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The Basics

First of all, we need to state that without a detailed analysis of exactly what you are printing and how often you print, it is impossible to tell you exactly how much it will cost to print each page on any given printer.

What we can do, however, is compare the cost per print on various printers using various assumptions. They are:
  • We calculate the cost per print on the premise that the highest yield consumable available for each device is used;
  • The average street cost of each consumable;
  • The manufacturer's stated page yield of each consumable; and
  • The consumables used in a particular device.

To break that down a little:

Highest yield consumables

Many devices have the option to use standard yield supplies or high yield supplies. Some even use extra high yield or even ultra high yield supplies. There is usually no difference to the outer casing of standard yield supplies and high yield supplies, and both will fit in the same printer, but high yield supplies contain more ink or toner. High yield supplies offer a lower cost per page, so if you use standard yield supplies you will be paying more per print.

Cost of supplies

Rather than using recommended retail prices, which would result in an inflated figure, we use the average street price of consumables. This ensures a more accurate comparison because it takes into account the true cost of supplies.

We also take into account only the cost of individual cartridges, whereas many retailers are now offering value packs which contain a full set of cartridges for your device, offered at a discount. It's easy to find these, just Google [your printer model] value pack and they will come up.

You can also save by shopping around, but remember that the cheapest is not always the best option. Take into account company reputation, delivery reliability, returns policy, and product quality.

You can also buy compatible inks and toners. Some are great quality, some are quite bad... not all generic inks and toners are equal! Once again, if you buy from a reputable company (usually paying a little more) you shouldn't have any problems. You also need to weigh up the cost of the printer versus the cost of genuine consumables versus the cost of generic consumables versus the quality of print you require. Sometimes it doesn't make sense to buy expensive genuine cartridges for a printer so you "don't void the warranty" when the printer only cost you $69, or all you are printing is unimportant pages where quality isn't essential.

Stated yields

To be able to compare page yields between different printers and manufacturers, there is an industry-wide testing methodology. The International Standards Organization (ISO) has established these standards. They are: ISO/IEC 24711 for inks, /IEC 19752 for mono lasers, and IEC 19798 for colour lasers.

We use the page yield data as a basis point for comparison purposes, and not to predict the exact yield (and cost per print) you will get from your printer and cartridge. Page yield data is meant to estimate the average yield expected from a particular cartridge when measured using the ISO test methodology in connection with a designated printer system. Individual cartridges can perform above and below this average due to variation in the cartridge manufacturing process. Additionally, actual yield varies considerably based on factors such as the content of printed pages, typical printer job size, the environmental conditions during operation and the amount of color printing relative to monochrome printing.

We use the manufacturer supplied page yield data to calculate the cost per print as it is a standard that is used by all manufacturers. The cost per print shown is used for comparison purposes only, to compare one device against another, so if a cartridge for Printer A costs $100 (street price) and the manufacturer's stated yield is 1,000 pages, we calculate a cost of 10 cents per print. If a similar cartridge for Printer B costs $80 and also has a yield of 1,000 pages, we calculate the cost to be 8 cents per print. As you can see the comparison is correct, Printer B is cheaper to run than Printer A.

Consumables used

Our calculations are based on all the consumables used in the printer. This is usually just ink cartridges or toner cartridges, but may also include extra consumables such as printheads, drums (imaging units), transfer belts, developer units and/or waste toner bottles. When calculating the compatible product cost per print, we include compatible ink or toner plus any extra consumables required to get an accurate result.