The Canon imageFormula P-208 personal document scanner has a strong family resemblance to the Canon imageFormula P-215. The P-208 is a step down in Canon’s product line, and as you’d expect, it’s priced £70 cheaper than the P-215.
The big difference between the two models is the fact that the P-208 is actually faster when it comes to scanning speed, although it has less capacity, and only a 10-sheet, rather than a 20-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF). The other niggle with the P-208 is the limited software that comes with the device, but if you already have the programs you need, or are willing to buy them separately, this scanner can still be a good choice.
Measuring 312 x 55 x 40mm (WxDxH), and weighing 600 grams, the P-208 is a touch smaller and around 400 grams lighter than either the P-215 or the Canon imageFormula P-150. Like both of them, however, it offers not just an ADF but duplexing (the ability to scan both sides of a page simultaneously) also.
One key difference between the P-208 on the one hand and the P-150 and P-215 on the other is speed. Canon rates both of those scanners at 15 pages per minute (ppm) for simplex (one-sided) scans in both greyscale and black and white modes, and at 30 images per minute (ipm) for duplex mode (with one image on each side of the page). For colour mode, these ratings drop to 10 ppm and 20 ipm. The rating for the P-208, in contrast, is 8 ppm and 16 ipm in all three colour modes.
One plus point the P-208 shares with the P-215 (but is missing from the P-150) is the ability to scan hard plastic cards, like embossed ID cards and driver licenses. So as far as the scanner itself is concerned, the P-208 is basically a slightly less capable, but also less expensive, alternative to the P-215.
Setup and software
As with the P-215, the P-208 offers an easy setup process. In fact, because the scanner gets power over a USB connection, and because it includes Canon's CaptureOnTouch Lite scan utility in on-board memory, setup can be as easy as plugging in the supplied USB cable and letting your computer run the utility.
Running the Lite version of the program from the scanner memory can obviously be convenient if you want to scan to a computer you don't use regularly. In most cases, however, it makes more sense to install the full version on your computer. The most notable additional features are the ability to store scan profiles and the ability to scan to specific destinations other than a file, including to your printer, to email, or to an application.
The included software disc also lets you install a combination Twain and ISIS driver, which will let you scan directly from most Windows programs, along with NewSoft Presto! BizCard 6 SE for scanning and managing business cards, and connectors for Evernote, Google Docs, and Microsoft Sharepoint.
The software installation is fairly typical, except that it suffers from the same issue I saw with the P-215 and the Canon imageFormula DR-C130. During installation, you need to choose between a Typical or Custom install. With most scanners, the Typical option would install everything. With the P-208, however, it doesn't.
Canon really should provide some additional information on screen during installation explaining exactly what each choice installs. Without it you may well choose the Typical option and never know that there are other programs available, or how to install them.
In any case, for my tests I installed all the software on a system running Windows Vista. For most of the tests I used the full version of CaptureOnTouch, which can scan to a searchable PDF file as well as to image PDF, JPG, BMP, and PPTX formats. In addition I used BizCard for testing business card scanning.
As with most document scanners, the P-208 offers a 600 pixel per inch (ppi) optical resolution, which is much more than you need for document scanning. Its 200 ppi default setting is also typical, since it's a high enough resolution for most text documents.
The P-208 did a good job on our document management tests. Using the default settings of 200 ppi and colour mode, I timed it for scanning and saving the file in image PDF format at an effective 9.7 ppm, significantly faster than the 8 ppm rating. In duplex mode, it was only slightly slower at 9 ppm and 18 ipm. These are not only blazingly fast speeds for a portable scanner, they're faster than the speeds I saw with the P-215, which hit 6.3 ppm and 12.6 ipm.
Even more impressive is the fact that the P-208 doesn't slow down significantly when you scan to a searchable PDF file. A number of Canon scanners, including the P-215, can make the same claim, but most scanners can't. The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300, for example, took 1 minute and 43 seconds to scan 10 pages and save to an image file on our tests, but 2 minutes and 37 seconds to scan, recognise the text, and save the file. The P-208 took 1 minute and 7 seconds for scanning and saving to a PDF image file, and 1 minute and 13 seconds for scanning and saving the same document to a searchable PDF file.
The results for business cards were mixed. The scanner had no trouble feeding a stack of seven cards at a time, so it could scan them all with a single scan command, and the speed was acceptably fast. However, the accuracy was poor, with three or more errors in name, company name, and phone numbers on just under half of the cards, and one or two on most of the rest. Depending on how good a typist you are, you may or may not consider this an improvement on entering the information by hand.
The one serious issue I ran into with the P-208 is that I couldn't test it for scanning to editable text format. Canon doesn't include a program than can handle the task. This seems like an odd oversight, since the scan utility offers optical character recognition (OCR) for scanning to a searchable PDF file. However, there's no way to use the OCR to scan to a text file.
The inability to scan to editable text format makes it hard to give the Canon imageFormula P-208 an unqualified recommendation. The scanner itself is impressive, thanks to its fast speed, ADF, and duplexing – and even the scan utility is capable as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough.
If you don't need to scan to editable text format, or already have software for that task, this won't be an issue. If you have to buy a program, however, you may actually save money buying a more expensive scanner, like Canon's own P-215, that already includes the software you need.
Manufacturer and Model
Canon imageFormula P-208
Automatic Document Feeder
USB or FireWire Interface
Maximum Optical Resolution