What is Print Speed and Why it Matters

Submitted by Byanka Ramos on Fri, 06/21/2024 - 14:54
A man getting printed papers

Have you ever stood by the office printer, drumming your fingers in frustration as you waited for your documents to print? You're not alone. Print speed is a critical factor that can significantly impact productivity in any business setting.

If you’ve ever shopped for a printer, you’ve likely seen the term “print speed” thrown around a lot. But what does it really mean, and how does it influence your purchasing decision? Many people find themselves puzzled by this term, wondering how it translates to everyday use.

At Strategic Technology Partners of Texas (STPT), we aim to answer your questions and clarify any confusion about print speed to help you make informed decisions.

With almost 40 years of experience supplying printers to numerous businesses, we recognize the significance of efficient printing solutions.

In this article, we’ll explore print speed, why it matters, and how you can optimize it for your business.

What is Print Speed?

Print speed refers to the rate at which a printer can produce a single page or document. This speed is usually measured in pages per minute (PPM) or images per minute (IPM) for both monochrome (black-and-white) and color printing.

For monochrome or black & white printing, the print speed indicates how many pages the printer can produce in one minute when printing black text or grayscale images.

For color printing, the print speed indicates the number of pages or images (including graphics and photos) the printer can produce in one minute using color ink or toner.

Print Speed Measurements: PPM vs. IPM

The two most common ways you’ll see print speeds written in a printer’s spec sheet are PPM and IPM.

  • Pages per minute (PPM) indicates the number of standard sheets of paper (without graphics or images) a printer can produce in a minute. However, one limitation of this measurement is that it lacks standardization, leading to variations in testing methodologies across different printer manufacturers.


  • Images per minute (IPM), on the other hand, factor in graphics, providing a more comprehensive measure of print speed. If you tend to print more image-heavy color documents, you’ll want to follow a printer’s IPM rather than its PPM.


Why is Print Speed Different for Color vs. Black and White?

Print speed can vary significantly between color printing and black-and-white (monochrome) printing due to several factors:

  • Printing Method: Monochrome printers typically use a single black toner or ink cartridge, while color printers utilize multiple color cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black or CMYK), requiring more processing.
  • Data Processing: Black and white documents involve fewer color calculations, leading to faster processing times.
  • Page Coverage: Monochrome documents generally have lower page coverage than color documents, which often require multiple layers of color.
  • Print Engine Design: Printers optimized for monochrome output tend to have faster processing capabilities than those designed for color printing.

How is Print Speed Tested?

As mentioned earlier, IPM (images per minute) is a more accurate method for comparing print speeds of different printers as it adheres to ISO/IEC standards. These standards offer guidelines, such as using Microsoft Word and Adobe test pages to calculate print speed, ensuring consistency across various printer manufacturers.

When manufacturers state their printer's speed as "up to X ppm," they indicate the maximum speed under optimal conditions. Achieving this maximum speed often requires setting the printer to its fastest mode (such as draft mode), which can sometimes compromise print quality.

However, real-world factors such as the complexity of the document, the type of paper used, and the printer settings can influence actual print speed. We’ll cover these factors in more detail below.

Factors Affecting Print Speed

Several variables can impact the actual print speed you’ll get on your printer. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Printer Type: Laser printers generally print faster than inkjet printers. Read more about the differences between both types of printers in our Inkjet vs. Laser blog.
  • Print Quality Settings: Higher quality settings slow down print speed.
  • Document Complexity: Graphics-heavy documents take longer to print.
  • Paper Type and Size: Non-standard sizes and specialty papers can reduce speed.
  • Toner or Ink Quality: High-quality toner, such as OEM toner or ink, ensures smooth and rapid printing. On the other hand, lower-quality supplies can cause clogs and slow down the process.
  • Printer Maintenance: Regular cleaning and maintenance are crucial for optimal speed.
  • Environmental Factors: Temperature and humidity can impact performance.


Can Print Speed Slow Down Over Time?

Yes, print speed can slow down over time due to various factors such as wear and tear, outdated software, or network issues. Dust and debris accumulation inside the printer, obsolete drivers, and overused parts can all decrease performance. Older printers, in particular, tend to be more worn down, which can exacerbate these issues.

Checking ink or toner levels is important, as low levels can slow down printing. Maintenance issues can also cause slowdowns, so be sure to address them promptly to avoid work interruptions.

A comprehensive maintenance plan, especially if you have a multifunction printer, can ensure an experienced printer technician resolves your common and more complex printer problems quickly.  

How to Optimize Your Printer's Print Speed

To ensure your printer operates at optimal speed:

  • Select the Right Print Quality: Use draft mode for non-essential prints.
  • Use Standard Paper Sizes and Types: Stick to recommended paper types.
  • Optimize Printer Settings: Adjust settings such as print mode and paper source.
  • Print in Batches: Reduce processing overhead by printing in queues.
  • Clear Print Queues: Regularly clear old or stuck print jobs.


Why Print Speed is Important

For printer users, print speed matters because it directly impacts productivity and efficiency. Fast printing means doing more in less time, leading to increased performance.

Fast print speeds are especially crucial in fast-paced workplaces. Businesses that print a lot need fast printers to keep up. Quick print speeds also ensure employees don’t have to wait long for documents to come out.

Quick turnaround times are needed in client-facing services like legal firms and advertising agencies to meet client deadlines. Faster print speeds are also helpful in the retail and hospitality industries, where receipts and reports are printed frequently. Printing efficiently in these industries improves operations efficiency and customer satisfaction.

The Key to Optimal Print Speed and Printer Longevity

Understanding print speed and its impact on your business is essential for choosing the right printer and maintaining efficient operations. At Strategic Technology Partners of Texas (STPT), we offer comprehensive maintenance plans for A3 and A4 Xerox devices and non-Xerox A4 printers to ensure your printer continues to perform at its best. Regular maintenance helps address issues promptly and extends the life of your printer.

If you’d like to learn more about selecting the right printer and ensuring it operates at optimal speed, download our free Guide to Purchasing or Leasing a Printer. This guide provides in-depth information on choosing the right printer based on factors like your speed requirements and tips on maintaining your printer for longevity and best performance. It’s a valuable resource for anyone seeking an informed purchase decision.

Remember, a well-maintained printer is not just a convenience—it's a vital tool for your business's success. If you have any questions about finding a printer that matches your speed requirements or want to learn more about our maintenance plans, don't hesitate to contact us. Let us help you enhance your business productivity with the right printing solutions.