A3 vs. A4 Size Paper Differences and Why It Matters

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If you’re not in the office technology business, terms like A3 or A4 might not mean much to you. But when choosing a multifunction printer, A3 or A4 is one of the most important distinctions you need to know. 

What is A3 Size vs. A4 Paper?

A3 and A4 refer to international standard paper sizes as defined by the ISO 216 standard.

  • An A3 size print measures 297 mm x 420 mm (11.69 x 16.53 inches) — this roughly equates to ledger or tabloid size paper (11 x 17) in the United States
  • A4 paper size measures 210 mm x 297 mm (8.27 x 11.69 inches), slightly larger than U.S standard letter size paper at 8.5 x 11 inches 

Are U.S. Printers Compatible with A3 and A4 Paper?

Most printers are designed to be compatible with European A3 and A4 sheets, as well as standard U.S. paper sizes, but you do need to pay attention to a printer’s specifications. An A4 multifunction printer (MFP) can print on up to 8-½” x 14” paper (legal size), while A3 devices can print the larger tabloid or ledger size paper (11” x 17”). 

A3 vs. A4 Size Printer Considerations

If your office mainly produces documents on letter and legal-sized paper, an A4 MFP might meet your needs. Generally, the A4 device is smaller in size and has a lower price point than an A3 machine.

However, many offices use larger-sized or custom paper for engineering documents, posters, newsletters, booklets, menus and design layouts. For these more complicated tasks, you’ll need a printer that can print A3 paper.

There’s more to consider than just paper sizes, however, such as finishing options. A3 machines can offer high-capacity tandem paper drawers, large capacity paper trays and other options. You should also consider whether you need an MFP that can fold, staple, saddle stitch, punch holes or print in color.

An A4 device’s finishing options are usually less robust than those on an A3 device. For example, A4 staplers are sometimes limited to 20 sheets and lower paper capacity.

In a nutshell, here are the differences between A3 and A4 printers used in the U.S.: 

Paper Sizes

  • A3 printers can print up to ledger (11 x 17) size paper
  • A4 prints up to legal (8.5 x 14) size paper 

Printer Size

  • A3 printers are larger, more durable machines
  • A4 is a smaller, more compact and light duty machine 

Printer Capabilities

  • A3 typically has more heavy-duty finishing options, including duplex printing, scanning on both sides of a paper, and faxing
  • A4 has fewer finishing options and functionalities 

Generally, A4 machines are a great option for small offices that don’t have high copying or printing volumes. However, if you work in an office environment that has more demanding and complicated printing tasks with higher volumes, you’ll likely need a workhorse A3 MFP. 

How Much Do A3 Printers Cost?

Perhaps the most important consideration is how much it will cost to use an A3 MFP. Depending on how you use the machine, service and supply costs may actually be higher on A4 machines; they go through supplies faster and are not as robust as many A3 machines. While A3 machines have a higher up-front cost, their operational costs are generally lower.

Your monthly printing and copying volume will help determine which machine is most cost effective for your office. If you’re only running a few thousand pages a month, then an A4 will usually be the most cost-effective. But if your monthly print volume is above 4,500 pages a month, an A3 machine might be a better fit. And, as mentioned above, if your office produces bound, stapled, full-color marketing materials, an A3 is your best bet.

Our Managed Print Service experts can help you find a device that matches your needs, and offer leasing options that fit within your budget.

We hope this helped clarify the difference between A3 and A4 printers. Talk to us today if you have any questions about any type of printer, from A4 and A3 up to wide-format digital presses. 


Contact the Gordon Flesch Company

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