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Old 03-27-2008, 02:16 AM   #1
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Eink Display's (Sony PRS505) vs. Nokia N800's LCD Display

Today I was lucky enough to need to drive down over to a town with a Borders that carries and has a demo version of the Sony PRS505. I of course had my Nokia N800 with me.

FYI, I don't read technical docs or graphically intensive docs on my readers...just novels and websites. And never ever PDF's as, well, I don't like PDF's on ANY platform. Annnnnyway....

Since I had already tried out the Sony PRS500 last year and actually liked it, I had not thought of actually comparing the devices until I remembered the demo device in the store ...I had liked the older PRS500 when I tried it alone even if the display seemed a bit weak. I knew the Vizplex version was either out already or due out very soon so it was bound to be improved...d'oh! maybe not so much...

On my Nokia I am running the only ebook reader app we really have that runs under the native ITOS2008 operating system that being FBReader. I actually love FBR most days...

Display size: Of course the Sony is MUCH BIGGER and wins here hands down. But I have to say when compared to the N800, set to about the same font size as on the Sony (32px on the N800), the display on the PRS505 is much dimmer than I remember when I looked at PRS500 by itself. I found the text on the N800 significantly sharper and crisper than that of the PRS505. I was both surprised and, well, disappointed.

I use FBR in 'portrait mode' so page layout was similar. I also setup the background under FBR to be close to an off-white almost beige/tan color similar to a parchment color. To my eye the contrast on the Sony was extremely poor in comparison to the N800. I suspect the same would hold true for the Kindle.

Of course the PRS505 shows more info on each page. But I was surprised to find the N800 has much crisper text and is significantly easier on my eyes to read. After using FBR's setup/config options I can easily hold the N800 in one hand while reading.

I actually found the Sony Reader not very comfy to use. The lack of a touch screen being the second most significant issue. The first was
Anyway, I just found it much more difficult to read on the Sony display. I think it is the contrast ratio of the eink displays is simply not up to where I had hoped/expected of this generation of eink devices.

I found the lack of a touch screen on a modern device disturbing. Again I would imagine I would feel the same about the Kindle. Though I think I could become accustom to the way the Sony system navigates in short order. I found I could switch hands holding the device and still navigate (as in change pages) pretty easily. Still the nav system felt odd in comparison.

In my daily use of either my Sony nx73v Clie or the Nokia N800 I actually keep the brightness turned down to exactly where my eyes relax for the ambient lighting. I found no option to adjust the contrast on the Sony. Is that there anywhere? I would hope it is...

For example for most conditions I use only 2/5 bars of brightness on the N800. To be completely honest, after about 30-mins of reading the PRS505 today, my eyes felt much more fatigued by the eink display when compared with using either my nx73v or my N800 under the same conditions. My two devices use different LCD display tech but are, in reality much easier on my eyes. This really did surprise me.

Now if the contrast can be adjusted on the eink readers then perhaps the eink devices are nicer then today's side-by-side showed me. Basically, for me, unless the eink based display's allow user adjusted contrast ratio's, today's real world comparison gave me pause when considering an eink device. I am pretty convinced it will be best to wait at least a year maybe longer. I find the Sony navigation system clunky, though in fairness I find the nav system in FBReader when in 'portrait mode' kinda-sorta clunky too, usable but awkward. Though FBR had a significant improvement this past week when they added the ability to pick-up the meta-data for many formats. Thus creating a much nicer library list w/o many manual adjustments needed.

I think in reality when comparing devices like dedicated ereader devices with other non-ebook dedicated devices it breaks down to maybe two distance areas. The first being the displays and the second being the "reader software" portion of each device.

I am hoping I simply missed finding the config settings on the PRS505 today. But if I didn't then I know I would also not be pleased with a Kindle/Cybook/iLiad/etc...and that is based on the lack of contrast in the displays themselves.

Anyway, I still think the Sony PRS505 is about as sexy a reading device as one might want...only problem is I find it to be pretty but sorta empty headed in terms of my personal comfort level.

So, for now, just looking at the reader & display sides of the equations and given my very simple unsophisticated reading needs, my N800 easily wins (I had actually been considering selling it and replacing with a Kindle this week.) My nx73v comes in a very, very....VERY close 2nd with eink displays placing a distant 3rd out of three horses in the race. And I guess I won't sell my new N800 just yet and will wait for the 3rd or 4th gen eink devices. The 2nd gen eink just did not exactly "...blow my skirt...", unless of course I want to read outside on my deck, then again I have my nx73v for that.

Anyway, just my observations given my chance to compare these things side by side today....I am very likely FOS but hey, someone has to be...

Last edited by brecklundin; 03-27-2008 at 02:39 AM.
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Old 03-27-2008, 02:44 AM   #2
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Thanks for well-thought comparison, it's good to hear from people who use both.

I don't imagine the contrast on any eink device will be adjustable, the only way to do that would be to use the grey levels available to fake it.

What kills the LCD devices for me is size and battery life - you can only have one at a time, and often not much of either. 2 hours is a joke, even 12 hours is not very useful unless it can plug into mains power with a very small, portable adapter. And the 505 is limited in screen size from my point of view - I'd rather shrink the bottom buttons in favour of another 30-40mm of screen. So while I'd appreciate more contrast on the 505, I wouldn't trade it for any of the LCD devices I've yet seen.
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Old 03-27-2008, 03:13 AM   #3
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There is no way to change the contrast. If adjustment is needed, the typical approach is to change the text size. I like a bolder font, which is no problem for FBReader but not possible for the Kindle or for the iLiad with MobiPocket Reader.

