How Many Pages Will My Cartridge Print?
Article Updated 05/05/2021
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, and asking yourself the question “how many pages will my cartridge print?” or “how many pages per ink cartridge?”.
You might be questioning whether you’re getting value for money, especially if you think your cartridges should have lasted longer than they did.
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.
Here’s what you’ll learn from this post:
So in this post we’re going to outline the following:
- How printer manufacturers work out the ‘page yield/duty cycle’ of their cartridges
- Give you an idea of some things that will impact on the amount of pages you will get from one cartridge.
- Show you a quick and approximate way of figuring out how many pages a cartridge will print
- Give you a handy tool to calculate more accurately how much your ink or toner cartridge should print
- Show you how to work out for yourself how many pages your ink or toner cartridge will print using maths.
How long do printer ink cartridges or toner last?
If your wondering how long ink cartridges or toner lasts before they expire or ink dries up, ink cartridges are manufactured with a 2 year expiry date. When you get close to two years, the ink sponge inside the cartridge can start to dry up. More modern printers also recognise when a cartridge has passed 2 years old and will ask you to replace it.
For toner cartridges, there is no expiry date. Toner may degrade over time and the print results may not be as good as they were, but toner does not expire.
If an ink cartridge is unopened or not used, so long as its kept away from humid environments, it should last at least 2 years.
How many pages can be printed with one cartridge?
If you want to know how many pages your printer cartridge will print – You should be able to find an estimated number of prints listed against the product of the place where you bought the cartridge, but bear in mind:
Each printer is different and so each ink cartridge is different too. There are many factors that affect how many pages one cartridge can print. A simple way of looking at things is if you imagine you and a friend both have a drink of water. You aren’t thirsty, but your friend really needs a drink. How long will that drink last? It would be different for each of you because your friend is likely to drink much faster than you, because they are thirsty.
It’s the same for printers. If you take 2 exact same printer models but one printer is old, and another is brand new. The new one will be much more efficient and so ink will last longer. Also what is being printed can change the result. Photos use more ink and take longer to print than text so we need to take these factors into consideration.
How many pages per ink / toner – Quick calculation
Here’s a quick calculation you can do to get a rough idea of how many pages your cartridge will print. The manufacturer capacity is based on 5% of the page being covered in ink or toner, but if you are printing large shaded areas or more than 4 paragraphs of text, we generally print at more like 10 – 15% coverage.
So at 15% coverage, the calculation is, the new coverage value divided by the old coverage value (15 divided by 5). Then divide the stated manufacturer prints number (eg. TN2000 toner is 2500 pages), by the result of the last calculation.
15 / 5 = 3
2500 / 3 = 833.33 pages.
This will give you a more accurate value compared to the manufacturer stated amount. If you don’t know the manufacturer stated capacity, you can find out and get an even more accurate value using our calculator at the bottom of the page.
The calculator will give you a good guesstimate of how many days your cartridge will last.
What is page yield/duty cycle?
In short, page yield or duty cycle is the maximum 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 and give customers a rough guide as to how many pages they can print up to with a printer cartridge.
But it is still a pretty complicated thing.
Examples of page coverage:
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, but what does that look like? Here’s an example of different coverage types from the standard 5%, to a photograph which is more like 80% coverage:
So this makes it incredibly difficult to put an exact number on the amount of pages you can expect to print from one cartridge and answer the question of “How many pages will my cartridge print?” 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 the fuel economy 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 safely or erratically you drive, tire pressures etc. and even how old your car is can all cause that figure to fluctuate widely.
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.
Frequency of printing
If you leave your printer idle for long periods, 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 mode depending on the type of printing your doing can help you to save a 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, also your printer may heat up too much if it isn’t meant for large jobs and print very inefficiently.
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.
Natural usage of the printer / ink cartridge
As the printer is preparing for a print, some ink is used in the process. Ink is also used during cleaning processes, and to service the print head and keep it in tip top condition. Ink can even evaporate over time so if you leave a printer unused for long periods of time, you’re unlikely to get the full use from the cartridge.
How many pages will my cartridge print – Handy tool
Here is a handy tool to help you work out approximately how many pages your ink or toner cartridge should print based on what you are currently printing. It will also give you an idea of how many days your cartridge should last. All you have to do is enter your ink or toner cartridge reference in the first box (eg. Q6000A), enter on average how many pages your print each day (this is optional and also doesn’t have to be exact) and finally from the examples decide what your page coverage is (how much print is covering the A4 page) and type it’s number in the last box depending on what you think your particular page coverage will be.
How to use the page prints calculator:
To use the calculator and to find out how many pages will my cartridge print, follow these simple instructions:
- Select your printer manufacturer from the first drop down box.
- Then select your printer from the third drop down box. To help you to find your printer model quickly you can type to narrow the results. (drop down box 2 to select the printer family is optional and will help to narrow the results).
- Once you have selected your printer you can then select the cartridge.
- In the ‘your usage’ section, enter approximately how many pages you print per day, this will help calculate how long your cartridge will last (It only has to be approximate). You can also select per week or per month.
- Lastly, enter what percentage coverage you are likely to print based on the examples below. So for example, if you often print heavy text or images then you coverage might be 20% (type 20 in the box), 30% (type 30 in the box), or 60% (type 60 in the box). Press enter and the calculation in green at the bottom of the tool will change.
Here are examples of pages coverage to choose from:
Can’t get the tool to work?
How to work out how many pages your ink / toner cartridge prints
If you’d prefer to work out how many pages an ink or toner cartridge prints yourself then here’s how….
- Firstly, you’re going to need to find out what the manufacturer says the capacity of your particular printer cartridge is. You can do that by doing a simple search on the TonerGiant website and visiting the product page (we show the page yield on 95% of all products we sell where the information was available to us from the printer manufacturer), you can use our tool above by entering the exact product code of the cartridge (the information will be shown in blue), or you can search for that info yourself on Google.
- Next, decide which page coverage matches your prints. Have a look at the examples of page coverage that we showed you above the tool and decide what sort of printouts you are going to print or regularly print. Manufacturers page yields are only 5% coverage of ink or toner on an A4 page which equates to a small number of text only paragraphs. If you’re printing images or blocks of shaded areas and colour, your coverage will be much higher than 5%
- Now for the maths…
- Take your page coverage and divide it by 5 – e.g if your page coverage is 30% then you do 30 divided by 5 = 6
- Take the manufacturer stated page yield and divide it by the number you calculated above – e.g the HP Q6000A Black Toner prints 2500 pages so 2500 divided by 6 = 416.6 pages
Therefore, if you were printing at 30% page coverage and the manufacturer says you can get a maximum of 2500 pages (at 5% coverage) then you will actually only be able to print a maximum of 416.6 pages!
It’s impossible to put a definite figure on the amount of pages you’ll be able to print from one cartridge as you don’t always print the same things and how old or efficient a printer is can also affect the result!
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 behavior will cause you to use more or less ink and toner each time.