Resembling a small grey printer, the Canon DR-M160 doesn't perhaps look like a high-calibre document scanner costing close to £950. Look closer, however, and you see a design that improves considerably on that of Canon's much cheaper DR-C125.
The Canon DR-M160 has a more rugged paper feed, and the guide extends much further, allowing you to securely support bundles of documents. We still wouldn't want to overload the M160 though, and Canon itself suggests that you feed it with no more than 60 sheets at once.
Given its potential speed and high price tag, we'd really expect the Canon DR-M160 to be better specified here, and the inability to load it up with a huge pile of documents and leave it working away is something of a limit. That's especially so since its duty cycle of 7000 sheets a day (the C125 recommends just 1500) is substantial. Visit: Business Advisor.
The output tray itself is good. It extends in three sections, and some significant curvature allows it to collect the scanner source material. The tray could perhaps be a little more robust, but the design works a lot better than the C125's. A Long Document mode lets you feed in source material measuring up to 3m.
The control panel is relatively simple, with buttons for selecting which job number to process, as well as for starting and stopping scans. Paper jams are a regular feature of high-speed document scanners, but on the Canon DR-M160, should the material get stuck at any point (if two sheets are fed at once, for instance), a quick press of the DFR (Double Feed Release) button will adjust the feeder and, hopefully, free it. This prevents scan jobs from being destroyed halfway through. See also: Group test: what's the best scanner?
We found the Canon DR-M160 to be surprisingly trouble-free given its speed, but a couple of times we did get jams, and the DFR button was able to successfully resolve these problems.
The supply of software titles is adequate but no more. CapturePerfect 3.1 is a fairly versatile package that can, amongst its various features, scan batches of documents into PDFs.
The main software interface, just as on the cheaper C125, is Capture OnTouch. Indeed, on our review sample the version of OnTouch was actually older than the one offered with the C125, although we hope those buying the M160 new will get at least the same version.
The OnTouch is a very proficient, if slightly stiff, front-end that lets you adjust resolution (from around 200dpi to 600dpi), and create a variety of file types - including both searchable and non-searchable PDFs. You also get a limited but moderately effective range of tools for deskewing crooked documents. Kofax VRS is also included, although if you want state-of-the-art correction tools, you should be prepared to buy a third party package.
Rounding off the bundle is Nuance's eCopy PDF Pro Office, a very workable means of managing and monitoring the sending out of scanned files across networks, email and other packages.
The Canon can link seamlessly with SharePoint, allowing it to integrate well within offices using Microsoft software.
Mac users will find themselves out in the cold, however. While the cheaper C125's software suite and drivers support Macs, the M160's makes no mention at all. Since a number of the software titles are shared across the two scanners, we're a little puzzled as to why this should be. So it's worth noting that Canon appears not to be officially supporting the Macintosh on this high-end document scanner.
We expected the M160 to be much faster than Canon's cheaper C125. However, while there is a noticeable difference, it isn't as great as we expected. That's because, while the device itself can physically scan at a much greater rate, much of the process of converting documents revolves around the computer rather than the scanner - over half of the time was spent waiting for the software to complete its tasks, and the Canon was itself more or less irrelevant through this phase.
At a resolution of 200dpi, the M160 converted our main 20-page test job into a searchable PDF in 34 seconds - 15 seconds faster than the C125, but with a rate of just 35.3ppm. This figure is reasonably impressive, but you might expect more given the price hike.
If you're happy with image files rather than PDFs, you can see speeds of up to 52.2ppm, but for fully searchable files, you won't get much above that 35ppm.
Scan quality is an improvement on that of the C125. The text is darker and sharper and flesh tones appear smoother and more natural. Colour is generally a notch up. Move to the 300dpi mode and the results are better still. And here the speed remains a very usable 19.4ppm, while the OCR capabilities are strong, with even our demanding dictionary page being well converted. The 600dpi mode remains at just below the 10ppm mark, and produced strong results across both OCR text and colour pages.