What to look for when choosing a reader - talking about the form factor and the display

    We talk about the screens of electronic readers: how they are arranged, for what tasks large and small displays are suitable and what the material of their substrate affects.

    Image: Ryan Vaarsi / CC BY

    Electronic ink

    Before turning to the story about the functions and capabilities of the displays of different readers, let's talk about the pros and cons of the EInk technology ("electronic ink").

    E Ink is a display, the image on which is formed by pigment particles - white and black granules. They are arranged in small capsules filled with clear liquid. The image is formed by the voltage applied to the electrodes of the capsules. When it disappears, all pigment particles remain in place thanks to the forces of van der Waals and the picture is preserved.

    Pros:The image on the EInk screen is formed by moving the physical particles of the pigment, so from the point of view of perception, it resembles paper. This feature also has a positive effect on the user's vision. The EInk screen is less tiring on the eyes when reading (compared, for example, with LCD displays). This is due to the lack of flicker of the display, usually caused by PWM, and the polarization of light by the LCD matrix. This fact was confirmed by specialists from the University of Paris 8. They conducted an experiment and found that when working with e-paper, the “fatigue” of view is slower.

    Minuses:The similarity of the display on the paper is also its disadvantage - it will not work to read from it in the dark. However, some readers have a backlight (how it is organized, we will tell further). Most EInk screens are monochrome and transmit only 16 shades of gray. Last year , a color display based on electronic ink was introduced , but the mass distribution of such devices on the market is not yet clear.

    As noted by the author of the Good e-Reader blog Michael Kozlowski (Michael Kozlowski), EInk color displays are not popular due to the low contrast and a small number of colors - about 4096. This is not very much compared to LCD and their 16 million colors.


    There are many readers on the market with screens of various sizes. Obviously, the diagonal of the display affects the "applicability" of the gadget in certain life situations. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of various form factors:

    Readers with a screen diagonal of 5 inches. The

    target audience for the manufacturers of these devices is people who like to read at every opportunity. Mini-reader sizes rarely exceed 10 cm, and weight - 250 grams. An example of such a gadget could be Beagle, which was developed in a German startup Txtr. Other examples of compact devices are the previously released Sony PRS-300 and Kobo Mini .

    Pros:Because of their small size, gadgets have a rather low price. For example, TxtrBeagle sold for only $ 13. Plus, small screens provide a long time on a single charge. The manufacturer of the same Beagle stated that the device could “live” for a year. In this case, the gadget did not require any chargers or cables and worked from ordinary batteries.

    Cons: For compact size and low price you have to pay for functionality. 5-inch screens have a low resolution (800x600 pixels), they often lack the backlight and touch panel. Sometimes developers remove other important components. Beagle, for example, did not have Wi-Fi support - all books had to be poured over Bluetooth.

    Such restrictions have left their mark on the level of sales of such devices. And many companies have curtailed their production (this also applies to the Sony PRS-300 and Kobo Mini mentioned above). Today you can find devices with a 5-inch display, but they are few and mostly used. This is partly due to the fact that it is easier for people to read books on a smartphone than to buy for these purposes a separate reader with a tiny display.

    Many have mobile devices, plus they open up more multimedia capabilities. You can put third-party applications that will help with reading literature in a foreign language. It is also easier to search for information from a smartphone, for example, if the term in the book is unfamiliar.

    6-inch readers

    This is one of the most popular e-reader form factors. Almost every manufacturer has a device with such a diagonal. As an example, Kobo Aura and the popular Kindle Paperwhite in the west. The ONYXBOOX line also has similar readers: the Darwin 6 model and Vasco da Gama 3 . We have prepared a separate review with a large number of photos on the updated line of 6-inch models .

    Pros: According to users with Reddit, a 6-inch gadget better than others maintains a balance between readability and portability. One resident said that devices with a large screen are often too heavy to hold in one hand.

    Minuses:While 6-inch devices are well suited for reading fiction, working with graphs or scans of documents will be inconvenient. In the thematic thread on Reddit, about which we spoke above, one of the residents also noted that on this screen it is inconvenient to read comics or manga.

