Duty Cycles

By M. David Stone  |  Posted 2008-03-03 Print this article Print

Maximum Duty Cycle: What It Means

The maximum monthly duty cycle never meant what most people assume. It is not the maximum number of pages you should print in a typical month; it's the maximum you can print without driving up repair costs. If you hit the maximum every month, you'll typically reach the printer's lifetime maximum in just a few months.

Recommended Monthly Duty Cycle. Not.

Some manufacturers have taken to slipping terms like "recommended maximum duty cycle" into their spec sheets when they really mean maximum duty cycle. Don't take these claims at face value. If the spec sheet says recommended maximum, ask what the maximum duty cycle is and see if you get the same number.

Maximum Duty Cycle: What It's Good for

It would be nice if manufacturers would publish an actual recommended monthly duty cycle along with the maximum. But because they generally don't, the rule of thumb for getting the longest life from your printer is to print no more than about one-third of the maximum duty cycle in any given month.

The Missing Duty Cycle Specs

There are two other duty cycle-related specs it would help to know: the design lifetime in months and in total number of pages. The total pages divided by the total lifetime in months, would be the same as the recommended monthly duty cycle. Manufacturers don't usually provide this information, but they should.


M. David Stone is an award-winning freelance writer and computer industry consultant with special areas of expertise in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing. His 25 years of experience in writing about science and technology includes a nearly 20-year concentration on PC hardware and software. He also has a proven track record of making technical issues easy for non-technical readers to understand, while holding the interest of more knowledgeable readers. Writing credits include eight computer-related books, major contributions to four others, and more than 2,000 articles in national and worldwide computer and general interest publications. His two most recent books are The Underground Guide to Color Printers (Addison-Wesley, 1996) and Troubleshooting Your PC, (Microsoft Press, 2000, with co-author Alfred Poor).

Much of David's current writing is for PC Magazine, where he has been a frequent contributor since 1983 and a contributing editor since 1987. His work includes feature articles, special projects, reviews, and both hardware and software solutions for PC Magazine's Solutions columns. He also contributes to other magazines, including Wired. As Computers Editor at Science Digest from 1984 until the magazine stopped publication, he wrote both a monthly column and additional articles. His newspaper column on computers appeared in the Newark Star Ledger from 1995 through 1997.

Non-computer-related work includes the Project Data Book for NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (written for GE's Astro-Space Division), and magazine articles and AV productions on subjects ranging from cosmology to ape language experiments. David also develops and writes testing scripts for leading computer magazines, including PC Magazine's PC Labs. His scripts have covered a wide range of subjects, including computers, scanners, printers, modems, word processors, fax modems, and communications software. He lives just outside of New York City, and considers himself a New Yorker at heart.


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