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Old 12-03-2009, 10:22 AM   #1
PortiaDaCosta
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Question Totaly new to e-readers - question about PRS-505 screen contrast/brightness

Hi!

I just got my first ever ebook reader yesterday [apart from my Palm T3] a Sony PRS-505, bought second hand, but never used, from Ebay.

As I've never even seen an ebook reader in the flesh before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was surprised and a little dismayed by the display. I knew that e-ink was dark grey on very light grey, but the background seems much, much greyer than expected and the contrast and brightness seem very poor.

I'm wondering if I've bought a dud one, or whether this is just how they are, taking into account that the lighting isn't marvellous in here [dull winter afternoon, window across the room, small bedside lamp on to my left]. Also, am used to staring at a fairly bright computer screen all day, and my Palm T3 is a bright screen. I've heard the e-ink screens compared to a well-aged book in brightness, contrast, but mine seems dimmer than that. It's certainly nowhere near as bright and clear as the pictures in the advertisements show them to be, but hey, that's advertising and often things don't look how they look in adverts!

Anyway, here's a link to a picture of the thing. It's taken without flash, and it's sitting on the window sill, but it's a dull day.

http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r...a/DSC00073.jpg

Could anyone tell me if they think this looks duller than it should do? I know it's hard to tell though, from a photo...

If it is how it should be, well, that's that, and I'll have to try a book light or the lighted cover. If it isn't, I suppose I'll have to see if I can get it repaired, although obviously, it's not under guarantee.

Many, many thanks in advance for your help.

ps. are there any other ereaders that are known for having appreciably brighter displays?
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Old 12-03-2009, 10:39 AM   #2
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Hello PortiaDaCosta and welcome to Mobileread.
As far as I can tell from the picture, your reader seems to be perfectly okay. Don't compare it to bright back-lit screens, you should treat your reader just as a real book. If the lighting is too dim, just use a lamp or a book light. You will find that it is quite easy on the eyes. I hope you will enjoy your new toy!
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Old 12-03-2009, 10:53 AM   #3
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Wow, thanks for the very speedy reply, omk3! Much appreciated.

I had a feeling the screen might be okay, and that it was just a bit different to what I was expecting, so am relieved to hear that my experience is normal. I will experiment with different lighting conditions/booklights etc and see how I get on.

Other than that, I do like the PRS-505. I love my gadgets and as an author of ebooks, I thought it was about time I got myself some proper kit to read them on.

Thanks again.
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Old 12-03-2009, 01:23 PM   #4
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Agree with omk; screen looks fine. And, after a while, you'll get so used to it, you won't even notice you're using and eBook reader.

I've had a 505 for going on two years now and am very pleased.
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Old 12-03-2009, 01:59 PM   #5
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Looks quite normal to me. They are definitely whiter in the ads.

Are you in Britain? The weather is very dull, here, too. I've moved my chair from a dark corner over to a window just because I couldn't bear to lose that little bit of light there in the daytime
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Old 12-03-2009, 02:25 PM   #6
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When you open your reader on a sunny day, you won't be able to believe how great it looks, trust me on this one!
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Old 12-03-2009, 02:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Latinandgreek View Post
When you open your reader on a sunny day, you won't be able to believe how great it looks, trust me on this one!
Yeah, just wait 'till March! You won't belive it
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Old 12-03-2009, 03:03 PM   #8
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Today was sunny here in Croatia... guess South-Eastern Europe is just lucky that way! Here's to hoping that Portia DaCosta lives somewhere sunny!
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Old 12-05-2009, 06:55 AM   #9
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Thanks, guys. Yes, it's dull and wintry here in the UK, so the light isn't that great. Plus, the room I work in is out of direct sunlight for much of the day. Next time the sun shines [if ever! LOL] I will take the 505 out into the garden and see how bright it looks.

In the meantime, I've got a lighted cover and also a Mighty Bright Xtra Flex 2. The lighted cover isn't perfect, but as I saw in a couple of other threads here, that's pretty normal. The Mighty Bright makes the 505 really nice and bright though. I think I'll keep the lighted cover for when I'm out and about, because it's not as noticeable and it's handy, but use the Mighty Bright for reading in the evenings at home.

Now that I know my 505 is okay, I've installed the software and downloaded my first epub ebook! First of many, I guess...

