Manufacturers of printer products routinely publish specifications of “yield” for their printer consumables. These specifications are the basis for customer comparisons of printer cost per page and total cost of ownership. Billions of dollars of printer and consumables sales are influenced by these simple specifications.

While quality and reliability play critical roles in customer satisfaction, printer buyers typically develop an economic analysis that depends on assumed consumables yield estimates to compare the competing printing solutions available to them.

How important are yield specifications in the decision to purchase a printer? The cost of the consumables is likely to make up 60 to 80 percent of the overall hard costs of ownership (Total Cost of Ownership or TCO), compared to 10 to 15 percent for the initial hardware costs and 5 to 10 percent for paper supplies.

Unless the reported yields are based on standard methodologies, the press, analysts and users can and should question the use of any published claims. A September 2004 article in Lyra’s Hard Copy Supplies Journal titled “Can Manufacturer’s Ink Cost-Per-Page Claims Be Believed” highlights this issue. Although this article dealt specifically with ink yield, the measurement issues apply to toner yields, as well. The article points out that one printer vendor’s published ink yield claims differed significantly from those of two independent test labs using differing measurement processes:

“Each manufacturer measures yield using its own test file, so it is impossible to compare the yields of one manufacturer’s printer against another’s even though all manufacturers state cartridge yields in terms of 5 percent coverage. This makes the cost-per-page claims of manufacturers meaningless and makes it next to impossible for consumers to compare printers from different manufacturers.”

“The most important reason why a standard test methodology is needed is consumer fairness. Currently, the consumer has no idea what the operating cost of a printer will be when it is purchased. The consumer cannot even compare one manufacturer’s stated cost per page against another’s because of the different ways they are measured…We are actually surprised that consumer advocates have not pushed for standardized testing and labeling of printers and cartridges just as they have for the fuel mileage of automobiles and the energy consumption of refrigerators…” 

Read the whole study here