Cost Per Print

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

Cost Per Page

The printer industry seems to be converging on a standard for determining cost per page, leading to the possibility of finally being able to compare running costs. But we're not there yet. When you compare claimed costs, be sure to check what method the claims are based on, and don't take comparisons based on different methods too seriously.

Mono Cost Per Page

There are at least three common ways to determine cartridge yield for calculating a monochrome cost per page: 5 percent per page coverage; the ISO/IEC 19752 test suite; and the ISO/IEC 24712 test suite. They all give different results.

Color Cost Per Page

There are at least two common ways to determine cartridge yield for calculating a color cost per page: 5 percent coverage with each color and the ISO/IEC 24712 test suite. Again, they give different results.

Is Black a Color?

Some manufacturers leave black out of the calculation for color pages. It should be included, since most color pages (other than photos) use black too.

Cost Per Page or Cost of Toner?

Most laser printers use other consumables besides toner (also known as routine maintenance items)-things like fusers and transfer rollers. The actual total cost per page includes those items too. Without them, the manufacturer is just giving the cost of the toner.

The Five Percent Non-Solution

Cost per page claims based on 5 percent coverage (or 5 percent per color) need to be taken with a large grain of salt even when you compare them to each other. Unlike the ISO/IEC yield testing, there's no standard procedure for determining things like end of life for a cartridge, so results from different manufacturers aren't really comparable.


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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