If you’re not in the office technology business, terms like A3 or A4 don’t mean much to you. But when choosing a multi-function printer, A3 or A4 is one of the most important distinctions you need to know.
The basic explanation is that A3 or A4 refers to the maximum paper size you will be able to print, copy, or scan. An A4 multi-function printer (MFP) can print on up to 8 ½ by 14” paper, while A3 devices can work with up to 11x17” paper. It may be counterintuitive, but the smaller number A3 prints on larger paper than A4.
The bottom line is that if your office produces mainly documents on letter and legal-sized paper, an A4 MPF might be what you need. However, many offices use larger-sized paper for engineering documents, making booklets, menus, and design layouts. For these more complicated tasks, you will also need to consider not only paper size, but whether your MFP can fold, staple, saddle stitch, punch holes or print in color.
BIGGER IS (SOMETIMES) BETTER
If your office doesn’t need to handle large or odd paper sizes, an A4 device will take up less space and come in at lower price points than an A3 machine. However, A3 machines are essential if you need ledger-sized paper, which is larger, more expensive or used for custom jobs.
Another important consideration is finishing options. A3 machines can offer high-capacity tandem paper drawers, side large capacity paper drawers, and other options. A4 devices are much more limited and the finishing options available are usually less robust than what is available on an A3 device. For example, A4 staplers are sometimes limited to 20 sheets and lower paper capacity. This might be perfect for most offices but will be a limiting factor if your office must produce booklets or other finished materials.
THE BOTTOM LINE
We find that A4 machines are a great option for small offices that don’t have high copying/printing volumes. However, if you work in an office environment that has more demanding and complicated printing tasks ad higher printing/copying volumes, you will likely need a workhorse A3 MFP.
- A3 up to ledger (11 x 17) size paper
- A4 up to legal (8.5 x 14) size paper
- A3 larger more durable machine
- A4 smaller more compact & light duty
- A3 more heavy-duty finishing options
- A4 fewer finishing options
WHAT’S THE REAL COST?
Perhaps the most important consideration is how much it will cost to use an MFP. Depending on how you use the machine, service and supply costs may be higher on A4 machines they go through supplies faster and are not as robust as many A3 machines. A Managed Print Service can help you find a device that matches your needs.
Your monthly printing/copying volume will be one factor determine which machine is most cost effective for your office. If you’re only running several thousand pages a month then an A4 will usually be the most cost-effective. But if your monthly printing/copying volume is above 4500 pages a month an A3 machine might be a better fit. And as mentioned above, if your office is producing bound, stapled, full color marketing materials, an A3 is your best bet.
I hope this has clarified the difference between A3 and A4 multi-function printers. I know that technology companies too often use confusing jargon and acronyms that make things more complicated than it needs to be. We want to make the purchase and maintenance of MFPs as simple as possible. Talk to us today if you have any questions about any type of printer, from A4 and A3 up to wide-format digital presses.