Best Digital Highlighter Pen Scanners [Top 5 Reviewed]

By Walter J. Farrell | GEAR

After spending about 18 hours on researching, hands-on testing and evaluating a dozen of digital highlighters. We concluded Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner is the best digital highlighters among the 5 we have picked. The Air Pen Scanner has a unique way of bridging the gap between the physical and digital world. We loved its capability of scanning a line within one second and even two lines at one go on some texts.

Do you feel like drowning in all the books, texts, and projects of college's life? But you still keep on writing and typing anyway, knowing that you won’t be able to finish everything on time.

But man…finals is coming up, and all of the note-taking is making your head spin. You feel that it doesn’t help you absorb all the information needed to get through all the subjects you need to pass.

Where has your excitement of college life gone?

That’s why people who understand how troublesome and time-consuming note-taking is, have devised a way to manufacture a product to ease everybody’s life by making digital highlighters.

Whether you’re a college student, who needs to take a lot of notes or a professional whose daily job requires transcription from a book, newspaper or any texts. Getting a digital highlighter might be just the thing that will save you.

What a world. When you woke up today, you didn’t have any idea that you were living a life devoid of digital highlighters.

We understand how hectic your life is that’s why we took it upon ourselves to test, research, and evaluate all the digital highlighters we could get our hands to make it easier for you to choose the best.

So are you ready to know which one tops the list?

Let’s start.

Best Digital Highlighter Pen Scanners 2017

Product NamePowerScan Text SizeDimensions 
Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner1 Lithium Polymer battery6 - 24 pt5 x 0.9 x 0.7 inches
PenPower WorldPenScan XBuilt-in lithium polymer rechargeable battery6 - 22 pt8 x 7.2 x 3.6 inches
Ectaco C-Pen 3.0 Handheld ScannerBuilt-in lithium polymer rechargeable battery5 - 22 pt1.2 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
PenPower WorldPenScan USBUSB 2.06 - 22 pt1.5 x 0.7 x 5.1 inches
IRISPen Executive 7USB 2.06 - 22 pt5.5 x 1 x 1.4 inches

How Do Digital Highlighters Work?

Digital Highlighters (aka pen scanners) are handheld devices that allow you to scan texts such as books and written words, and upload to any devices via USB. You can run the file on Apps that support typed words like MS PowerPoint, Excel, and Word.

Most handheld scanners have a scan field of 0.4 inches which read characters from about 8 pt up to 24 pt. Whether you are a college student or someone who writes for a living, this device helps you save time, records notes, shares your ideas or even back up your writing.


"What To Consider Before Buying a Digital Highlighter?"

Digital Highlighters were designed to lessen your work by scanning your notes directly to devices. It saves you the time from having to retype your notes to write your reports. Here are 3 factors that we found we think is the most important when it comes to choosing a good digital highlighter.

1. Functionality

Fundamentally, digital highlighters scan notes and run on any device that accepts keyboard typing. Other functions may include text-to-speech and directory. As you begin your search it's important to know that if you find any digital highlighter brands that are known for having poor connectivity issue, it would be better to stay away since you will connect rather frequently. 

2. Design

Digital highlighters scan up to two lines at a time. There might be cases when its sharp, hard plastic tip causes problems for users by making gliding through the pages difficult, and sometimes causes tear or even leave scrapes on papers.

3. Accuracy

Accuracy is an important key factor that needs to be considered as well. The digital highlighters of today are far from perfect. 100% accuracy is nonexistent.

The digital highlighter’s technology uses an engine that makes use of multifaceted algorithms of pattern recognition and mathematical nature to produce a decent text file output.

Some devices are capable of giving out 80% accuracy rates and others can go up to 95%. That’s why it’s important to do your research and find out what best suits your needs.

For example, based on feedback from other customers using a certain digital highlighter, get about 80% accuracy on Hiragana and Kanji (Japanese Characters) and higher if it’s a language that uses the English alphabet.


How We Assessed and Evaluated These Products

Our search began at 4 different local malls to see whatever digital highlighters were available to customers. We scoured through every electronic and computer shops in the malls, and gathered a list of digital highlighters we were able to find.

