, the package includes Nuance's PaperPort 14 SE digital file cabinet and the ABBYY FineReader 12 Sprint and PDF Transformer+ OCR tools. A standalone remote network setup utility is included as well, with a system tray monitor that doubles up as a firmware upgrade advisor - and for low-level management the scanner has its own web console, too.

We set the printer up with a wired connection, and everything went smoothly. The installation utility automatically spotted the scanner on our network and loaded the entire software suite. This took around half an hour, but that's because the utility automatically downloaded the latest versions of all the various tools - and updated the scanner's firmware with the latest version, which unlocks its full 40ppm speed (this had previously been limited to 30ppm).

Once the software was set up, we were able to use the 9.3cm colour LCD touchscreen to fire off fast scans: any client with Brother's software installed will appear in the "Scan To PC" menu, and you can use the web console to configure 25 custom destinations, including SMB network shares, FTP servers, SharePoint locations and email addresses.

The Apps icon on the touchscreen also gives you the option to scan a document directly to Office, or export it in searchable PDF format. Scanning to cloud services takes a little configuration, but it's not hard to do: you simply need to visit Brother's Web Connect portal, choose from the various supported providers and register your account details. You'll then be given a unique 11-digit code, which you can enter at the touchscreen to complete the connection.

Scanning to mobile devices is also a slightly roundabout process, but it works well. Scanned documents are uploaded to Brother's website, where they can then be accessed and downloaded on your phone or tablet by scanning the QR code displayed in the panel.

If access security is a concern, it's possible to PIN-protect the scanner's settings; for more granular control, up to 100 named user profiles can be created, and you can decide which scan destinations each one is allowed to access. You can also enable Active Directory authentication, which requires users to enter their domain credentials to access the scanner's menus.

With a 3,000-sheet daily duty cycle, the ADS-2800W can take some punishment and we found that it delivered on its speed promises. The iPrint&Scan Windows app scanned a 30-page sheaf of bank statements at 40ppm at both 200dpi and 300dpi resolutions, in both colour and greyscale. Switching to 600dpi saw speeds tumble to 7.5ppm, but this isn't a big problem, as quality at 200dpi is easily good enough for document archiving. It didn't struggle with small receipts, courier flimsies, airway bills or registration cards either, and if a jam did occur, the scanner always stopped before its feed rollers damaged them.

It's all rounded off by strong OCR capabilities, with fonts as small as 6pt accurately converted into searchable PDFs. There's anti-skew, blank page skipping and image enhancement functions too, which can be handily included in one-click workflows.

The ADS-2800W provides a great combination of features, speed and value. Whether you're using it chiefly from a PC, a mobile device or as a walk-up, it'll make light work of your digitising tasks.

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