What does 5% page coverage mean?

Updated 28/03/2017

‘My ink or toner cartridge prints 1000 pages at 5% page coverage.’ –  What does that mean?!

Fed up personYou’ve probably been frustrated by the fact that your cartridge hasn’t lasted as long as the manufacturer said it should….

Nearly every single ink and toner cartridge says it prints at 5% page coverage, yet so many people don’t know what page coverage means, how it’s calculated or what it looks like on an actual page, and it’s understandable why people feel frustrated when their cartridge doesn’t print the amount of pages it says that it should!

Read on if you’d like to know why that is and get the answer to what does 5% page coverage mean?

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What is page yield or duty cycle?
  • What is 5% page coverage / why was it introduced?
  • What 5% page coverage looks like on a piece of paper
  • What things affect page coverage.
  • How can I make my ink / toner cartridge last longer?

So let’s try and shed some light on it…

What is page yield or duty cycle?

The first thing that we need to define is page yield / duty cycle. Page yield is listed against toner or ink cartridges and duty cycle is listed against maintenance items that don’t contain any ink or toner but will last for a specific number of print cycles.

Each were designed to give you a rough idea of how many pages you should be able to print before your cartridge runs out of ink or toner or your maintenance product needs to be replaced.

What is 5% page coverage / why was it introduced?

The number of pages that you do get from a cartridge can be affected by lots of different things and is difficult to calculate without parameters.

For example, you might own a Samsung printer that uses a cartridge with a page yield of 2500 pages. If you generally just print black and white Word documents and emails, then it’s more likely that you’ll get closer to 2500 pages than someone else using the same cartridge but who prints lots of documents in colour every day including images or blocks of shading. So, the amount of ink or toner being used by those two-different people isn’t the same, and the total number of pages printed by their cartridges won’t be the same either.

Page coverage is only meant to give you a guide to the maximum number of pages an ink or toner cartridge can print not the exact number that it will print.




So how can manufacturers like Samsung say that their toner cartridges can have duty cycles of 2500 pages?

They calculate the numbers based on ‘page coverage.’ It means the amount of an A4 piece of paper that would be completely covered in ink if what you were printing was compacted into a block.

As you might expect, a print out with 5% page coverage will probably have a lot less colours, or shaded areas. Also, remember that printing photographs will use a heck of a lot more ink and toner. Something more like 80% page coverage.

If we use the previous example again, you will be able to print out 2500 pages before you run out…if your average page coverage is 5%.

This is an industry standard measurement that was introduced and enforced by the Office of Fair Trading and ISO (the International Organisation for Standardisation) because there needed to be a way to help customers to understand what they were paying for.

So what does 5% page coverage look like?

You might be thinking that doesn’t sound like much at all but it was the standard that was set for all printer manufacturers to state their page yields to. To give you a better idea of what 5% page coverage looks like on an A4 piece of paper, take a look below:


5% page coverage

Example of 5% page coverage

5% coverage example


Again, going back to the Samsung toner example, if you printed out something like this every single time, or averaged this amount, you should expect to get around 2500 pages from your cartridge based on Samsung’s calculations.

Some people don’t realise just how little 5% is. But if you take this into consideration when reading what your cartridges’ duty cycle/page yield is, you’ll appreciate that it is only a rough estimate.

What things affect page coverage

Now you know that the page yield of an ink or toner is the maximum number of pages a cartridge can print up to, there are several different things that can affect how many pages you get from your new cartridge. Strangely, some of these things are not dissimilar to how long a petrol lasts in a car.

For example, if you drive a car at the top speed limit every day, rev your engine lots and your car is not as efficient as it once was 6 years ago, then you won’t get as many miles from a full tank of petrol than you might if you drive slower or your car is newer. It’s the same for a printer, here are the things that can affect it:

  • Age of the printer
  • Humidity of the office around your printer
  • If your printer is in good condition or has recently been serviced
  • How much / how often you print (if you print lots in small amounts of time)
  • What you are printing (page coverage)
  • If maintenance parts of the printer need replacing.
  • The font you use.

It’s also worth noting that some of these things also affect the quality of your prints.

How can I make my ink or toner last longer?

Ok, so it’s going to be difficult to average 5%. But there are a few things that you can do to help make that toner go just that little bit further.

Bank notes being squeezed out of sponge

Our post with advice on saving printer ink (and toner) outlines 7 really helpful tips that can dramatically help you to reduce wastage. Furthermore, it is worth considering:

  • Setting your printer to draft mode / changing fonts.This reduces the quality a little (such as making font fainter), but it is ideal for when you’re only printing out rough or internal documents. Changing the font to one that uses less amounts of ink or toner can in fact increase the amount of pages printed.
  • Your printing behaviour.If you’re printing out every little document and email, think whether you need to do so.
  • Keeping digital copies.Save invoices/letters/emails etc. to your hard drive or smartphone, rather than printing them off.
  • Reducing the number of letters, you send.Lots of post means more printouts; could you say it in an email, instead?
  • Get your printer serviced / buy a newer printer. The efficiency of your printer affects its print output. Getting a service can improve that. Also, printers should only last around 4-5 years and newer printers are more advanced and efficient, so buying a new one pays off in the long run.
  • Buy a printer that matches your needs. Your printing needs will change over time and printers are designed for a maximum monthly usage. If you print more than a printer is efficiently meant to it will greatly affect its output and you may find that a new printer that better matches your needs will cost you less in the long run.

Hopefully this has made things a little clearer. If you remember that the duty cycle figure is only meant to be taken as a guide (and how it’s calculated in terms of page coverage), it should leave you feeling a little less short changed or simply find out how many pages your cartridge should print based on what you are printing using our tool.

Was this any good to you? Let us know what you thought. Leave us a comment below or tweet us @TonerGiant.