When you go vehicle shopping, your needs will determine whether you opt for a low-cost, compact sedan or a heavy-duty pickup truck. That same logic should be applied when you're shopping for a printer. Some are intended only for casual printing, while others are workhorses that can crank out reams of paper every day. Aside from price, which depends on numerous other factors, one way to tell printers apart is by looking at their duty cycle.
The Duty Cycle
A printer's rated duty cycle is simply a measure of how many pages it could turn out in a month. That number might be as low as 5,000 pages for a basic home printer, or hundreds of thousands for a business machine. It considers factors such as the printer's paper-handling capacity, its printing speed and the basic durability of the print mechanism.
The Bigger Picture
Although the duty cycle tells you how hard the printer could be worked, it's not a measure of the printer's design life or durability. Most printers are designed to turn out a given number of pages before failing and to print a recommended average number of pages per month. Those figures aren't always readily available, but if you're a careful shopper it's worth taking the extra effort to source that information from the manufacturer.