Portable scanners aren’t exactly brand-new technology, so what makes the Doxie Go portable scanner special? Read on as we take one for a test drive, show you how to set it up in the process, and highlight exactly why the Doxie Go will keep your inbox and file cabinets empty.
Editor’s Note: This isn’t a new product, but our team owns a number of these scanners and use them regularly, so we figured a review was in order. It’s worth noting that just like most of our reviews, we purchased this product ourselves and it wasn’t provided by anybody else.
What Is the Doxie Go?
The Doxie Go is an ultra-portable scanner that is part of the Doxie scanner lineup (you can compare the different models here). Just shy of a pound (14.2 ounces) and the size of a generous your-grandparents-love-you mega candy bar (10.5″ x 1.7″ x 2.2″), the Doxie packs a lot into a little package. The Doxie can scan an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet in 8 seconds at 300 DPI as well as smaller documents like receipts and business cards much quicker. Although 300 DPI is the default setting, you can switch the Doxie Go to a higher 600 DPI mode by tapping the power button while in scan mode.
Unlike other portable document scanners, the Doxie Go is intended to be used untethered to a computer. It includes 512MB of internal memory and can store roughly 600 document scans or roughly 2400 4″x6″ photo scans. If you’re planning on engaging in a marathon scanning session or would simply like to upgrade the available storage, you can do so easily by popping in a FAT formatted SD card or USB flash drive into the Doxie’s SD or USB expansion ports, respectively.
As with most hardware, it’s important to understand what a product isn’t to really frame the discussion about what it is. The Doxie Go isn’t a hulking flatbed scanner with an emphasis on photograph archiving. It’s not a commercial-grade sheet fed scanner intended to suck down and process a 40 page mortgage document in moments. It’s an ultra-portable scanner that promises to make scanning on the go (whether that’s at a coffee shop, a construction site, or sitting on your couch) and slinging that scanned content to your computer, your favorite apps, and even the cloud, as painless as possible. We’ve spent the last few weeks palling around with the Doxie Go to see if it could live up to that promise. Let’s take a look at how to get it set up, how to use it, and how to get the scanned goodies off it to see how the painless-as-can-be premise holds up.
What’s In The Box?
Although the Doxie itself is the hardware main course, there are a handful of additional items in the box worth investigating. In addition to the actual scanner there is a USB Mini-B cable, a quick start guide (not shown in the photo above), a small cleaning tool (essentially just a plastic rectangle wrapped in a microfiber-type cloth with a handle), a white calibration card, and a black plastic sleeve that both the included quick start documentation and the Doxie website indicate is intended for fragile documents and photos.
The USB cable is used for both charging the device and transferring data off the internal (or attached SD/USB) storage. The calibration card is necessary for the initial setup and for those rare times in the future when the image alignment seems off; although we put ours in a safe place for future use, you can use a clean blank sheet of white 8.5″ x 11″ white paper too. The black plastic photo sleeve is overkill for photos or other glossy stiff items you scan. In fact, the marketing videos on the Doxie web site show users just feeding photos right into the device. Where it does prove useful, however, is for more delicate items like old receipts. If you have a really wrinkled or fragile item (say, an old paper ID card) the sleeve will keep it from getting mangled on the way through.
How Do You Set It Up?
There are two elements to setting up the Doxie: configuring the actual device and installing the companion software on your computer. The first thing you want to do, after unpacking the Doxie and peeling the protective film off its shiny white exterior, is to take the included USB cable and tether the device to a USB port on your computer (or a USB charger if you have one handy).
Although the Doxie does ship with some juice in the battery, it’ll take about an hour to fully top off the battery (it takes 2 hours to go from a completely dead battery to a full charge). On the subject of batteries and charging, the Doxie Go cannot be used when it is USB tethered. Each battery charge is good for about 100 scans (which is far below the 600 full document scans the default storage is capable of holding). If you want to do some serious scanning while watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, you’ll need to pick up the $10 external power adapter (the external power source plugs into the small headphone-like jack seen next to the USB Mini-B jack in the photo above).
Installing the Software: Waiting for the Doxie to charge is the perfect time to install the software. Head over to the Doxie Go’s download page and grab the current version of the Doxie companion software. The software is available for Windows and Mac users. Launch the installation app after the download is complete and follow the prompts. You don’t need the Doxie to be attached to the computer you’re performing the installation on (we had ours charging on our desktop PC’s always-on USB power port while installing the software on our laptop); in fact, the only time you ever need to actually connect the Doxie Go to a computer is when you want to dump the files.
Why is the Doxie wearing club boots? Why not, we say. After running the installation, the Doxie document portal will open like so:
If you have your Doxie Go plugged into your computer, you might be a bit confused here. When you first plug the Doxie Go into your computer via the USB cable, it simply goes into charging mode. When you’re actually ready to dump documents into the document portal, you’ll need to tap the power button on the Doxie to mount the storage.
