Printer and Copier Specification Terminology Explained

23rd June 2021

When it comes to choosing the right printer or copier, it can be quite a daunting task if you’re not completely sure what all of the different printer terms and specifications mean. Aspects like the type of printer, the connection interface, and the printer RAM to name a few, all need to be taken into consideration to ensure you pick the perfect printer or multifunction device to maximise the efficiency and productivity of your operations.

But there’s no need to worry – in this post, we have gone through and explained all of the essential printer specification terminologies that you should know before making the decision on which printer or copier device is right for you.

Printer Types

There are several different types of printer technologies available on the market, but the best and most commonly used printing technologies in standard A4 sized printing equipment are Inkjet and Laser. For larger A1 or A0 sized prints, wide format printers are available.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers use ink, spraying droplets of ink onto the paper to form a print. They are the most popular type of printer and make the ideal choice for household printing, as they are typically smaller and less expensive than Laser printers. They are able to print text, images, and also have the ability to print high-quality coloured images. The main drawback with Inkjet printers is that the ink in the ink cartridges may dry up if they’re left unused for a period of time.

Laser Printers

Laser printers use toner instead of ink to form prints. The toner is in a powder form, which the laser printer melts and prints onto the paper. These printers are more expensive than Inkjet printers, and the toner used in laser printing is also more expensive than ink cartridges. However, Laser printers can print large volumes of monochrome and coloured documents far more efficiently and frequently, and the toner cartridges don’t dry up if left unused like their Inkjet counterparts. This makes laser printers the best option for busy offices.

Wide-Format Printers

Wide-format printers use either water-based, solvent-based, or UV based technology to form larger scale prints. They are specialist devices that are designed for printing A1 or A0 sized prints onto paper, cloth, wood, glass, plastic, metal, and just about any other material that can fit inside the carrier. Wide-format printers are able to produce large, vivid prints that dry instantly and are resistant to weather conditions, making them ideal for printing posters, banners and signage.

Monochrome vs Colour

Monochrome

Monochrome printers can only produce prints in black ink. They aren’t as popular as colour printers, but the most common type are monochrome Laser printers due to their high print quality and fast print speeds. If you don’t require colour printing, for example, if you only intend to use the printer for text document output, then a monochrome laser printer is probably the best choice for you.

Colour

Colour printers produce prints in full colour using coloured ink. The ink cartridges used in colour printers are either individual cyan, magenta, yellow, and black cartridges, or one single colour cartridge and one black cartridge, depending on the printer model. Colour printers are able to print both text and full-colour images, but the quality of the prints can vary; some colour printers are able to successfully replicate high-quality images, while lower quality printers may reduce the colour saturation. If you need to print colour images then your best option is a colour inkjet or ink tank printer.

Printer Only vs Multi-Function Device (MFD)

Printer Only Devices

These are the most basic type of printing equipment, with the devices at the lowest end of the price range being limited to printing functionality only. With that said, some of the higher end printer-only models come with extra features such as Wi-Fi compatibility, duplex printing, and automatic document feeders, and are often found to run efficiently in big businesses.

Multi-Function Devices (MFD)

Multi-function devices are the most common type of printing equipment used nowadays, due to their capacity to not only print, but also scan, copy, and fax documents. Their multifunctionality makes them ideal for both homes and offices; we recommend for either of these setups to invest in a monochrome laser multi-function printer, as this will allow you print, scan, and copy documents in high quality without breaking the bank on printing costs. However, if you need to print in colour as well as monochrome, you should opt for a colour inkjet MFD instead.

Printer Quality

Printer quality determines the quality and clarity of prints once transferred to the paper. This is one of the most crucial aspects to consider when choosing a printer. The main determining factor of print quality is the printer’s resolution, measured in dots per inch (DPI). The minimum resolution required to produce reasonable quality black and white prints is around 600 x 600 DPI, and the minimum resolution for coloured prints should be around 4800 x 2400 DPI. If you specifically require high quality prints, then you should instead look for black and white printers with a DPI of 2400 x 1200, and coloured printers that have a DPI of 4800 x 2400.

Print Speed

Print speed is as the name suggests, which is the speed at which your printer will produce prints. Print speeds will vary depending on the printer model, but they are all typically measured in pages per minute (PPM). This is a very important determining factor when choosing a printer, as you need to take into consideration your usual printing requirements to pick a printer that will be able to meet those requirements. Printers with a high PPM, i.e. 20-40 pages per minute, are better suited to offices that see a large amount of document output on a daily basis. Those with a lower PPM of around 10-20 are more often suited for home printing where waiting a little longer isn’t too much of an issue.

Laser printers typically have a PPM of about 25-32, making them faster than inkjet printers and ideal for printing high volumes of prints in bulk. Alternatively, inkjet printers typically have a 10-15 PPM rate for monochrome prints, and 7-10 PPM for colour.

Duplex Printing

Duplex printing is a feature that some printers have which makes them capable of printing on both sides of the paper without the need to manually turn the paper over or individually print on both sides. This function significantly increases printing efficiency, making it ideal for those with high printing requirements.

