Compact desktop document scanners are an essential part of a paperless office, and nearly every major hardware manufacturer has at least one. The Brother ADS-2000 is the latest entrant into a crowded field led by the ScanSnap S1500 that includes the popular (but not very good) NeatDesk and the competent workhorse, the Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S50.

The Brother ADS-2000 has good looks, speed, and value — and one cool feature you won’t find on any other desktop document scanner.

Price and features

Brother is always competitive on price, and the ADS-2000 is a pretty good buy at $373 on Amazon, as of this writing. The Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S50 is a little cheaper, at $335, and the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 is a little more expensive, at $414 (but remember, the ScanSnap comes with Acrobat X Standard).

The ADS-2000 scans at 24ppm/48 ipm, which is a faster than the ScanSnap (20ppm/40ipm) and just a smidge slower than the Epson (25ppm/50ipm). In practice, it won’t make much difference.

I was a bit surprised to find that the ADS-2000 does not support TWAIN. It’s hard to understand why not, since it is only the ScanSnap’s inclusion of a full version of Adobe Acrobat that justifies not having TWAIN support. The ADS-2000 comes with PaperPort SE (though you don’t need to use it), which is barely a step above crapware, and it definitely doesn’t make up for the lack of TWAIN.

Update: It does support TWAIN, according to a representative from Brother. I didn’t find anything about TWAIN support in the materials, though, and it didn’t show up as an option in Photoshop.

What it does have is a USB port, and it is the only desktop scanner I have seen or tried that does (though several portable scanners have one). That means you don’t have to have the ADS-2000 plugged into a computer in order to scan documents with it. You could take it to a document review, plug it into a wall, plug in your USB drive, and scan reams of documents at a quick 24 pages per minute. That is fast enough to make it realistic to scan documents at a remote document review instead of taking boxes of documents back to your office. And you can leave your laptop at home, which makes this desktop scanner look pretty portable.

Hardware and design

On your desk, the ADS-2000 is good-looking enough. The lid folds out into a very big and stable document feeder, without the usual pull-out extensions. The “chin” pulls out into an equally-sturdy catch tray. It’s a small thing, but these big, sturdy trays feel much more solid than the trays on the ScanSnap. They are bulkier, to be sure, but there’s a good reason for that extra bulk.

Overall, I like the design fine. It’s industrial without being unattractive. When closed up, it looks nice sitting on your desk. Opened up for scanning, it’s all business.

One small thing I really like is the lack of a power brick. It must be built into the scanner, because all you plug into the scanner is a standard power cable like the one that plugs into your monitor or PC. It’s a lot less messy than the typical cord-to-brick-to-cord arrangement.

I don’t love the buttons, which are an example of what makes the ScanSnap so much easier to use than other scanners. After you finally get all the bundled software installed and you are ready to scan, here’s what you are confronted with:

Which of those buttons would you guess is the Scan button? It turns out it’s the one with the computer icon (because that’s where it goes, I guess). You can also plug in a USB drive, and then you can use the button with the USB drive–looking icon to scan straight to your USB drive.

The circle with a triangle in it doesn’t do anything, as far as I can tell. Once you’ve figured out what the buttons do, it’s no big deal, but Brother isn’t doing the user any favors with those buttons and labels. Here’s a time when a word — SCAN — is better than any icon (apparently that’s what <|> is supposed to indicate).

Software

The Brother ADS-2000 comes with a lot of bloated software that I consider crapware, like Nuance PaperPort SE and an update utility that sits in your system tray, taking up system resources 100% of the time. Fortunately, you can install the driver alone, which is all you really need to scan documents to your computer.

If you just use the buttons to scan, like I generally do, scans are sent to an unintuitively-named /ControCenter4 folder in /My Pictures. The scans themselves come out fine (here’s an example (pdf)), and you can change your default destination folder to something more obvious, like your desktop or a scanning inbox.

I went ahead and installed everything for testing, and I regretted it when it came time to remove the software and pack up the scanner to send back. The software may have a one-click install, but uninstalling everything takes multiple steps and some hunting through your Add/Remove Programs app.

For some stupid reason, the setup process installs PaperPort Image Printer and sets it as your default printer. PaperPort Image Printer is basically a slow PDF printer-slash-file manager, which is definitely worse than whatever method you are using to create PDFs now. But setting it as your default printer is horrible manners. That means the next time you want to print something from Word, it will automatically go to PaperPort Image Printer instead of wherever you actually wanted it to go. It’s stuff like this that makes non-tech-savvy people think their computers are out to get them, and tech-savvy people swear at their screens.

So the software is a big dud. Like most scanner manufacturers, Brother just threw some crappy third-party software together and sent it out with the scanner. Only Fujitsu really seems to understand that it’s the software, not the scanner, that makes the difference to the end user.

Performance

Scanning with the Brother ADS-2000 is pretty simple. Press one of the buttons (once you’ve figured out the right one to press), and it will automatically scan your documents (automatically scanning both sides, if you have two-sided pages) and deposit them to a /ControCenter4 folder in /My Pictures (which you really should change). Treat this folder — or whatever destination you select, as your scanning inbox. Take files from there and sort them into the appropriate client files. You can even locate it somewhere on a network, if you want to have just one scanner for an office.

Some greater flexibility would be nice, though. You can sort-of scan to other locations, but it requires using the clumsy PaperPort SE software in order to do it. I’m used to the ability to have an options dialog pop up after scanning that lets me direct scanned documents to a bunch of different places, like a folder of my choosing, Google Docs, Evernote, Clio, and more. Going through a clunky piece of software to do this is a real turn-off.

The speed is definitely good. Pages zip through the standard-size 50-sheet document feeder quickly, making short work of stacks of paper.

Who should buy this?

There’s just one job the Brother does better than any other, and it has to do with that USB port. Small, portable scanners aren’t fast enough to scan more than a couple dozen documents in one sitting. This is especially true for portable scanners that require you to hand-feed pages. By contrast, the Brother ADS-2000 will plow through stacks of paper at a respectable 24 ppm — without being attached to a computer.

But if it is just going to sit on your desk, I still think the ScanSnap S1500 is the best deal around, since it comes with Acrobat. Its scanning software is also extremely flexible, offering one-touch access to save files on your computer, OCR, and even Evernote, Dropbox, and Clio.

Summary

Brother ImageCenter ADS-2000

Reviewed by Sam Glover on .

Summary: The Brother ADS-2000 had good looks, speed, and value — and a USB port for remote scanning, which you won’t find on any other desktop document scanner.

Breakdown:

  • Price and features: 5
  • Hardware and design: 4
  • Included software: 2
  • Performance: 4

Overall score: 4 (out of 5)