As expected there were plenty of highlighters in almost all of the stores we visited. Each came with its own variety of features and various price point.

Although a little overwhelming, we pursued in narrowing down the list (from 25 different digital highlighters to 5) by ranking and scoring method, researching user's feedback and interviewing one expert in the OCR technology.

Part of our evaluation included establishing common buying criteria that are prioritised by users. Like design, accuracy, functionality, and price.

After we determined the criteria, we then scored each of the products we listed. We sorted them accordingly and eliminated the products with the lowest scores until we were able to get our top 5 contenders.

We then conducted a rigorous assessment of each digital highlighter through product-testing and research.

We understood that choosing the best product did not solely rely on the most expensive nor the one that had the most features. Hence, we developed a systematic evaluation approach that assessed the product’s quality, overall performance, and its quantitative and qualitative factors. 


Our Top Picks

As we tested the Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner, we quickly observed that it took us a while before getting the hang of it.

We also found the tutorials to be very helpful. As we progressed on our assessment, we figured that it isn’t a good idea to throw the box immediately after getting the device as the registration code for the software is printed on there.

As we tried it on an older version of Android OS in a tablet we encountered a problem with its compatibility. We tried the newer version of Android (5.0 Lollipop) and it worked fine. So that’s something to be considered when you’re thinking of buying this product.

We also noticed that it seems to scan the best when you glide it using moderate paced strokes (rather than slowly as the tips suggest). It takes a while to get used to but we were able to learn the technique and we found that it does a decent job at scanning the correct letters.

We also noticed that the last words in the lines keep getting left out as we scan. Apparently, we need to go over a few spaces after the last word for it to recognize that it’s the last word of the line. 

What We Liked

  • Saved us hours of note-taking
  • Customer service through its website is quick and very helpful
  • Worked well in Android and Windows Operating Systems

What We Didn't Like

  • It seems to have a hard time scanning apostrophes.
  • When a line ends with a hyphen, it disregards the hyphen and creates a
  • It struggled with italics sometimes

When we first got our hands on the PenPower WorldPenScan X, we liked that it comes in great packaging and it feels like a good and sturdy device.

After the initial charge of about 2 hours the digital highlighter easily paired with the smartphone we tried it on (via Bluetooth connection). But before pairing we had to download the WorldPenScan App to use it with our phone. And we love that it has an easy set-up process.

We had a Spanish speaking co-worker and he brought a Spanish book for testing purposes and we loved that this tiny device translated almost everything correctly.

It also has a green light indicator which tells us that it’s recording. We tried scanning through various speeds and different words with font size 12 pt, and we mostly got 1 or 2 red failure light.

We also found it very efficient that it has a feature which we can manually adjust the input by removing or adding a letter.

It’s multi-language translator feature also works great. We tested it on Greek characters and also Italian, and were very happy that it was able to correctly function. We believe that this is a great tool to bring when traveling to a country where you are unfamiliar with the language. 

What We Liked

  • Easy set-up
  • Supports and recognize bar codes and bank fonts
  • plus
    There’s a protective cap to cover the fragile scanning tip

What We Didn't Like

  • exclamation-triangle
    It had hard time scanning handwritten text.
  • exclamation-triangle
    No dictionary for word definition

3. Ectaco C-Pen 3.0 Handheld Scanner - 1st Runner Up

On testing the Ectaco C-Pen 3.0 Handheld Scanner, we believe that it is a great tool for clipping small blocks of text into our computer notes. We like that its USB cord is detachable from the highlighter- that makes it very easy to store.

We did encounter a problem when we tried it on a Linux operating system. It seems like it isn’t compatible with Linux, so we tried it on our laptop that had Windows 8.1 as its operating system and it worked fine.

We like that its button can be manually set to do a variety of things such as “Return”, “Tab”, or “Space”. We tested it for an hour of scanning and we only encountered 3 errors. We used MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Notepad we were impressed that it did a pretty decent job.