Calibrating the scanner: Even if your Doxie isn’t 100% charged yet (the light will turn from amber to completely off when it is), you can unplug it for a moment to complete the setup process. On the physical side of things, setting up the Doxie Go is easy-peasy. Simply take the Doxie Go, make sure it’s unplugged from the computer, tap the power button to turn it on, and then feed the calibration card (bardcode first) into the machine. There is a small plastic slider you can slide down the feed side of the Doxie’s mouth to keep the card arrow-straight as it feeds in. There’s no feedback during the calibration process, so if the card goes in one side and comes out cleanly on the other, consider the process complete.
After you calibrate, plug the Doxie back in to finish its first full charge cycle. Remember, when the amber indicator light turns off, the charging is complete.
How Do You Use The Doxie?
Using the Doxie Go is about as straightforward as it gets. Place the device on a level surface (desk, coffee table, anything short of flopped at a precarious 45 degree angle on the back of the couch ought to be fine); press and hold the power button to turn it on. Both the power button logo and the bar directly below it will blink for a few moments. The power button will dim and the bar will glow solid.
At this point, it’s just a matter of feeding whatever you want to scan face up into the Doxie Go. As we mentioned in the previous section (and as seen in the photo above), there is a small plastic slider you can adjust to fit the width of what you’re scanning. For flimsier items like receipts and really lightweight paper, we used the plastic guide. For anything stiffer like business cards, card stock brochures, or photos, we simply fed it right in; as long as the material is even remotely stiff and has a clean edge, it’ll feed just fine.
The scanned items roll right through and drop cleanly out the other side onto the table. If at any point the rollers lose their grip or the paper jams up; resist the urge to yank the document back out of the scanner (as you might damage the mechanism). Instead, just press and hold the power button. The Doxie will reverse the rollers and push it right back out.
Repeat the process until you run out of documents, power, or storage.
How Do You Get Your Scans From It?
The Doxie Go stores all your scans in either the internal storage (or the external if you plugged in a USB drive or SD card) as high-resolution JPEG images. You could, if you wanted, technically forgo using the Doxie software all together and just dump the JPEGs right onto your computer (since there is no native Linux software, this is the situation Linux users will find themselves in).
Just dumping the scans in a jumble, however, means you’ll miss out on the really great software that comes with the Doxie. To get started with the Doxie software (assuming you completed the installation process in the previous section of the review), just plug in your Doxie Go via the USB cable and press the power button to switch it from charge to storage mode.
Fire up the Doxie software and you’ll be greeted with the screen above; just like it suggests, all you need to do is press the “Import” button in the upper right corner. The import process will start, displaying a preview of each document as it goes, and then you’ll see all your imported scans in the main panel:
Here you can perform a wide variety of simple tasks, such as rotating documents, adjusting their contrast, correcting their alignment, and otherwise tweaking them. Other than simply rotating a document that was oriented sideways or upside down, we found that we rarely made any adjustments at all. With 99% of the stuff you scan, minor things like being slightly skewed just don’t matter; it’s not worth the time, for example, to correct a slightly cocked scan of your credit card bill or other document you’re scanning to archive simply to get rid of the paper. This isn’t to say that the correction tools included in the Doxie software didn’t work just fine, but we preferred to keep our workflow snappy.
And that’s precisely where the Doxie software really shines. It’s simple and fast. Scanned 5 pages you want to keep together? Use the “Staple” function to associate those five pages before converting it to a PDF like we did with these three receipts from a recent project:
Ready to save your documents? That’s fast, too. In fact, our favorite part about the Doxie software is what it doesn’t do. Unlike many scanner management applications, it doesn’t attempt to force us into using its own brand of document management and workflow. The whole point of the Doxie software is to get the scanned documents out of the Doxie and into something else. What that something else is is entirely a matter of personal taste and necessity. If you just want to scan, dump in a folder, and shred the physical paper, you can click the “Save” button to select the file type and location you wish to save the files in.
What if you use Evernote to manage all your documents? You can use the “Send” button to shuttle your files into Evernote and other local applications:
If you prefer your documents secreted away in your favorite cloud-based storage like Dropbox, that’ll work too:
Once you save, send, or export to the cloud, you’ll be prompted to either leave the documents alone on the Doxie storage or to delete them.
What About the Image Quality?
By default, the Doxie Go scans in 300 DPI but, as we mentioned early on in the review, you can switch it to 600 DPI by double tapping the power button. While we’re happy the higher resolution scanning is included, we’re willing to bet that 99% of the time no one actually uses it, as 300 DPI is more than adequate for scanning common business documents, business cards, bills, and the like.
While we found nothing objectionable about the quality of the Doxie’s scanned images, we did run some items through both the Doxie Go and a common consumer-grade desktop flatbed scanner (the Canon LiDE 110) for the sake of comparison. We used the same default settings on the flatbed scanner (300 DPI and color) that the Doxie uses. Further, we made zero adjustments to the images; there’s no contrast, color, or any other kind of adjustment. The image is simply cropped in the same location at 100% size and displayed side-by-side below. The Doxie’s scan is on the left in all of the images and the LiDE 110 is on the right.
