Friday, 12 June 2015

Printer Specs Explained - A Glossary of Printer Terms

It's a wonderful thing that printer manufacturers explicitly list off the specs of the machines that they produce. But when DPI and PPM mean nothing other than letters – what's the point? We've consolidated a list of terms and definitions that show up in printer specs, to help you decode their meaning and essentially, help you figure out why one printer may be better for you than another.

Basic Specs

Dots per inch (dpi)

This is the number of dots a printer can fit into one square inch on a piece of paper. The greater the number of dots per inch means the greater the detail the printer can output. Higher resolution results in clearer text and sharper images.

Duty Cycle

This refers to the number of pages you can print each month prior to pushing your printer beyond its limits. The volume of how much you print in a given month is what you'll need to consider when looking at your printer's duty cycle specs. Personal printers usually max out at a duty cycle of 5,000 pages whereas heavy duty business printers will have a duty cycle close to 100,000 pages or more.

Pages per minute (ppm)

This signifies print speed – the number of pages printed per minute – according to manufacturer's testing. Sometimes this can also be articulated as cpm (characters per minute) or ipm (images per minute). The greater the number, the faster the prints – however – it should be noted that depending on what you are printing, this number may not be true to life. Meaning, if you're simply printing black and white text, the ppm should be accurate. Whereas with more complicated documents (i.e. documents containing text and graphics), you could be waiting longer than the listed ppm.


The internal memory of a printer is usually represented in terms of KB or MB and most home-use printers have no memory at all. Memory becomes a huge issue for business printers though, because of how much print data the machine needs to handle when a full queue of documents is waiting to be printed. The higher the memory capacity, the quicker your printer will be able to process the queue of jobs.

Paper-Handling Specs

Automatic Document Feeder (ADF)

Multifunctional printers today can come with an automatic document feeder on the top - so you don't have to stand there and feed the printer large documents page by page. Essentially, you can load your multi-page document into the top and have the printer automatically feed each page you wish to scan, copy or fax.


This is basically the ability for double sided printing. Automatic duplexing will print onto both sides of a page, eliminating the need to flip a page after one side's been printed on and then feeding it back into the printer for the other side. The option for duplexing is great when you want to cut down on paper costs and paper consumption.

While this list is far from exhaustive, we hope to equip you with at least some basic knowledge to consider when purchasing a printer. Stay tuned for more printer information as we publish articles on a bi-weekly basis. Thanks for reading.