Single-engine Duplex (SED)

Single-engine duplex printers print onto one side of the paper first, then automatically turn the page over to print it on the other side.

Double-engine Duplex (DED)

Double-engine duplex printers are able to simultaneously print both sides of the page. They are often used in businesses that require the production of hundreds of documents per day.

Auto Document Feeder (ADF)

Auto Document Feeders enable the printer to automatically scan, copy, and/or print multiple documents without the need to manually place and scan each individual document in the device. The user can place a stack of documents into the ADF, and the printer will then scan or copy the pages one at a time. ADFs are measured in images per minute (IPM), which refers to the number of individual sides that the device is able to scan in a minute. The standard speed for common ADF devices is 10-50 images per minute, with higher end models being able to support up to 100-200 images per minute.

Paper Tray Capacity

Paper tray capacity refers to the number of sheets of paper that can be loaded into the printer at any one time. Larger scale operations and businesses with a high daily document output should take this feature into account, as printers with a bigger paper tray capacity improve operational efficiency by cutting down the time it takes to refill the printer with paper between prints. Most standard printers have a paper tray capacity of about 250-550 sheets of A4, letter, or legal-sized paper, and a paper tray capacity of just 100-200 sheets is enough for home use. For those with much larger printing requirements, some printers have a paper tray capacity of up to 3500 sheets.

Copy Speed

Copy speed is separate from printer speed, and refers to the speed at which the device is able to copy and print individual documents. A fast copy speed will save time when copying and printing multiple copies of the same document, improving operational efficiency for those who have regular high-volume copying requirements. It is typically measured in pages per minute (PPM). For home printing and those who only need to copy occasionally, devices that have a copy speed of about 20-25 PPM, but larger operations will likely require a much quicker speed than this to meet their copying demands.

Scanner Resolution

Scanner resolution determines the quality and clarity of scanned documents. This is an important factor when choosing a printer/copier, as low-quality scanners are essentially useless for any scale of operation. Scanner resolution is typically measured in the same way as print quality, which is dots per inch or DPI. As a general rule, the higher the DPI, the higher the resolution and quality of the scan. For most, a scanner resolution around 60 DPI is sufficient to provide reasonable quality scans that are clear and readable. If you require particularly high quality scans, perhaps in the case that you need to resize the image to print at a larger size, you should instead aim for a scanning resolution of at least 1200 DPI.

Device Connectivity

Device connectivity refers to the way in which your printing equipment connects to your computer system. There are several different options available, being either wired or wireless connections, depending on the model of printer that you buy.

USB Cable

The majority of printer equipment will be able to connect and communicate with PCs through the use of a USB cable. All your PC needs for this connection is an available USB port and the necessary printer drivers.

Bluetooth

Some printers come with Bluetooth connectivity, which can connect with devices that have Bluetooth capability. As long as your phone and tablet devices have Bluetooth capability, this provides you with direct wireless printing without the hassle of setting up a local area network or Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi

Printers with Wi-Fi connectivity are able to wirelessly connect with other devices on the same Wi-Fi network. This enables multiple users to connect with the printer regardless of how far away they are, with the only requirement being that they are all on the same Wi-Fi network.

Cloud Printing

The cloud has become an increasingly popular method of storing documents and other electronic files, and more up-to-date printers have started to incorporate it into their printer’s software to make cloud printing possible. Cloud printing support includes software like AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, which make the process of accessing files and printing them directly from cloud storage much more simplified.

NFC (Near Field Communication)

NFC is a type of wireless connection that enables the transmission of data from one device to another by touching them or holding them very close together. Printers that have NFC capability can print documents directly from mobile phones, making it a quick and easy way to produce printed documents. With that said, you may need to install some extra software on your phone to make the NFC connectivity function properly.

RAM/Printer Memory

RAM stands for Random Access Memory, and the majority of up-to-date printers have a small amount of this used to store data. The RAM in a printer helps it to respond more quickly, and to prevent errors and data loss. Printers with a high amount of RAM are ideal for busier environments in which a lot of different users are trying to connect to and print from one single printer. If the printer has a sufficient amount of RAM for the demand, users will have a printing experience free of delay and lag.

Security and Data Encryption

Security and data encryption are essential functions on printers to prevent breaches of data, especially for printers that connect to the internet. If the printer doesn’t have any built in security, this leaves any information that has gone through the equipment open to be accessed by hackers or any other unauthorized parties that manage to gain access to it. It is for this reason that proper security and data encryption is an essential feature to look out for on all printers, regardless of whether they’re going to be used in the home or office.

User Authentication Features

Some printers have a built-in security feature that allows administrators to select which specific users are allowed to access and use the printer, preventing anyone who hasn’t been given permission from using the printer network.

Data Encryption

Data encryption is a crucial feature for printers that process secure and sensitive documents. The data encryption technology encrypts data in a way that makes only the PC and the printer able to read and understand it.