First, let’s take a look at plain old black and white text. We scanned fine print on the back of the Doxie quick-start guide:
In the black-text challenge, the white came out whiter on the Doxie and the text was darker and more crisp. Obviously the Doxie is doing some sort of in-device contrast boosting and white balancing–which is exactly the sort of automatic behind-the-scenes work we’d expect from a device intended to make scanning business documents and paperwork a snap.
Next, lets take a look at a mixed graphics and text scan. For this test, we shook down the nearest kid for Pokemon cards:
The same punchy contrast that served us well in the black and white scan causes us to lose a little bit of the faint background detail on the Pokemon card. The Doxie captured everything, but the drawing is a little on the soft side. The fine details in the drawing present in the flatbed scan are slightly blurred. While the image is perfectly serviceable in terms of scanning business material at a convention for later reference, it’s definitely not capturing detail with the clarity that a flatbed scanner does. A significant part of that is most likely due to the fact that the Doxie is rolling the image over the scanning apparatus instead of, as is the case with a flat bed scanner, moving the scanning apparatus over an image which is pressed to the glass.
For our final test, we sent a photograph through both the Doxie and the LiDE 110.
Again, the Doxie provided a much darker and softer default image that the flatbed scanner. It’s not that the image, like with the previous image and text scan, isn’t serviceable for reference purposes and quickly archiving non-heirloom materials (if we’re scanning magazine clippings, for example, we’re not going to be upset if the photos are slightly darker), but even a cheap consumer-grade desktop scanner clearly offers sharper scanning when it comes to archiving photos or other documents where absolutely precise reproduction trumps the ability to rapidly process and archive.
The Good, The Bad, and the Verdict
We’ve had a chance to play with the Doxie Go. It has seen use in the office, living room couch, coffee shop, and teachers’ lounge. We’ve fed it crumpled up receipts, appointment reminder cards, business cards, pages clipped from magazines, old newspaper articles, index cards, photos, and drawings. We’ve dumped images right to our computer, imported them to apps like Evernote, and uploaded them to cloud storage. After all that, what’s the bottom line?
- It’s very lightweight and easy to pack.
- It’s incredibly simple to use.
- You can scan without a computer.
- It significantly increases the chance that things will get scanned by merit of the two preceding points.
- Expandable removable storage makes it easy to upgrade and easy to transfer to your computer.
- Can use the Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD card to wirelessly transfer your scans to your computer. (Requires $30 card and decreases battery life.)
- The included software effectively shifts your documents to local storage, local apps (like Evernote), or to the cloud, usually with a single click.
- It doesn’t duplex which, depending on the content you scan, could be a real deal breaker.
- Not suitable for consistently large scanning jobs due to the lack of a sheet feeder and the relatively sluggish scanning speed.
- Its internal battery only has enough juice to fill 1/6th of the default internal storage.
- It can’t run off USB power and requires a $10 external power adapter; an item with a $199 MSRP should ship with the power adapter.
- Plastic body feels flimsy, moderate pressure (like a firm squeeze) significantly distorts the document feeding chamber.
- Although the Doxie Go is obviously meant to be carried around and thrown in a briefcase, it doesn’t come with any sort of protective case or sleeve (although you can purchase one for $30); again, a product with a $199 MSRP should come with an inexpensive protective case, or a dust bag at minimum, to keep crud out of the scanning mechanism.
- No Linux support (in terms of the software – you can still use the basic scan-and-dump functionality with a Linux machine).
The Verdict: Despite the fact that our Bad list is meaty and we’re disappointed they didn’t include some basic items like a carry bag, we’re actually pretty pleased with the Doxie. Even though the Doxie Go is not the most feature-packed or powerful portable scanner on the market, it absolutely shines when it comes to ease of use. Everyone from retirement planners to firearms instructors will say the same thing: you use the tool that is easiest to use. In that regard, the Doxie Go reduces the friction between thinking about scanning that pile of crap on your desk and actually scanning it.
Prior to testing the the Doxie, we had a perfectly serviceable flatbed scanner that, save for scanning the occasional have-to-scan-it-right-now item, sat and gathered dust. There was simply too much friction: the scanning software was kludgy, there was no simple workflow to get items into the systems we used most, and because the scanner was in a fixed location, that meant that in order to do any scanning, we had to be right there with it at the computer desk. By throwing the Doxie in our bag or keeping it down in the living room, there was zero resistance to scanning something as we could do it right there when we got the document, opened the mail, or sat down to batch process paperwork while catching up on the new Netflix offerings.
That’s the real selling point of the Doxie Go: it’s so convenient to use that once you get through your initial backlog of paper, there won’t be a backlog again because it’s so easy to just slip everything through the Doxie as it appears, and then at the end of the day or week dump your scans and quickly shuttle them to their final destination.
If you’re looking for a duplex scanner that will accompany you to job sites and sit happily tethered to your laptop, the Doxie Go isn’t it. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a tiny scanner that will help you fulfill your New Year’s goal to actually scan all that crap on your desk, the new business cards you pick up at conferences, and the bills that pile up on your kitchen table, into some sort of useful archiving and digital workflow system, the Doxie Go is tough to beat.
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 09/23/13