If you want a low-cost flatbed scanner and and document management system that can digitise both photos and stacks of paper, and convert scans into searchable PDFs and editable text files, too, then the reasonably priced £170 Plustek SmartOffice PL806 may be all you need - if you can put up with its pokey performance, that is.

This 4.8kg flatbed model comes with a 50-page ADF (automatic document feeder) for scanning multipage documents, and the Plustek SmartOffice PL806's flatbed design lets you use it just like a photocopier to scan prints, books, and other large items.

However, the Plustek SmartOffice PL806's performance is slow compared with other - albeit pricier - page scanners, and its inability to scan double-sided pages means it's not the best choice for offices with high-volume scanning needs.

The Plustek SmartOffice PL806's biggest limitation is that it's a simplex (single-sided page) scanner, which prevents it from scanning double-sided pages automatically. Instead, you must scan one side of a stack of pages and then the other side before the unit's scanning software collates the pages in their proper order.

By contrast, duplex (double-sided page) scanners can scan both sides of a double-sided page at the same time, which yields faster results.

For example, in its performance tests, the Plustek SmartOffice PL806 took a pokey 340 seconds to scan a 15-page, double-sided monochrome text document (at 300 dpi).

Aside from its mediocre performance, the Plustek SmartOffice PL806 is an easy-to-use, all-purpose unit. Its front panel sports five convenient function buttons for jump-starting common scanning tasks - such as scanning pages to a file, copying to a printer, and performing OCR (optical character recognition).

It comes bundled with a variety of applications designed to meet most general scanning needs, including document management, image editing, and OCR software. The Plustek SmartOffice PL806 also delivered good text and graphics in a variety of colour and monochrome documents, and its OCR accuracy was also generally impressive, with several converted documents 99 percent error-free.


For undemanding small or home office (SOHO) users who want a low-priced scanner that's also versatile enough to scan both photos and documents, the Plustek SmartOffice PL806 is a worthwhile candidate. But if performance is vital, you'd be better off paying a bit more for a speedier duplex scanner.