About a month ago, I tried to explain the inner workings of ISO/IEC 24734, a new standard used by manufacturers like HP and Canon to report print speed. I also touched on the general industry implications of the new print speeds, as well as ISO/IEC 24734’s prospects for widespread acceptance and use. That said, in the attempt to explain the technical aspects, I didn’t touch on certain important issues as much as I would’ve liked. Some of our readers have asked some thought-provoking questions over the past few days, so I’ll use this post to address them as best as I can.

Why do we need something like ISO/IEC 24734? Because printing isn’t about the journey; it’s about the end result. The faster your photos or documents roll out, the happier you are. Printer companies know that consumers are more likely to buy printers with higher reported print speeds, so they have every incentive to conduct tests that inflate the numbers. One way to do that would be to print only a few lines of text per page in draft mode, which naturally takes less time than a full page of text and graphics. This makes print speed higher, and manufacturers don’t have to tell anyone how they got their numbers. Now factor in a number of different companies printing pages in a number of different ways, and you see why it’s not the best idea to comparison shop based on potentially questionable pages/minute figures. In my opinion, images/minute is an attempt to report print speed in a more transparent and useful way.

What’s a fast print speed under ISO/IEC 24734? Based on what I’ve seen from printers like the Canon PIXMA MX330 and MX860, anything over 10 images/minute would be considered brisk. However, it’s hard to say anything definitive right now because not as many printers follow the ISO/IEC 24734 convention. The one thing you shouldn’t do is compare pages/minute to images/minute; it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

How long will it take before ISO/IEC 24734 becomes popular enough to enable meaningful comparison shopping? Again, it’s hard to say. On one hand, companies may have an incentive to test and report in images/minute because they think consumers will appreciate the honesty. On the other hand, if consumers don’t read the fine print about ISO/IEC 24734, they may think that images/minute and pages/minute are the same, and the ISO printer will look decidedly slower almost every time.

In my opinion, printer companies that take the plunge and use ISO/IEC 24734 need to go out of their way to show consumers that images/minute is different from the traditional pages/minute. That means highlighting that fact on printer product pages in the overview or main features tab, and creating web content that clearly and simply explains what makes images/minute a superior measurement.

For now, if speed is an important factor in your purchase, type “via the web” into the search box in this blog and check what the experts have said about print speeds for popular printers based on tests that simulate real-world applications. The reviews from those posts should tell you whether print speed for a particular model is noteworthy, regardless of whether the manufacturer reports in images/minute or pages/minute. Also, to follow our coverage of ISO/IEC 24734 printers, type “images/min” into the search box. If the new standard gains enough popularity, we’ll do our best to keep you updated every step of the way.

(Photo via Morguefile)