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What Does Printer Cartridge Page Yield Mean?

What Does Printer Cartridge Page Yield Mean?

Posted By: John Published: 30/12/2015 Times Read: 211 Comments: 0

At Printhead, we’re often asked: “Mr Printhead, how many pages is X cartridge capable of printing?” To this question, our response is always the same – “It all depends on how many sheets the cartridge can print at a five per cent yield.”
What’s 5% yield we hear you ask? Put simply it refers to coverage, or more specifically, how much of a page is covered by ink or toner. Why 5%? That’s where it gets complicated, but we’ll do our best to explain.

Basically, page yield is used as a way for cartridge manufacturers to calculate how many prints a cartridge is capable of printing – thus helping the consumer discern which product is right for them. For example, a HP inkjet cartridge could have a page yield of 350 – meaning it can print 350 pages. With us so far?

In the early days of the printer however, printer manufacturers (HP, Epson, Brother etc) used to calculate page yield themselves using a variety of different methods. With such varying approaches to the calculation of page yield, inaccuracies quickly developed – subsequently misleading customers.

Enter the ISO – aka the International Organisation for Standardization – who created a series of testing procedures that would allow cartridge manufacturers to calculate page yield using a fair, impartial process.

To accurately determine a cartridge’s yield, the ISO created a set of text documents – each of which had approximately 5% page coverage. Cartridge manufacturers use this documentation when testing new cartridges; printing the documents until the cartridge has ran out ink or toner. Hey presto – they have an accurate page yield, and can advertise that on the cartridge’s packaging.

Of course, customers rarely achieve this advertised page yield in a real-world printing environment. To attain the number of advertised prints displayed on the packaging, each printed document would need precisely 5% coverage – something that’s nigh on impossible to replicate when printing a range of different documents and images.

In their in-depth guide to printer page yield, Lexmark liken the ISO’s 5% page yield model to the MPG (miles per gallon) rating of a car; sure, a car may be capable of 50mpg in a controlled test environment, but in the real world this figure will be affected by no-end of factors – from driving speed to traffic conditions.

And the same can be said of page yield. Yes, a cartridge could potentially print 350 pages, but if the user prints lots of images (which have a total coverage greater than 5%) they’re unlikely to be able to print anywhere near that many pages.

So, the next time you’re shopping for cartridges, don’t set much store by the advertised page yield. Whilst it might be possible to achieve the stated number of prints, it would require a nerdy preoccupation with page coverage – something the average print user probably wouldn't have time for.

For more printing tips and advice, be sure to check out the rest of the Printhead blog. Alternatively, click here to visit the Printhead website, where you can browse our complete range of affordable ink and toner cartridges. 

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