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What does 5% toner coverage look like?

If you have ever bought printer supplies, you’ve likely noticed that page yield ratings for toner cartridges have a little disclaimer that says all ratings are based on a 5% toner coverage rate. What the heck does that mean, exactly? Why is it important? And how can you tell what the average coverage rate is for your printing jobs?

When we’re talking about laser printing, the toner coverage rate is simply the percentage of the page that’s covered with toner (go figure). Some documents require more toner than others, therefore, the coverage rate will be higher.

Coverage rates are important because they affect how long toner cartridges will last. Toner cartridges only have a limited amount of toner in them so the number of pages a certain cartridge will print depends on how much toner it uses per page. Most documents require a toner coverage rate of 5%, so that’s what the printing industry uses as a base for page yield ratings. (ASTM F1856-04e1, Standard Practice for Determining Toner Usage for Printer Cartridges, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2004,

What happens if your average coverage rate is 10% instead of 5%? With an average coverage rate of 10%, you’re using twice as much toner per page, so your page yield will be cut in half. Likewise, with an average coverage rate of 2.5%, you’re using half as much toner per page, so your page yield will double.

So what do you think YOUR coverage rate is? Are you at the 5% mark? One way you can find out is by asking your printer. Most laser printers come with a set of built-in reports that tell you all kinds of cool stuff like the average toner coverage rate. For Lexmark, Dell, and IBM laser printers, the coverage rate is found in a report called Device Statistics. While the steps for finding the report differ by printer, most require navigating to Menu>Reports>Device Statistics. Or you may see a button with a green diamond, which you can hold down for 5 seconds. Coverage History should be listed on the print-out with a number (usually no % sign). If you have trouble, give us a call, and we'll be happy to help out!

Here are a couple examples of what 5% and 10% coverage rates actually look like in the real world. The 5% rate is about a half page of text and bold headings. The 10% rate is about a full page of text with a small graphic or image.

Congratulations! You are now a coverage rate expert.

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