If you do an online search for A3 printing versus A4, literally millions of articles turn up, so clearly someone out there cares about the differences between the two.
The question is why — A3 or A4 – why should you care? Here’s a reason. If you’re looking at a business purchase, and you don’t pay attention, you could buy devices that don’t have enough horsepower for what you need. Or you could spend way more than you need to on too much device.
We care about helping businesses make the best technology decisions for their employees, customers and processes. We’ve come up with five considerations to help you select the best A3 or A4 (or both) device for your business goals.
A Brief History (Promise!) of A-Series Paper Sizes
How did we come to the point where this is even a conversation? There’s quite a lengthy history behind these paper sizes, but we’ll just make a couple of points about it. Promise.
Most of the globe uses the international standard for paper size — ISO 216, except North America and some areas of South and Central America. These regions use the familiar “letter” and “tabloid” paper sizes.
The A series, including A3 and A4, is part of ISO 216. A3 paper is 11.69” X 16.53” (commonly called 11 x 17 tabloid), while A4 paper is 8.27” X 11.69” (known as 8 1/2 x 11 letter paper.) Over time, these ISO standards have come to describe sheet sizes for all kinds of business paper: letters, note paper, stationery, postcards, and other printed documents.
The A series describes 11 sheet sizes from A0 to A10, all with an aspect ratio that involves a complex math equation. The point is, because A-series sizes have the same aspect ratio (√2), they can be scaled to other A-series sizes without distortion. Two sheets can be reduced to fit on exactly one sheet without any cutoff or margins.
The advantages of basing paper sizes on the √2 aspect ratio were first described by German scientist and philosopher Georg Christoph Lichtenberg in 1786. He discovered that when a sheet is folded, with A as the long side and B the short side, the length-to-width ratio doesn’t change.
A3 or A4 Printer? Five Things Your Business Should Consider
So that’s enough about paper, math and history. What we really want to cover is A3 and A4 printers and copiers and why should you care as a business. We’ll share five things that matter when choosing between an A3 and an A4 device for your office and employees.
- Office space
- Device and operating costs
- Output speed
- Color printing
1 – Office Space
One notable difference between an A3 and A4 printer is their physical size. Of the two, most A3 printers for business are generally larger than A4 devices. Imagine any corporate copy room you’ve ever visited, and you probably stood next to an A3 device. However, there are home-office A3 printers that are similar to A4 printers in size.
The A4 device has become almost a “personal” printer and is a ubiquitous feature of the remote, work-from-home office. For those smaller spaces, A4 is a good fit. Many A3 devices would be completely out of place in a home office, not only because of size, but also electrical, servicing and network requirements of these business office workhorses.
2 – Prices of A3 and A4 Devices
For rough comparison, a typical A3 copier could range from $5,000 to $7,000 or $10,000, while an A4 could be anywhere from $500 to $1000 and up. As for operating costs, with A3 and A4 printers and copiers, the cost of running them is generally inversely proportional to the cost to acquire them. Meaning if you pay more for the device, you pay less for the prints. (More math!)
There are two main components to A3 and A4 pricing comparisons: unit cost and supplies/maintenance costs. Your technology partner will factor both to get a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for A3 and A4 devices. This varies based on usage, because the amount of supplies vary based on usage. Costs for A3 printing tend to be cheaper than A4 devices, because most A3 systems are built for volume.
3 – Output Speed
The A3 tends to be the faster device for production because the engine is built for power for one thing. Businesses purchase such equipment to handle a lot of work quickly. A4 devices may burn out and prove impractical for robust output needs, but they are perfect for normal business volumes and may even be faster than A3s. The A3 can be faster at the SUPER high end, but on a dollar-to-dollar basis, the A4s are faster. A 36ppm color A4 is $1000. A similar A3 is probably $6000. So when you get to production, A3 runs faster, but not necessarily at the office level.
4 – Workloads
Law offices, schools, logistics firms, professional services of all kinds — some industries still depend heavily on their paper documents. Does your business expect to do a lot of printing? For heavy document workloads, businesses tend to get better results with A3s, because the engines are usually built for heavier use.
5 – Color Output
And then there’s color. How do your employees use color printing in their jobs? Is output quality critical, or will average quality suffice? Color output capabilities whether copy or print, tend to be better on A3s compared to A4s.
For more office-grade A3 devices, further enhancements like a Fiery controller for faster page processing or Adobe PostScript page description language support are available. An emulated Postscript RIP is usually included on A4 devices, and sometimes an actual Postscript driver.
Common business functions like marketing and graphic design depend on features like these when document quality is a priority. For day-to-day business use, color and more advanced capabilities may not be needed, and A3 devices are fine.
Why Do You Care About A3 and A4 Printing?
Now that you know the main differences between these two printing options, which one makes sense for your business users? Still have questions? That’s why we’re here. Just complete the form on this page or contact us by phone or email.