Aside from an interface redesign and a significant software upgrade, the Canon CanoScan LiDE 400 ($89.99) looks and performs a lot like its predecessor, the Editors’ Choice CanoScan LiDE 220. In addition to doing a terrific job of scanning photos, though, the LiDE 400 focuses a lot more on text document scanning and processing than the previous model, making it much more adept at converting scanned text to editable text. This time around, the standout feature is the supporting software, which has made significant strides in speed and accuracy since 2015. Without question, the LiDE 400 usurps the 220’s Editors’ Choice.
At 1.7 by 14.5 by 9.9 inches (HWD) and weighing only 3.6 pounds, the LiDE is not only the same size and girth as the LiDE 220, but also surprisingly close to the Epson Perfection V39. In other words, neither model will take up more or less desktop real estate than the other. The LiDE 400 compensates for this with a plastic kickstand-like pedestal that holds the scanner upright, instead of lying flat on your desk. (The V39 has the same feature.)
Canon offers a slightly less robust version of this scanner, the LiDE 300. For the 20 bucks you save when buying the LiDE 300 instead of the 400, you give up half the maximum resolution (2,400 by 2,400dpi versus 4,800 by 4,800dpi) and a few other features, including the kickstand.
You can operate the LiDE 400 from its five-button control panel on the front edge, or from the software bundle on the CD-ROM that comes in the box. As with most scanners, regardless of size and type, the software provides a much more versatile set of scan configuration and destination options than the control panel.
We’ll talk about the software interface and features in a moment. No matter which option you choose, though, it’s important to note that the LiDE 400 connects to and communicates with only one device, a single computer connected to the scanner via the USB cable that comes in the box. The scanner lacks support for wireless or wired networking, mobile connectivity, mobile apps, and remote scanning, though you can send scans to the cloud by having the LiDE 400’s software save them in a folder that syncs with a cloud site. Otherwise, the scanning device must have a connection to the internet, or at best a network, to support many mobile and remote scanning features. A direct USB connection does not provide that.
Meanwhile, the five buttons on the front of the scanner are Start, Finish, Auto Scan, Copy, and Send. Each button initiates a series of actions on the computer the scanner is tethered to, as follows:
- Start scans the document on the platen (glass scanner bed) and sends the scan to the computer. Then, the scanner pauses, waiting for you to either swap out the page on the platen or press the Finish button. The computer (depending on what you do) starts a new multipage PDF to hold this session’s scans, or (if you press Finish after the first scan) it saves the page to a single-page PDF. Pressing the Finish button, though, advances your scan job to the next step.
- Finish closes the scanning session and saves the PDF. The number of pages your PDF contains depends on how many pages you scan before you press this button.
- Auto Scan detects the item on the platen, scans it, and then saves it to the appropriate file type, such as image or searchable PDF, JPEG, TIFF, and PNG.
- Copy scans the contents of the platen and sends it, via the computer, to a designated printer.
- Send ships your scans to a designated email address or application, such as, say, a PDF utility, for further processing.
You may be asking yourself, how do the scanner and supporting software know what to do with your scans? Everything the LiDE 400 does is configured and initiated with Canon’s IJ Scan Utility that comes bundled with the other software utilities on the included disk.
All About the Software
The utilities on the bundled CD-ROM include PC and Mac versions of the IJ Scan Utility just mentioned; the scanner drivers; and a set of single-function utilities that includes Auto Scan, Document Scan, Photo Scan, Custom Scan, Stitch Scan, and OCR (optical character recognition) for converting scanned text to editable text. Each of these is accessed and configured through IJ Scan Utility, shown here…
Behind each of these buttons resides a set of dialog boxes for controlling the scanner for different scenarios. Stitched Scan is one cool feature that lets you scan bigger pages than the LiDE 400 supports. To use it, you move the sheet around on the platen, and the scanner images sections, which the software “stitches” back together.
Also included is Canon’s ScanGear. Accessible through Scan Utility, ScanGear is a TWAIN scanner user interface that, among many other things, runs inside TWAIN-compliant programs (think Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Essentials, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and many, many others) and lets you scan directly into them.
