What’s the difference between an A3 and an A4 printer, copier or MFP?

If you are shopping for a new multifunction printer, you may have come across some devices labeled as A4 and others as A3. If you are new to the game, maybe these alphanumeric designations have you wondering, “What’s that?”

A3 and A4 are classes of paper sizes. These designations describe what class of paper sizes those particular printers can handle. 

So here’s the break-down of A3 printers and A4 printers, their differences and what each have to offer:

A3 printers and A4 printers: The differences explained

Of the two, A3 printers can print on the larger and greatest variety of paper sizes, being able to handle papers up to 11.69 in. x 16.53 in. (close to 11 in.  x 17 in. or ledger paper in the U.S.) in size and can print the smaller A4 sizes. The A4 can only print up to 8.27 in. x 11.69 in.-sized papers (similar to 8.5 in. x 11 in.or letter paper in the U.S.), but not the A3 sizes.

An A3 copier, printer or multifunction printer can handle A3, A4, letter, legal and some smaller paper dimensions, such as postcards and envelopes. In the U.S., these are more commonly known as "ledger" copiers, printers or MFPs, though device dealers and manufacturers may use the international "A3" vernacular. 

An A4 copier, printer or MFP can produce A4, letter, legal and perhaps postcards and envelopes, but cannot handle A3 sizes. In the U.S., these devices are known more commonly as "letter" copiers, printers or MFPs, but internationally and to dealers and manufacturers they are A3 devices. 

These size differences have four ramifications. 

Device size
A3 devices being able to print on larger media require them to be larger and thence consume more space than A4s. If space is limited in your workspace, you might consider the smaller A4.

A3s being larger and able to print on more sizes of media generally makes them more versatile than A4s. As such A3s are more likely to be able to print legal-sized documents and materials for making booklets, pamphlets and such. The A4s though will be sufficient though to meet your basic, regularly-sized document printing needs. If you see yourself wanting to do more than just print documents, you might consider leasing an A3.

Speaking of leasing, ss you might imagine, if it’s bigger and it does more, it will cost more too. This is true with the A3 and A4 printers as well. Due to their versatility and size, A3s do cost more than A4s. If funds are limited, maybe you should think more budget-friendly A4 — but there is a caveat. Keep reading. 

No, we are not talking about noise … though there may be a difference there too. Here when we are talking volume, we’re talking about how much you print on that device. As A4 printers are smaller, they hold less toner — so if you are printing a lot, you’ll be going through lots of toner bottles. Over the long run, this could result in more overall expense with an A4 than an A3 multifunction printer. If you expect to do lots of printing, you might then consider choosing an A3 as ultimately it may be cheaper.


Now that we’ve reviewed the differences between the A3 and A4 printers, hopefully you have a better idea of what each are, what each have to offer and, hopefully, which will work best for your organization.

If all you are needing is a small printer for regular document sizes, to handle small volumes and no special projects, an A4 printer is probably what you’ll need. If you are looking at doing a wide-range of projects with multiple page sizes and large printing projects, you’ll probably be needing an A3 device.

If you have any questions or need further explanation, feel free to reach out to us.

About R.K. Black, Inc.

R.K. Black, Inc. is an Oklahoma City-based, family-owned leading provider of office technology solutions to small and medium-sized businesses in Oklahoma and Kansas. We specialize in everything business technology from copier, fax, printer and scanner technology to document management, onsite paper shredding services, VoIP phone systems and managed IT support to video surveillance solutions.

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