Each type of printer technology, inkjet or laser-class, incurs an ongoing cost of consumables, either ink tanks or toner cartridges, respectively. In other words, each page you print costs something, in terms of the small amount of ink or toner the printer distributes over the paper. The cost of that small amount of consumable is known as the cost per page, or CPP. As stated in this article, “When a $150 Printer can Cost You Thousands,” a printer’s CPP is one of the most important considerations when buying a printer. In this article, I’ll show you how to estimate a printer’s cost per page.
It all starts with the ink or toner cartridges’ page yield, which is calculated by the manufacturer using standards setup by the International Organization of Standardization, or ISO. A cartridge’s “page yield” is number of pages the manufacturer claims a particular cartridge will print. The ISO, of course, publishes standardization for many products, not just printers, but the ISO’s guidelines determine the methods that all major printer makers use to estimate page yields.
You can find the ISO guidelines for laser-class toner cartridge page yields at this page on iso.org, and the method for determining ink tank yields here.
The other value used in calculating page yields is the cost of the toner cartridge itself. To come up with a color printer’s CPP, for example, you divide the cost of the cartridge by the number of pages, or page yields. Assume, for instance, that the black ink tank for your inkjet all-in-one (AIO) printer costs $20, and that cartridge’s page yield rating is 500 pages. To get the monochrome, or black-and-white, CPP you simply divide $20 by 500:
Black Cartridge Price / Page Yield =
$20 / 500 = 0.04 cents per page
Easy right? Color pages, on the other hand, since they use more than one cartridge, require a little more complicated formula. Nowadays, most color printers use the standard four process colors, consisting of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks, but some lower-end models use only two cartridges, one large black tank and one cartridge that contains three individual wells, one for each of the other three inks. Then, too, some printers, such as Canon’s high-end photo printers (the Pixma MG7120 comes to mind) use six ink cartridges.
In any case, you estimate a printer’s color CPP by first calculating the CPP for each individual cartridge. Usually, on printers that use the standard CMYK model, the three color ink tanks all have the same page yields and CPPs. So, let’s say, for example, that you’re printer’s three color cartridges’ CPPs are 3.5 cents. To estimate the color CPP, you multiply the color tanks’ CPPs by the number of cartridges, and then you add that total to the black cartridge’s CPP, like this:
Color Cartridge Price / Page Yield = Cartridge CPP x Number of Color Cartridges + Black Cartridge CPP
Or, assuming that the color cartridges cost yield 300 pages and cost $10.50 each:
$10.50 / 300 = 3.5 x 3 = 10.5 cents + 5 cents = 15.50 cents per page.
Keep in mind that page yields are usually estimated using ISO standardized business documents where ink covers only a percentage of the page, such as, depending on the type of document, 5%, 10%, or 20%. Photographs, on the other hand, typically cover the entire, or 100%, of the page, meaning that they usually cost much more to print than do document pages.
You may be wondering, then, what is a good, or “fair,” cost per page. Well, the answer to that is that it depends on the type of printer. Entry-level (under $150) photo printers typically have higher CPPs than high-volume business-centric printers, and which type you should buy depends on several factors, including your projected print volume, as discussed in my “When a $150 Printer can Cost You Thousands” article.