    Readers with a diagonal from 9 to 13 inches

    Suitable for those who read a part of the technical literature or work with multi-page documents. Among the ONYX BOOX readers with a large display stand out Gulliver with a diagonal of 10.3 inches and Euclid with a screen size of 9.7 inches. We also have a MAX 2 reader with a diagonal of 13.3, which can even be used as an EInk monitor. Pictured

    : ONYX BOOX Euclid

    Pros: Professional literature and documents are often presented in A4 format as PDF or DjVu. It is inconvenient to work with such files on small screens of readers, since you have to “move” the image in search of information. The larger display allows you to view the drawings and diagrams in their original size.

    Disadvantages: The disadvantages of such giant readers are their price, on average it varies from 25 to 60 thousand rubles.

    Substrate material

    The substrate material also affects the usability of the reader. The substrate is a component of the reader, which is glued to the screen of the device and determines its strength characteristics. Today, the substrate is made of two materials - plastic or glass.

    The advantages of glass: The main advantage of the glass substrate can be called a low price. It is because of the cost of glass is used more often than plastic in the manufacture of readers. In the ONYX BOOX lineup, examples of such readers include: Caesar 3 , James Cook, and others.

    Cons of glass: Glass substrates have one major drawback - fragility. In our experience, cullet is the most frequent reason for users to contact the service. If you break the reader with the display, which has a glass substrate, repair can result in most of the cost of a new device.

    For this reason, we recommend the use of covers, covers that will protect the device from shock. By the way, with some of our readers, the case is included. For example, a smart cover is delivered with Darwin 6 , which puts the device into sleep mode when closing.

    Manufacturers are trying to solve the problem of the fragility of the substrate with the help of new technologies, such as chemically hardened glasses like Gorilla Glass 6. But it has too high a cost and has not yet reachedbefore the reader. In ONYXBOOX, we use Japanese-made Asahi glass, which is an analogue of the GorillaGlass. It already protects our models Monte Cristo 3 , Monte Cristo 4 and Robinson Crusoe 2 from damage and further reduces the likelihood of glare on the reader's display.

    Advantages of plastic: Unlike glass, plastic is more durable and flexible, which reduces the likelihood of damage to the display. In addition, this material significantly reduces the weight of the device - this is important when it comes to books with a large diagonal. For example, the weight of the model ONYX BOOX Gulliverwith a plastic backing and a diagonal of 10.3 is only 325 grams. For comparison, the weight of the Euclid reader with a diagonal of 9.7 inches and a glass substrate exceeds 400 grams.

    Another advantage of plastic substrates can be called a higher resolution . Typically, the number of dots per inch for screens with a glass substrate does not exceed 300 ppi. As the latest developments of the company PlasticLogic show, the plastic substrate allows to reach 500 ppi. This improves picture quality and simplifies working with CAD drawings and even hieroglyphs. Small details do not appear blurry (as may be the case with a glass substrate).

    Disadvantages of plastic:For the benefits have to pay extra. Production of "plastic" readers is more labor-intensive (it is more difficult to glue the backlight), which affects the price of the final device. Pictured

    : ONYX BOOX Monte Cristo 4


    As we said earlier, the EInk screen does not have its own glow, so you cannot read it in complete darkness. It requires a third-party light source, such as the sun or a desk lamp. Front-lit backlight technology solves the problem . Today, the vast majority of readers are manufactured with it, and each manufacturer has its own variations of this technology. For example, in ONYXBOOX devices, it is called MOON Light.

    MOON Light uses a reflective light distribution method. Above the screen there is a special light guide layer, at the end of which the LEDs are directed. The radiation from them is refracted in the direction of the screen, is reflected from it and reaches the eye. This creates the effect of illuminating the text with an external light source.

    New models of readers are also equipped with additional features. An example would be MOON Light + technology - it allows the reader to adjust the brightness and “intensity” of warm and cool LEDs. Warm LEDs do not emit in the blue part of the spectrum, which prevents the production of melatonin , which is a plus for those who like to read before bedtime.

    About ONYX BOOX e-book technologies.

    Previously, this function was available only to premium reader models, but now it can be found in most ONYX readers. For example, in the device “My first book”, designed specifically for children (wehave a reviewfor it on the blog), as well asVasco da Gama 3,Monte Cristo 3,Caesar 3and others.

    В нашем следующем материале расскажем о железе и софте ридеров и как выбрать «начинку» книги под конкретные задачи.

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