We even tried it on a meeting and in our opinion, it’s a timesaver as it gets the text input faster than having to type manually. We like that it’s also able to scan texts from right to left (very handy if you’re a leftie).

We also noted that scanning on curved surfaces in a book, it causes gibberish characters to appear in the output document.

What We Liked

  • Accuracy rate was 97% when the book we copied was on a flat, solid surface.
  • Reliable and fast
  • Easy to use

What We Didn't Like

  • Hard time scanning with “only digits” setting was selected.
  • Others reported that it did not scan text that were not black nor on a non-white background.

On trying the PenPower WorldPenScan USB, we were surprised at how fast we could highlight and still got a good text output. We found that bought lighting in the room also helps a lot when highlighting.

We also tried it on our office Mac Book and it did its job well. With this device, though, we had to always connect to a computer and ran on a word processing App simultaneously. If you don’t find that cumbersome, then it won’t be a problem.

While conducting more evaluations, we did find that underlined words can rarely be scanned through. And sometimes it’s unavoidable to leave a scrape on the pages because the bottom leg of the scanner needs to be pressed to the paper. That’s an important thing to consider if you often have to scan expensive or borrowed books.

If part of your profession is to summarize frequently, we believe that this is a great tool to quickly excerpt important materials from textbooks. The fastest we were able to scan a line with this digital highlighter was 1 second.

What We Liked

  • Capable of recognizing hard pharmacological generic names
  • Ergonomically well designed
  • Able to scan texts in both directions (even though its software says only one direction)

What We Didn't Like

  • Some reported that it left little scratches and scrapes on the pages while try scanning.
  • Its software can only be installed to one computer

When we assessed the IRISPen Executive 7 we liked that its software is easy to install. We tried scanning a book with it for an hour and were happy to see that we were only able to encounter 3-5 errors.

We also loved that it’s a good tool for left-handed people. So it generally scaned decently when gliding it leftward. We also found that gliding it over the text quickly would do a better scan as opposed to running it slowly. We also noticed that it did work on dark colored fonts well, and that added many points in our book.

We also tried scanning different languages. We noted that it had difficulty recognizing Arabic but it worked well with Persian. Overall, the translation was fairly decent (don’t expect perfection).

We also liked that it scanned all our highlighted texts right into Google Docs and believed that it’s a great handy tool for note taking in meetings, reports, and such.

Another thing we noticed was that it didn't do well on very thick books because of the curved spine. So we had to straighten the page we were scanning by half closing the other half of the book so that it’s bottom ends looked like a 45-degree angle.

What We Liked

  • Easy software installation
  • Once we got the rhythm, we would be able to scan texts quicker
  • Supports multiple languages

What We Didn't Like

  • Some reported that its software did not install properly on Window OS 7
  • Learning curve for new users


Our Recommendations:

Editor's Pick: Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner

We spent a few hours on deliberating and assessing about which one was our top pick. It took us a while because all three have the same scores so we had to find other factors to break the tie.

We ended up choosing the Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner as the best because we loved that this tiny digital highlighter has three different ways to connect, via Micro USB (very handy when the battery is out), Bluetooth, and the included dongle works well when your computer does not have Bluetooth available.

Its capability of scanning a whole line of text in a second is only limited by how steady you can manage in holding it while gliding through the texts.

Runners Up: Ectaco C-Pen 3.0 Handheld Scanner & PenPower WorldPenScan X 

If you want an alternative to the Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner, the Ectaco C-Pen 3.0 Handheld Scanner is the next best thing. It’s a device that works well to eliminate your excess time of typing and editing documents. It’s fast and compact, we were delighted how this digital highlighter helped us with organizing documents.

The PenPower WorldPenScan X is our third pick. Mostly because we found it very easy to use and it gets easier the more we used it. It saved us from having to scan whole pieces of documents, or retyping it word for word. We found the data input process to be beneficial in our daily lives as we can quickly transcript selected texts or line in its application.

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About the Author

Walter J. Farrell is an accountant who is very passionate about sharing his knowledge on high tech gadgets. He started AuthorityAdviser to help people know more about the products that are currently a hit in the market.

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