A Guide to Printer Specifications

11-12-2014 by

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When buying a printer or reading a review of one online, you might notice that the printer’s specifications are included in the review. While some things are self-explanatory, like how many pages the printer cartridges can print and how many sheets of paper the paper tray can hold, some specifications need a little more explaining.

Our technical team have put together a guide on what the various specifications mean and how that can help you choose the right printer for your needs.

Dots per inch (dpi)

Dots per inch are how many tiny dots your printer can print in a square inch of paper. The higher the dpi the more detailed printed images will be. This is measured in multiples of 300 or 600 (e.g. 1200 or 1440 dpi).

While this may seem important, especially if you’re buying the printer for photo printing, but some printer manufacturers use other technologies to stretch the dpi of their printers, so the number is not necessarily accurate.

Print speed

This is often measured in pages per minute (ppm), characters per minute (cpm) or images per minute (ipm). This is designed to give you an idea of how fast the printer will get your print job finished. However, most inkjet printer print speed is measured using the printer’s draft or economy mode which produces lower quality prints.

When looking at print speed, look out for “laser comparable”, this is closer to the true speed of your inkjet printer.

Internal memory

This is measured either in kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB) and indicates how much print data the printer can hold (spool) while it is busy with another job. Most personal printers either have no internal memory or have very small internal memory.

Most business laser printers will have internal memory in order to allow multiple users to print at the same time. This ranges from about 32MB of RAM (for lower-end printers) up to 1 GB of RAM (for graphics-orientated, professional printers). If you know you’re going to have a busy printer or your documents are going to be very graphics heavy, check if your printer’s memory can be upgraded and what the maximum upgrade is.

Monthly duty cycle

This is the maximum number of pages a printer can print in a month without failing. Personal printers usually have a duty cycle of about 5000 pages per month, while some lower-end business laser printers can handle 20 000 pages a month. Higher-end office machines are usually able to handle up to 100 000 pages a month.

Your monthly usage should fall below the monthly duty cycle of the printer you’re looking at (we recommend about 1500 pages). If it doesn’t, you’ll be able to look at a printer that is better equipped to handle your printer needs and avoid nasty surprises when your printer suddenly dies on you.

Most printer can connect to a single PC via a USB cable. This is most often true of personal printers. However, printers that need to be used by groups of printers have a variety of networking options to allow users to connect to the printer. This can include integrated wireless connections. Business printers will usually have Ethernet connections to allow them to function on company networks.

If you need many people to connect to the printer, check the various networking options to choose the right printer for your needs.

If you have any questions about your printer, printer ink or toner cartridges, you can contact us and our customer support team will be able to help you out.

Nic Venter

About the author

Nic Venter+

 is the founder and director of He started the business in 2009 with the idea to sell ink and toner cartridges online and to provide you with a quality product, value for money and convenience. He regularly blogs on about printing and technology. Part of his philosophy is having fun and making sure that he and his team think everything ink, so you don't have to.

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