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What does it mean when a scanner or printer has asymmetric resolution (e.g., 600 x 1200)?

If you print/scan something that is quadratic, would you get different quality if you rotated it 90 °? Isn't that weird? I have even seen 600 x 38 400 on some printers. Part of that is that they can print RGB in several levels of intensity, which in turn affects how they rasterize to emulate colours, but still. And why does that only affect the resolution in one direction?

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When you see a specification like 300 x 600 it generally means the head itself has a resolution of 300dpi but the feed/scan rate is half stepped (overlaps, typically on the long axis).

If you see something like 600 x 4800, that's probably actually 300 x 600 (300 dpi half stepped) but multiplied by 2 black inks and 4 color inks. Print heads themselves don't often exceed 300dpi; and they don't need to because you can't see it if they do.

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It means the logical pixels are rectangular rather than square. The hardware pixels are probably rectangular, but not necessarily.

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