When looking for the best all-in-one printer/copier for your business, you want one that's going to be an invaluable tool for your team – it helps you get the work you need done quickly, efficiently and with good quality. This guide will explain the two ways you can measure printer speeds, the factors that affect print speed and how to improve your printer/copier's print speed.
Types of print speeds
According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), there are two ways to measure print speeds: pages per minute (ppm) and images per minute (ipm).
- PPM: As the name suggests, ppm measures the printing speed based on the number of pages printed during the span of one minute. Typically, however, the lower the resolution of the unit, the faster its speed will be.
- IPM: Like ppm, ipm measures print speed by the number of pages printed per minute, but at a fixed resolution, or number of dots per inch.
While both techniques are effective at gauging print speed, ipm provides a more accurate measurement. However, since ipm requires a specific set of documents to measure speed, a printer might yield different results at home.
What affects print speed?
Many different factors affect how quickly your printer/copier can print items. These factors include the following:
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Depending on the type of file you're trying to print (documents vs. photographs), as well as its size, you might have a more difficult time printing items at an efficient speed. Because larger files require a lot of background work, they take longer to print than a smaller file. Additionally, if a file contains lots of images or color graphics, the process is even slower, especially when compared to a simple black-and-white text document.
Age of printer
The age of the device naturally affects its printing speed. Typically, the older it is, the slower it will be printing files, as performance tends to decline over the years. Not only are older models less efficient due to wear and tear from extended use, older models lack the advancements that newer models have. Modern printer/copiers are known to be much faster, as they have the most recent technology and are designed with quick printing speeds as a top priority.
Type of printer
The type of printer or copier you choose can influence printing speeds. For instance, laser printers are much faster than inkjet printers, even when printing monochrome text documents. [See our top choices for the best wide-format printers for businesses.]
"Laser printers are designed to meet high quality and quantity requirements, whereas inkjets are usually used at home, where you only need a few prints in a week," Scott Williams, founder and CEO of MobileOfficeSales.com. "Printing speed should be the priority when looking for a printer for your business."
Inkjet printers typically print 15 ppm, while some high-volume laser printers print up to 100 ppm.
Color vs. black ink
Printing in black ink takes much less time than printing in color. This is especially true when printing color images. If you print mostly monochrome text documents, you will experience a faster print speed.
Some printers have settings that slow down the printing process. Examples include flipping a page to horizontal orientation, reversing the order of pages in a multipage document, applying edge smoothing and collating multiple pages. To carry out these functions, a printer/copier must do additional work before the printing actually starts, delaying the process.
High resolution vs. low resolution
High-resolution photos take longer to print than low-resolution photos, because they have more data for your computer and printer to process. Thankfully, you don't need high-resolution photos for every business project. You can get by printing newsletters or basic documents with low-resolution images, saving you plenty of printing time. However, if you absolutely need professional-quality photos, you'll have to sacrifice speed.
Most printers and copiers offer a few different print settings: draft quality, regular quality and high quality. Depending on what you're printing, you might get away with compromising the quality of internal documents and files, defaulting to draft quality with a much quicker printing speed. However, if you have more external projects that call for better quality, you'll simply have to be more patient.
Printer speed based on printer type
Each type of printer/copier has a different print speed. Here are the most common types and their associated speeds.
Laser and light-emitting diode (LED) printers are the quickest printers, as they print a whole page of paper at a time using toner rather than ink. Most desktop laser printers print from four to 50 ppm, while commercial models of printers and copiers can print up to 1,000 ppm.
"Laser printers are the best choice for those who require a machine for printing on a larger scale," said Eden Chang, founder of WeInvoice. "They are also faster than inkjet, as they can print up to 200 monochrome pages per minute."
Inkjet printers, as their name suggests, use ink to print low volumes of high-quality documents. Most inkjets print between one and 20 ppm, with higher-quality documents printed at a slower pace.
Thermal printers are great for retailers and similar businesses that print receipts, barcodes, labels and more. They do not require ink; rather, they rely on electronic system printing on specialty paper. A thermal printer's print rate is around 300 millimeters per second, which is equivalent to 60 ppm. However, they aren't used for typical documents.
Ways to make your copier print faster
If you've already invested in a printer/copier and are wondering how to increase its printing speed, here are some ways to make it print pages more quickly:
- Check the connection (if wirelessly printing). Wireless printing, while efficient, can affect print speeds. If the connection is poor, it could take much longer for the printer to do its job. To fix this, fix your Wi-Fi connection or find a stronger one, Alternatively, connect via USB so you can print your materials without disruption.
- Reduce the number of pages in a project. Typically, the more pages you need to print, the slower the print speed will be. To quicken the printing process, if feasible, consider reducing the number of pages necessary for a given project.
- Use the right paper. If your printer/copier is slowing down, check whether it can handle the types of projects you want to print. "Some printers are best suited for photography, while others specialize in outdoor signage and short-term graphics," said Steve Scott, chief technology officer at Spreadsheet Planet. "Looking at a printer's specifications sheet to see what paper thickness it can handle is also something to think about. If you have the opportunity to observe the printer in motion, take note of how it treats different types of media."
- Lower the quality of printing/set it to "draft." While you naturally want printed documents to be of the highest quality, especially if you're using them for professional purposes, if you're in a hurry and need a quick printing job, consider lowering the quality setting. You can choose "draft" quality, which yields a much quicker turnaround, especially for internal projects that don't require as high a degree of quality as other documents.
- Update or upgrade your printer. Your printer might simply be too old to yield the results you want, having a limited print rate that doesn't suit your demands. It might be time to find a newer model that can perform at the speed necessary for your printing and copying needs.
Looking for the best printers and copiers for your business? Check out our 2021 buying guide for multifunction printers and copiers.