Alvin Soon's Blog

Alvin Soon male Associate Features Editor

I like coffee and cameras, but not together.

Pages Per Minute? Forget It!

A flip through the papers today showed an ad that reminded me of something. Look around at any printer shop and you'll find one of the hotly touted numbers to be the number of pages - or PPM (pages per minute) - that a printer is capable of printing.

Besides price, this is one of the leading ways used to sell you on a printer, but most of the time, those numbers just can't be trusted, for the simple reason that you're not told what kind of pages were printed to get those numbers. One printer manufacturer might print out full pages of text and graphics to get their PPM numbers, while another might print three lines of black and white text in draft mode to get their numbers. They might or might not, and that's the thing; because they don't reveal the methods of their tests, we'll never know.

This is where a standard test will come in useful, and luckily for us, there's one such test being adopted by printer manufactureres. It's called the ISO/IEC 24734 standard, and what it does is give printer manufacturers a common standard to test printing speeds.

There are two ways to tell if the printer ad you're looking at is reporting its printing speed using the standard test, one is to look for the long ISO/IEC 24737 moniker being displayed, another is if the manufacturer reports an images per minute (IPM) speed instead of the traditional pages per minute (PPM) that's previously been used.

A standard measure will help keep manufacturers honest, and get you facts you can use before a purchase instead of numbers nobody can substantiate. Already, manufacturers like Canon, HP and Epson are using the ISO standard for some of their printers, and hopefully one day it'll become an everyday norm.

All Reponses

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Hi Javachan,

What you're saying is true, IPM is tested at default settings, the printer is taken straight out of the box and prints are made without tweaking the settings.

At the same time, most if not all of the printers I've tested have 'Normal' quality set to default, which is what I think will be used in most situations, so you'll still get a fair idea of speed, even fairer still than the previous testing model which had zero standards.

If printer manufacturers do tweak default settings to be faster and better at Normal, I think most users will find that a pleasant surprise more than anything.

- Alvin

Hate to burst your bubble - but even "IPM" is very subjective. If you study the standard's requirements closely, it measures printers speeds "AT DEFAULT SETTING" to print a standard set of documents (the printouts are what the standard has termed as "images" - hence the term "IPM")(see HP's sample description of it [which applies to all companies] However, "default" settings are very subjective and manufacturers can still tweak their out-of-the-box settings for favourable IPM speeds. So, buyer beware. The best is to test the printers for yourselves at shops and see if you are comfortable with their speeds and quality.

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