I switched from a Nokia 770 to an iLiad (still using FBReader) as my primary reading device. If the line spacing was adjustable I might switch again to my Kindle, but perhaps not because an 8" screen really is better than 6" for reading. I still recommend the Nokia tablets, particularly if portability or casual internet access is a requirement. The other area where the color screen is a big plus is illustrated books (e.g. SciFi magazines). Also, the Nokia screen is almost exactly half the size of the 6" Kindle/Sony screen. In its usual landscape mode, it is the same width as the Kindle in portrait mode but half as high. So the reading experience is similar except there are twice as many page advances (which take no time at all on the LCD screen).
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Old 03-27-2008, 06:58 AM   #4
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There is no way to change the contrast. If adjustment is needed, the typical approach is to change the text size. I like a bolder font, which is no problem for FBReader but not possible for the Kindle or for the iLiad with MobiPocket Reader.
It's perhaps worth noting that the Mobi reader on the CyBook Gen3 does offer this capability. It is useful when reading in poor light.
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Old 03-27-2008, 02:22 PM   #5
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It's perhaps worth noting that the Mobi reader on the CyBook Gen3 does offer this capability. It is useful when reading in poor light.
Yep, the "embolden" feature, as well as user-installable fonts (and more size options) is one of the best things about the Gen3.

I have been reading eBooks on my PDA for years -- the Sony Clie screen was particularly nice. There is no question that a good LCD screen is plenty good enough for reading books, and in some situations will look better than e-Ink.

However, I do find that I prefer the Cybook e-ink screen in most lighting situations. I find that it produces less eyestrain for me, especially since I stare at an LCD monitor for so many hours per day in my work.
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Old 04-13-2008, 09:20 AM   #6
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Anyone willing to share experience on how the N800/810 performs on displaying A4 size PDFs?

Also, does the N810 with its transflexive screen give a better view than the N800 when used outdoors?
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Old 04-14-2008, 05:43 AM   #7
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...The lack of a touch screen being the second most significant issue....

...I found the lack of a touch screen on a modern device...
My understanding is that touch screens consume energy even while idle. The reader is built to conserve battery life as much as possible.
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Old 04-14-2008, 06:54 AM   #8
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Anyone willing to share experience on how the N800/810 performs on displaying A4 size PDFs?

Also, does the N810 with its transflexive screen give a better view than the N800 when used outdoors?
PDF on the Nokia -- don't bother, unless you really need to read a particular PDF and no laptop or desktop PC is available. You will be zooming and scrolling far too much for my taste.

I've never seen the N810, so I can't comment on the screen.
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Old 04-14-2008, 07:06 AM   #9
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PDF on the Nokia -- don't bother, unless you really need to read a particular PDF and no laptop or desktop PC is available. You will be zooming and scrolling far too much for my taste.

I've never seen the N810, so I can't comment on the screen.
It works for bus time tables or manuals to cameras and similar thing were you just need to lookup something.
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Old 04-14-2008, 04:29 PM   #10
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......But I have to say when compared to the N800, set to about the same font size as on the Sony (32px on the N800), the display on the PRS505 is much dimmer than I remember when I looked at PRS500 by itself. I found the text on the N800 significantly sharper and crisper than that of the PRS505. I was both surprised and, well, disappointed......
Out of curiosity, what was the lighting (levels) like in the Borders where the Sony was located? In the two Borders near me, one display is located in an area that is not well lit, while the other is right out in the main aisle and very well lit. As it happens, I first saw the Sony at the store without the good lighting and was disappointed in what I saw. But after seeing it at the second store, I was very happy with the display.

It became no surprise to me, after reading the various comments posted here, that the perceived contrast on these e-ink screens is highly dependent upon the ambient lighting.

-Jeff
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Old 04-14-2008, 06:51 PM   #11
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+1 In my typical reading light the current Visiplex e-ink displays totally crush LCD displays (such as my laptop PC or Palm TX) by having lower effort or strain.
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Old 04-16-2008, 11:07 PM   #12
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It became no surprise to me, after reading the various comments posted here, that the perceived contrast on these e-ink screens is highly dependent upon the ambient lighting.

-Jeff
EXACTLY. Contrast improves in brighter light for an e-ink display because it's reflective. An lcd display may look 'sharper' than e-ink in so-so light, but for extensive reading, an lcd is NOT easier on the eyes. No way. It may seem 'clearer' when looking at the screens side-by-side, but I use my e-ink device for reading novels, hours at a time. If I had to do this on an lcd, I'd sooner tear my eyeballs out.
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:34 AM   #13
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To be honest, I get no eye strain at all from looking at my computer's LCD monitor. it's a 20.1" non-widescreen 1600x1200 LCD monitor.
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Old 04-17-2008, 01:00 PM   #14
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For me it's about the lack of refresh visual noise. If you've ever taken a picture of a LCD display you see what I'm talking about. Somehow all this noise is filtered out somewhere between my optic nerves and (few remaining) brain cells into a stable image. My theory is that it's this noise filtering that generates the fatigue and it's difficult to measure and impacts people differently.

If you compare a progressive scan HDTV image to an interlaced image at the same resolution it's a similar comparison but the e-ink has no refresh. Most people would find the progressive scan is better to look at.

Some LCD displays do a much better job of filtering the noise then others. I haven't seen a Nokia N800 to compare but it sounds like they've done a good job with the display.
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Old 04-17-2008, 05:44 PM   #15
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To be honest, I get no eye strain at all from looking at my computer's LCD monitor. it's a 20.1" non-widescreen 1600x1200 LCD monitor.
I don't either, and have spent many, many hours reading eBooks on a PDA screen.

However, given the hours I spend each day staring at LCD screens for work, I find the e-ink display a nice change of pace -- and probably better for my moddle-aged eyes, so long as I'm in a spot with good lighting.
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