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eReader screen showdown: iPad IPS LED Backlit LCD versus e-Ink Displays

We test the iPad's IPS screen for e-book readability under a variety of lighting conditions versus the competition using Vizplex e-Ink.
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Topic: Hardware
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1 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet
In our initial test we looked at the same blocks of text using an iPad against my current e-Reader, the SONY PRS-700, which is a 8-grey scale Vizplex screen of the previous generation. My living room only had natural lighting coming in from the sides of our bay window. This is iBooks shown at approximately 50 percent brightness level. I found that anywhere between 20 and 50 percent was about as high as you want to go in daytime ambient natural light. While not evident in this picture, the Vizplex screen is very easy to read in ambient natural light indoors.

Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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2 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Here is Amazon's Kindle reader app shown against the PRS-700 in natural light. The Kindle app appears to have its lighting "Governed" in that it will not exceed brightness levels that will strain eyesight and appears to be a aware of ambient light levels in order to compensate.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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3 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Sandy is a good friend of mine who is a hardcore Kindle 2 user who reads over 20 books a month. I first had her try the iPad in the living room. After about an hour of use, she started to experience eyestrain and wanted to stop reading it under these conditions.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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4 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

iPad, Kindle 2 and SONY PRS-700 in natural lighting facing patio on dining room table.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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5 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

I also brought both units to my kitchen prep area facing my sliding door facing my backyard. Again, only natural light here.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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6 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Sandy, our super reader, found the iPad to cause significant eye strain after about 30-40 minutes of reading in strong natural light on our kitchen table facing our patio.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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7 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The weather during the testing period was overcast but the ambient light was extremely bright. Under these conditions the iPad screen at full brightness levels using iBooks or the Kindle application was completely unreadable and the screen surface acted like a mirror. On the other hand, all of the Vizplex ebook readers we tested outdoors were fully readable with no glare.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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8 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The Kindle 2, with its 16 grey scale Vizplex and high contrast makes it ideally suited for outdoor viewing. The iPad is a non-starter in virtually any bright outdoors setting.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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9 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Likewise, the Kindle 2 and other similar e-Readers with current generation Vizplex e-ink perform extremely well in full sunlight. Sandy frequently reads for hours outside using her Kindle 2.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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10 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The iPad fairs decently during the evening using a bedside lamp with a CFC bulb. However, we felt overall that the e-Ink was less strenuous on the eyes.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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11 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

In full darkness Vizplex screens require book lights but they are very easy to read and the contrast is still very good. Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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12 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The intense luminosity of the fully backlit iPad using iBooks in a dark room can be very distracting if you have a bed partner who wants to sleep. By comparison the Mighty Brite when used on an e-Ink display can be positioned away from your partner as you lie down in bed and presents a much "cooler" lower intensity light.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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13 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The Mighty Brite 2 ($15) is an excellent clip-on light when used with e-Ink readers. The Mighty Brite 2 has twin "cool" white LEDs that can be set at two different brightness levels and can be positioned on a flexible neck.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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14 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

SONY's PRS-700, which is no longer being sold, had an integrated LED backlight which I thought was a nice feature. It was just bright enough to read with without being overpowering.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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15 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Surprisingly, one of the main areas where our "Super Reader" felt the iPad excelled and performed better than e-Ink devices was at night in dark rooms. However, in order to reduce eyestrain and not to disturb her theoretical bed-mate, she needed to reduce the brightness considerably.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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16 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Sandy experimented with reading in the dark for approximately one hour and came up with the settings above in iBooks for her ideal comfort level. Kindle for iPad is somewhat more optimized than iBooks for dark room brightness settings, but it should be lower than halfway.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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17 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

A little known trick to reduce eyestrain and lower the light intensity in a dark room using the iPad is to invert the color scheme. This can be done in the Settings application. iBooks by itself does not have the ability to invert text color.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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18 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The iPad on left is shown with the Font/Text controls on the Kindle app for enabling White on Black text next to the PRS-700 with the Mighty Brite. Unlike iBooks, the control for reversing the screen color and high contrast is built into the application.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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19 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Here are two identical pages of text on iBooks using White on Black and Black and Black on White text. We've found that Black on White is much more appropriate for nighttime reading when using an iPad.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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20 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The Kindle app for iPad actually has the ability within the on-screen menus to switch between black on white and white on black. Additionally, we've noticed that the Kindle app wastes far less screen estate on the "widgets" and controls than iBooks does, so we find it to be a superior reader for nighttime reading.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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21 of 21 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

iBooks is shown on the left with Kindle on the right. As you can see, the Kindle app makes the most of the screen real estate, whereas iBooks devotes more time to the aesthetics.Click here to read more at ZDNet Tech Broiler

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