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If you do a lot of printing, you might feel as if you’re forever running out of ink and toner, constantly having to sort out ordering new supplies.

We understand. We know that many of you question whether you’re getting value for money, especially when you might be expecting your cartridges to last longer than they do.

There are things that you can do to maximise the amount of printing you can do before you run out of ink and toner (our post entitled ‘Spend Less on Printer Ink Cartridges- 7 Helpful Tips’ outlines a few of these). But many want to know exactly how many pages the ink and toner in their cartridges will print before they purchase one.

pile of paper/pages


So in this post we’re going to outline how printer manufacturers work out the ‘page yield/duty cycle’ of their cartridges, as well as some things that will impact on the amount of pages you will get from one cartridge.

What is page yield/duty cycle?

In short, page yield or duty cycle is the number of pages your cartridge should be able to print before it runs out of ink or toner.

However, things aren’t actually that straightforward.

For years each major manufacturer had their own internal methods for calculating page yield and duty cycle. This caused problems. For example, how HP worked out that one of their black toner cartridges had a 2500 page yield/duty cycle would have been completely different to how Brother worked out that one of their equivalent cartridges had a 3000 page yield/duty cycle. This, as you can imagine, made things incredibly confusing for consumers.

There needed to be a standardised way of calculating this for all manufacturers. So over the course of two years between 2004 and 2006, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) worked with the major printer manufacturers to come up with a singular way of calculating page yield/duty cycle. So now it’s consistent across all manufacturers.

But it is still a pretty complicated thing.

duty cycle on TonerGiant products

The exact figure stated next to page yield/duty cycle on a cartridge’s product description will be based on ‘page coverage.’ A measurement enforced by the Office of Fair Trading, this is the amount of ink/toner used on a page, based on the type of text, images, borders etc. Commonly page yield/duty cycle is based on 5% page coverage (our post from June 2014 explains exactly what this means and what it looks like).

So this makes it incredibly difficult to put an exact number on the amount of pages you can expect to print from one cartridge. An analogy we love and that we tell our customers to think about when it comes to this is that it’s like the miles per gallon (MPG) figure of your car. The brochure your car came with might state that it can achieve 60 MPG, for example, but factors such as the distance you drive, how you drive, tyre pressures etc. can all cause that figure to fluctuate.

So what things can impact on the page yield/duty cycle of your cartridge?

What can affect your page yield/duty cycle

As mentioned, it is determined by page coverage. You might buy a cartridge that is capable of lasting 2000 pages at 5% page coverage but, if your average page coverage is higher than that, then you’re not going to achieve that amount.

Things such as the amount of text on page, colour, images etc. will all impact on page coverage and, ultimately, the overall yield/cycle of the cartridge, too. But what else might prevent you from getting the stated page yield/duty cycle?


We covered this in a post in May 2014 about how the humidity in your office can affect the performance of your printer. It might cause ink and toner to not print onto the page properly, meaning that you could be wasting a significant amount each time you print.

Age of your printer

Older printers are generally less efficient. Advancements in printing technology mean that modern printers will need to use less ink and toner per job than older machines. So if you’ve got a 10 year old printer, it might be worth considering investing in a new printer.

An old and a new Epson printer

Frequency of printing

If you leave your printer idle for long periods, specifically inkjets, it may have to use small amounts of ink to clean and clear print heads. Frequent printing means that this shouldn’t be an issue.

The mode your printer is set to

Are you printing in draft mode or best quality? Draft mode will use roughly around half the amount of ink and toner compared to best quality. Changing the mode depending on the importance/type of printing your doing can help you to save a little bit more ink and toner.

Also, it is worth remembering that many printers have calibration devices in place that will use small amounts of ink and toner for routine maintenance, often whilst in sleep mode.

The size of your print job

If you’ve got a five page document, printing all of the pages in separate print jobs, rather than in one singular job, will use more ink and toner.

Shaking toner cartridges as they begin to run low

If you’re being alerted that your toner cartridge is running low, don’t replace it straight away. Giving the cartridge a shake will help spread the toner more evenly inside. It means that you can maximise the amount of toner you use before you throw the cartridge away. Your printer manual should outline the shake process for you.

diagram how to shake toner

Image courtesy of


In summary

It’s impossible to put a definite figure on the amount of pages you’ll be able to print from one cartridge!

The MPG analogy used before really is a great way of looking at your printing. Use the page yield/duty cycle figure as a guide only. Appreciate that differences in your printing behaviour will cause you to use more or less ink and toner each time. And that there are things that you can do to maximise the amount of pages that you can get from one cartridge.


Did you find this useful? What do you do to try and make your cartridges last as long as possible? Let us know below or tweet us @TonerGiant.

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