Explaining photocopier and printer specifications & terminology

On recently purchasing a new TV, I realised that to understand the workings, instructions and specifications of this new technological find I’d need a degree in ‘gobbledegook’! I’ve always considered myself to be fairly ‘au fait’ with the modern world, but the numerous maze of abbreviations and acronyms, were to say the least, mind boggling.

Similarly, many other new appliances that you'll purchase often have the same problem. Take photocopiers, for example.  The first thing you'll probably see is a confusing array of abbreviations, like 'dpi' and 'ppm'.  And unless you are an expert, you will need a little help to get your head around what everything means.

So over the next two months, we'll try to explain some of the most common print related terms, enabling you to gain a better awareness of what you are dealing with. 


This refers to the maximum number of dots per inch(dpi) that can be printed, measured both horizontally and vertically.  For example, a 600x600dpi laser printer lays down a 1-inch square which is composed of 600 dots both vertically and horizontally. DPIIt is one of the most commonly cited specifications in printer terminology. 

Sometimes you'll come across a resolution with different values for horizontal and vertical. That's because the vertical resolution is determined by the increments at which the paper feed mechanism can reliably move the paper through the printer, while the print head has a fixed number and density of nozzles that determine the horizontal resolution.  Complicated or what, and that's the easy bit!

The lower of the two numbers is usually the fixed, horizontal resolution, and this determines the resolution of the printer.  'Droplet size', measured in pico-litres, is closely related to the idea of resolution and these allow the print head to have better control over drop placement, especially at higher resolutions.

Though manufacturers have inflated the resolution numbers for marketing purposes and the numbers no longer correlate directly with higher image quality, resolution still has some bearing on the quality of text and curves, especially on premium types of paper.

If the above info is a little too in depth for you, then just bear in mind that good printing results can be obtained at 600dpi, which is about the lowest resolution you can buy in a modern printer.  If your needs extend to printing tiny text or graphics with thin lines and curves, you should move up to around 1,200dpi.  
However, for the majority of photos, 600dpi is usually quite sufficient and you probably won't notice any benefit beyond 1,200 dpi.

Also note that the paper you use makes a huge difference too.  for example, on the bog standard, plain paper that most people use for their everyday printing tasks, ink will bleed and climb along the fibres, so defeating the purpose of using high resolutions. Yet higher-quality, coated paper will hold droplet shapes and sizes, and will therefore benefit most from higher resolutions.

To make matters even more complicated, you may notice that some manufacturers like Epson, spec their resolutions in different multiples than those already mentioned, with numbers like 1,440 dpi, rather than 1,200 dpi.  That's because this manufacturer's print heads are based on 180-nozzle heads, whereas many of the other manufacturers follow more traditional printing technology conventions and base theirs off 150-nozzle heads.  The important thing is to remember that one system isn't really any better than the other, simply because of the resolution differences.

  • Paragon Comment

It does sound complicated, doesn't it?  However, here at Paragon we have a great team of experts, who'll guide you every step of the way and can answer all the questions that you may have.  They'll be able to advise you on all the 'jargon' used by manufacturers, enabling you to understand your machine and all its foibles!  We deal only in the very best manufacturers, thus ensuring complete customer satisfaction and provide the greatest service and support.

Print speeds

This spec measures the quantity of pages or photos per minute (ppm) that a printer produces.  Although this may sound straightforward, unfortunately it isn't!   To enable many manufacturers to boast the fastest-possible speeds, they'll test using the lowest-quality print settings, (draft mode), on plain paper, which isn't a good enough test.  You can therefore only expect to see about ½ the speed promised by these manufacturers.
To combat this, the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO), developed a set of criteria for measuring and reporting print speed.   Fortunately, this has forced these manufacturers to report their speeds and to do their tests at the default settings.  One flaw here though, as the ISO's mandate didn't specify that the manufacturers should report what those default settings are!  So buyers are still as much in the dark as they ever were!

  • Paragon Comment

Paragon Document Solutions are a photocopier leasing and document solutions company and are passionate about meeting all your needs.  When youbuy or rent a printerfrom us, we'll not only guarantee to deliver thebest price, but also apremium customer service too.  We'll help you to understand the capability and specs of any product before you buy.   So if you don't understand something, however small, we'll be at hand to talk you through any problems or concerns.  Customer's peace of mind is our priority, as we know that you won't return to us if we don't deliver!


The Universal Serial Bus, (or USB), is now worldwide, with all modern printers having a USB, 2.0 port.  Many of the so called 'work horse' printersalso support network printing using an Ethernet cable. Added to this, many models will also print wirelessly, using Wi-Fi with 'built-in' print servers, and 'cloud' printing.

Today, companies like Google, are addressing the enormous volume of data being sent, by giving people the option of 'cloud-printing', thus making it easier to produce copies of word-processing documents, web sites and articles without the need for a mobile printer.  These 'cloud printing' services, host the files that you attach onto its servers, then send the document to your printer or photocopier.  This effectively withdraws the restrictive element of being tied to an office, enabling you to work anywhere, making it far more convenient.  Many manufacturers have now also added 'e-mail', allowing users to print pictures/documents from the Web, by attaching it to a message and sending it to a unique e-mail address assigned to every printer.  These functions still don't come cheap, so make sure that you need these facilities before spending out your hard earned cash.

  • Paragon Comment

Paragon knows that often many customers aren't always as knowledgeable as they'd really like to be.  We also recognise that the minefield of terminology relating to any new technology can be mind boggling.  That's why we are here to give you all the advice and support that we can, so that you can make an informed choice that is right for you.  With our 50 years of combined experience within the team, we have an excellent knowledge of today's printing and photocopying world.  We pride ourselves on delivering an exceptional service at an unbeatable price.  By giving you our constructive and unbiased opinion, we can ultimately help to save you money and enable you to get the printer that meets your needs, all at the very best price. 


So now you should be aware of some of the 'techno talk', which will ensure that you can hold your own with anyone who thinks they can 'talk the talk' on printing technology.  Remember to utilise this knowledge when considering your requirements and ask a reliable, reputable company to help you, before making your ultimate decision, contact us for more information on photocopier leasing.

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