Thanks again for the feedback.
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Old 12-05-2009, 11:32 AM   #10
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Hi PortiaDaCosta,

You'll just have to get used to e-ink being pretty poor in contrast. Much of my posting history on these boards is dedicated to pointing out how overrated it is. The most depressing part is that the 505 is about as bright and contrasty as electrophoretics currently come. There's hope around the corner, but for now we have to make do with e-ink. When another user posted a snap of his PRS-300 next to a book and a piece of white paper, I decided to do so also. I'll post it below, even though it's not a great photo (just a quick shot with my compact digicam).

On the upside, if you choose decent Latin-based fonts, text can remain readable to quite small sizes. I used to try 10-11pt, then went to 9pt, and now I tend to prefer 8-8.5pt for most of the books I make. The copy of Paradise Lost in the picture was done with Garamond Premier Pro Caption at 9pt and is quite pleasant, even if imperfect. For long block body text, I tend to use Karmina which is narrower and well-adapted to smaller print, and I'll post a photo of that when I get a chance.
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Old 12-05-2009, 01:16 PM   #11
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OK I just grabbed my camera and decided to take a few more quick snaps with my reader.

One consideration that must be made on occasion is how bright the ambient lighting is, and what kind of surfaces are being reflected on the screen. To give an idea of how this affects viewing, I took one photograph with a white reflected surface, and one with a black reflected surface. With the white reflected surface, the brightness of the background goes up, but the black point suffers and gives the impression of weak or even blurry text. With light overcast skies, reading outdoors may show this kind of effect. With the black reflected surface, the black point is much more readable, but the overall background brightness goes down. This is mitigated if the ambient light is plentiful.

I just want to make a point to photo geeks/snobs that these aren't studio photos or even high quality photos, just informal snaps taken with a cheap digital camera (evidenced by corner/edge degradation, so ignore the edges of the photos). I tried to keep the metering and white balance within reasonable tolerance, but they're far from good.

Addendum: Oh and also, the e-ink background is ~80% the brightness of the paperback paper in the white reflection pic, and ~65% in the black reflection pic. Not too surprising I guess, but I thought I'd throw those numbers out there.
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:38 AM   #12
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Many thanks for posting those photos. They give me a v. accurate picture of what to expect from my PRS-505.

As I said in my first post, when I first got the reader, I was alarmed in case I'd got a faulty one. But now it's easy to see that it's perfectly OK, and that's just the way they are.

Still think it's a nifty gadget and I've started loading a few more books now.
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:54 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PortiaDaCosta View Post
Many thanks for posting those photos. They give me a v. accurate picture of what to expect from my PRS-505.
Glad to help. The web could use some more realistic photographs showing how e-ink compares to paper, since even bad pictures are often much more honest than words when it comes to markets like this.

I'm not a fan of e-ink in general, but I can tolerate it for a low-power device that I use for casual reading. I can't wait until superior alternatives come out though. I'm even willing to build all my own formatted ebooks for it, albeit only in English for the time being. I can't make very readable books in my second language (Chinese), despite a lot of effort and experimentation. I've attached a pic of some Chinese text in one of the more ubiquitous Chinese fonts next to a printed book that uses a related typeface.

If one can dismiss the hype though, ebook readers can be pleasant devices to own and use.

Addendum: Though not a scientific test, casual observation of the real-world results through photo software shows the following brightness/darkness levels of the 2 media compared. The numbers are not the same as reflectance, but based on white/black values set by a white/black/gray card used in the photo.

Paperback:
Brightness 95-98%
Blackness: 19-23%
Range: 5.2:1 (high); 4.1:1 (low)

PRS-505:
Brightness: 74-76%
Blackness: 30-35% (bold header), 40-55% (admittedly weak body text).
Range: 2.6:1 (high); 1.3:1 (low)

Like I said, they're not scientific numbers or lab data, but they're interesting food for thought anyway.
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:39 PM   #14
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Hi PortiaDaCosta

Since you're a new owner of the Sony I thought I'd offer a little warning of something I found out the hard way. E-Ink screens are very fragile. They have a thin glass layer which does not resist twisting or pressure so do not put anything on top of the screen, especially something that may exert point pressure.

And definitely do not kneel on it as I did. The results are not pleasing. I'll be getting a hard sided case to carry it round in when I get it back from Sony.
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Old 12-08-2009, 02:38 PM   #15
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And definitely do not kneel on it as I did. The results are not pleasing. I'll be getting a hard sided case to carry it round in when I get it back from Sony.
Or fall on top of the bag your Reader is in. Especially not if your phone is between you and the screen A sturdy, hardsided cover is the way to go if you are going to carry it around much.
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