To demonstrate just one of the software’s robust features, in the image below, I have placed two items on the platen and scanned them simultaneously. ScanGear differentiates between them and lets you create individual files for each one, for as many items that you can fit on the platen.
ScanGear also lets you choose an interface, Basic or Advanced, based on your level of experience. In the above image, I am using Advanced.
Not a Bulk Scanner
If you believe that your scanning future entails imaging multipage text documents and converting them to editable text files, don’t buy this scanner. While it’s fine for churning out a short PDF now and then, you need an ADF for scanning and processing multipage scans. Flatbed scanners are traditionally used for scanning photos. You can, however, get the best of both worlds by choosing a flatbed scanner with an ADF, but you won’t find one in this price range. HP’s ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed Scanner, as well as Epson’s DS-1630 Flatbed Color Document Scanner, are both good photo/document scanners, but, even as entry-level models, both will run you two to three times more than the LiDE 400.
If your scan volume consists of the occasional photo and short text document, the LiDE 400’s speed shouldn’t be a consideration. Even so, I ran some rudimentary speed tests. Canon rates the LiDE 400’s scanning speed at 8 seconds per letter-size page and 4 seconds for snapshot-size photos, with the scanner set at 300dpi. I tested the LiDE 400 using Canon’s Scan Utility set at 300dpi on our standard Intel Core i5 testbed PC running Windows 10 Professional.
During my test, the LiDE scanned our set of 4-by-6-inch photos consistently at 4 and 5 seconds, but timing the scanner’s document-scanning prowess is tricky. One letter-size page every 8 seconds should come out to 7.5ppm (pages per minute), but on manually fed scanners like this one, much depends on how fast the human operating the scanner can swap the pages. While the scanner managed to complete the test documents in 8 or 9 seconds, I couldn’t change the pages fast enough to score more than 4 to 4.5 ppm. Yes, the LiDE 400 is capable of scanning up to 7.5 ppm—if you are.
Photo Scanning and OCR Accuracy
To test how well the LiDE 400 scans photographs, I used ScanGear, which gave me a good idea of how the changes I made pre-scan would affect the results. The monitor connected to the testbed PC didn’t display the scanner’s 24-bit color range (almost 17 million colors) as well as I’d like, so, to give the scanner a true test, I connected it to my graphic design station, installed an LiDE 400 ICC profile, and scanned directly into Photoshop.
Colors displayed accurately and vibrantly, and detail was impressive. Occasionally, I had to adjust brightness and a few other settings, but as long as I started with good-quality originals, scan quality looked good overall. I also tested some of the built-in filters, such as Auto Dust & Scratch Reduction and Fading Correction. They mostly did an excellent job of correcting and enhancing my scans, but I noticed that most of these filters aren’t available in the macOS and Linux versions of IJ Scan Utility. To find photo scan correction and enhancement utilities, users on these platforms must fend for themselves.
To test OCR accuracy, I used Scan Utility and let its OCR routine convert text scans to editable text. It managed to scan our Arial font test page without errors down to 6 points and our Times New Roman page error-free at 10 points. These scores aren’t bad, but they’re not stellar.
On a hunch, I set Scan Utility to send the scans to Adobe Acrobat DC and let it do the conversions. This time, both fonts came out mistake-free down to 6 points, which is stellar and indicates, as I suspected, that the discrepancies in my first round of tests didn’t come from the scanner. Six-points Arial/10-points Times New Roman isn’t bad for an under-$100 scanner, though, and adequate for most family and home-office settings.
A Terrific Occasional-Use Photo Scanner
The LiDE 400 is a flatbed photo scanner that has the added perk of well-developed text-scanning and -converting features. Back in 2015, PCMag’s biggest concern about this product’s predecessor, the LiDE 220, was its sorely limited scanner interface and photo-editing software. Canon has addressed that by including a software bundle similar to what the company includes with its consumer-grade photo printers.
If basic entry-level photo and document scanning are what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed by the LiDE 400. Its more bare-bones sibling, the LiDE 300, will save you $20, but in our opinion that small of a savings isn’t enough to sacrifice the LiDE 400’s kickstand and higher-resolution scanning. The LiDE 400 is a shoo-in as our Editors’ Choice for an entry-level flatbed photo scanner.