Business Printers: A Guide to Tackling Your Toner Efficiently

By: Ben Marker

Whether you are using a conventional office photocopier or multi-function printer (MFP), you are going to have to deal with toner and ink cartridges over the lifetime of your machine. These components are essential for copying and printing but they can also be a real headache for the folks managing your office budget. Getting the most out of your copier means making sure that not only does it work effectively, but that it isn't draining your funds at the same time. Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating your current copier or MFP or if you are in the market for a new device.

Think of it Like a Movie Theatre

Much as how the largest parts of a theatre's profits come from their concessions, be aware that coper and MFP manufacturers can sometimes derive more of their profit from the toner and ink sales. This is understandable since such devices are meant to last, but it does mean you can run into situations where a vendor will sell a cheap and possibly below-cost machine in order to sell expensive toner.

To make sure you aren't getting ripped off, make sure you understand the cost-per-page of the toner. This is done by dividing the cost of the toner by the page yield. The page yield, by the way, should be available from the manufacturer's website. If it's hard to find, consider that a warning sign. The average per-page rates are outlined below:

  • LED printer, plain black text: 1-2.5 cents per page
  • LED printer, simple four-color page: 12-15 cents per page
  • Inkjet printer, plain black text: 4-5 cents per page
  • Inkjet printer, simple four-color page: 12-14 cents per page

The page yield is based on industry standard testing, which segues nicely into the next point to keep in mind.

Industry Standards Are Not Representative

The page yield information on a toner cartridge is a lot like the miles-per-gallon rating on a car: the figure was obtained using standardized testing that by definition requires making certain assumptions about how it is used and cared for. With printer and copier toner, the standard black-and-white test page has about 4-5% coverage while the color test page has around 20% coverage. This 20% is divided equally between the four main colors of the cartridge: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.

What this means is that it is important to be aware of what your copier or MFP will be used for when looking at page yield information. The test parameters are based on consumer averages, but statistics don't always apply to the individual. Take a look at the sorts of documents that you copy regularly. Do they have more or less than the toner coverage used in the tests?

For the record, the black-and-white test page looks like this and the color test pages looks something like this. By figuring out whether you use more of your toner than the testing standards, you can determine whether you will get more or less value out of any given cartridge.

Balance Capacity With Cost

The last part of the toner equation is to make sure you don't get deceived by differences in capacity. Cartridge A may have a cost-per-page of just one cent, which makes it look like a way better deal than Cartridge B's 2.5 per page. However, it may turn out that Cartridge B is the more affordable option over the long term since it has 50% more page yield than Cartridge A. Another way to approach cost is to research the type of business printers or photocopiers that you are using. You may be able to find more information and resources on the West X website.

How much this kind of comparison matters to your business will naturally depend on how frequently you use your copier or MFP. Infrequent use can make the difference negligible since it gets divided over an extended period, while frequent use means these differences can make or break your decision. Try and estimate your expected page volume over a single month or year and use that to help figure out whether a cartridge's capacity is worth its cost.