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I need to regularly take black and white scans of some notes written on A4 size sheets. There are a lot of this, and so speed is more important to me than quality — it just needs to be readable. I hoping to do 5 seconds per page or faster.

What do I need to look for in a scanner to meet these requirements?

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FYI: We don't do product recommendations that are out of date in a month or two anyway, that's why @Joel edited your post. – Daniel Beck Mar 1 '11 at 5:26

The two factors that determine scanning speed are colour depth and resolution.

For simple black and white pages then a 2 bit (black and white) scan would be fine, possibly 8 bit greyscale if you need to improve readability.

Scanning at a resolution of 200 dpi should be plenty.

Try to compare the scan speeds of scanners using the same settings (colour depth, resolution, page size). Also, in your case, I would recommend a scanner with an ADF (Automatic Document Feeder), this makes it MUCH easier as you just load the stack of pages and push the button. if the pages are double-sided then you will need an ADF that duplexes.

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