The Canon CanoScan LiDE 300 ($69.99) is an entry-level flatbed scanner designed to digitize photographs and for very light document scanning in homes, home offices, and small offices. For the $20 difference between the LiDE 300 and the Editors’ Choice Canon CanoScan LiDE 400, though, you give up half the resolution, slightly faster scans, and the ability to stand the scanner upright to save desk space. If every penny counts and these perks don’t matter to you, the LiDE 300 is a perfectly capable light-duty machine.
Lean and Easy to Use
At 1.7 by 14.5 by 9.9 inches (HWD) and weighing only 3.6 pounds, the LiDE 300 is small and light. It’s also the same size as its LiDE 400 sibling, except that, as mentioned, the latter comes with a kickstand that holds the chassis upright vertically.
Two competing models, the Epson Perfection V19 and Perfection V39, are also about the same size, weight, and price as the CanoScan models, and, like the LiDE 400, they both come with kickstands for holding them in a vertical position. The differences among these four flatbed scanners are minimal. As mentioned, the LiDE 300, with a maximum resolution of 2,400 by 2,400dpi, supports only half the resolution than the other three models’ 4,800 by 4,800dpi.
For most applications, even 2,400dpi is overkill. (Most computer monitors display only 72dpi, or 96dpi on some high-resolution displays.) The benefit of high-resolution scans, especially 4,800dpi, is that you can crop away large sections and have enough pixels left to allow you to increase the size of the remaining area without degrading its detail.
Connectivity on the LiDE 300 (and the other three flatbeds discussed here) consists of USB 2.0 for both power and data. There’s no networking, no mobile connectivity, and no peer-to-peer protocols, though you can scan to the cloud by having the LiDE 300 dump your scans into a folder on your computer for your favorite cloud service.
As with most scanners, be they flatbed or sheet-feed document machines, with the LiDE 300 you can scan from either the panel on the face of the chassis or from one or more of the software utilities on the CD-ROM that comes in the box. The LiDE 300’s control panel consists of four buttons. Each one initiates a scan, and when it finishes, the scanner tells the software on the host computer what to do next, as follows:
- PDF saves the scan to a PDF file based on parameters you set with IJ Scan Utility. (I’ll discuss that in a moment.)
- Auto Scan determines the type of item on the scanner glass and then scans and saves it to the appropriate file format. Text documents, for example, are converted to PDF or one of the other text document formats, based on the settings in Scan Utility, and photos are saved as JPEGs or another supported graphics format.
- Copy sends the scan to the printer designated in Scan Utility.
- Send pushes the scan to a designated email address or application. You might, for instance, want to send scanned photos to a photo-editing program for tweaking.
Finally, in addition to scanning paper-thin media, the LiDE 300’s lid can be adjusted to hold thicker items, such as books and magazines, as shown here…
It’s All About the Software
All the LiDE 300 really does is, in a sense, take a picture of the item on the scanner bed. What happens next depends on the bundled software. The disc that comes in the box includes Linux, macOS, and Windows versions of the following utilities:
- CanoScan LiDE 300 Color Image Scanner Driver: This is the driver that connects the scanner to your computer.
- IJ Scan Utility: This scanning interface lets you define every aspect of your scan, from resolution and file type to destination, such as email, the cloud, or a folder on the computer.
- ScanGear MP Driver: This is another scanner interface similar to Scan Utility, but with a wider range of options, especially for scanning photos.
IJ Scan Utility is essentially a frontend that provides access to several functions—Auto Scan, Document Scan, Photo Scan, Custom Scan, Stitch Scan, and OCR, or optical character recognition, for converting scanned text to editable text—in one place, making these options easy to find and configure…
Clicking the Settings button opens a powerful backend for configuring each function…
ScanGear allows you to choose from two user interfaces (Basic or Advanced) based on your comfort level. In the following image, for example, I am scanning several photos at once. ScanGear, in turn, detects each image’s autonomy, allowing me to save each one as a separate file…
The ScanGear software increases the LiDE 300’s functionality significantly. For example, ScanGear is TWAIN-compliant, making it capable of operating inside many other TWAIN-ready third-party programs, including Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop (shown below), and most other image-editing and -enhancing applications.
When Bulk Scanning Isn’t an Issue
If you need to scan and save piles of text documents for document management, archiving, and so on, the LiDE 300 is not a good choice. Since there’s no automatic document feeder, the speed at which you scan is highly dependent on how fast you can swap pages from the scanner bed.
Canon rates the LiDE 300 at 10 seconds per 8.5-by-11-inch page and 5 seconds per 4-by-6-inch photo. Its sibling, the LiDE 400, is rated at 8 seconds for 8.5-by-11-inch pages and 4 seconds for snapshots. Those numbers put the LiDE 300’s rating at 6ppm, provided the human operating the scanner is capable of swapping out the pages in zero seconds. That, of course, is impossible.
During my tests, the best I could do was about 3.5ppm to 4.5ppm. To do that, I had to sit poised, ready to take off the current page and lay on the new one—completely monopolizing my time and attention. Obviously, if you need to scan text documents on this scanner, they should be both short and infrequent. Otherwise, you should use a machine more suitable to the task, such as, perhaps, Epson’s DS-1630 Flatbed Color Document Scanner or the flatbed-with-ADF atop your all-in-one printer.
Photo scanners should, of course, reproduce photographs and artwork as close to the original as possible, and hopefully with minimal fussing around with the settings. The good news is that today’s entry-level scanners and supporting software are adept at picking up individual colors and detail. During my tests, I sometimes had to adjust contrast, hue, and other settings, but the LiDE 300’s scans of my photos mostly came out close to the originals. The built-in filters, such as Auto Dust & Scratch Reduction, Fading Correction, and a few others, did a good job of correcting minor instances of these types of issues. (A problem for Mac and Linux users, though, is that many of these filters are not available to them.)
The LiDE 300 did a good job overall of scanning and converting my text documents to editable text, but, as was my experience during my tests of the LiDE 400, the IJ Scan Utility’s OCR prowess could have been a little more accurate. While its score of 6 points without errors on the Arial page was very good, its 10-point mistake-free showing on the Times New Roman test page was not as impressive.
To test this further, as I did with its LiDE 400 sibling, rather than having Scan Utility send the font-page scans to its own OCR engine, I set it to send to Adobe Acrobat DC. Lo and behold, the Times New Roman page, too, converted error-free down to 6 points, which is a good indication that the scanner itself images accurately.
One or the Other
When the decision comes down to choosing more functionality over saving a few bucks, I’m usually for choosing the additional features—especially when the extra expense is only $20. The LiDE 400 gives you that nifty kickstand for freeing up desk space. It also offers twice the resolution, and an extra button (Finish) on the front of the machine that makes scanning to multipage PDFs easier than on its LiDE 300 sibling.
Otherwise, everything else is the same. And, yes, I get that for budget-strapped students and others, especially those who just don’t scan often, that $20 could be more wisely spent elsewhere. Either CanoScan model will work just fine in low-volume scanning environments.