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Kindle vs. iPad Displays: Up close and personal (bit-101.com)
275 points by pistoriusp on Aug 13, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments

I'm surprised the eInk particles look like rocks at the bottom of an aquarium. All this time I was led to believe they were uniform, like tiny spheres.

Having used both Kindles and iPads to read things, I don't understand how people can think it's such a clear choice (see comments, etc of article)

It honestly feels like the "kindle is awesome" side of the clearly made up their mind people have some amounts of vision trouble which has gone uncorrected. I don't understand at a slightest, the feeling they're talking about, nor do several of the iPad owners of various ages I've talked to.

It honestly feels like the "iPad is a clearly superior reading device" group don't ever walk into the sun though. Honestly, even with the contrast controls, that shiny screen gets you in troubles in sunlight heavy situations. And really many don't get that the kindle is meant to be used the same places books are? So many people seem to not understand you need just as much light to use it then complain about the lack of light.

I own both a Kindle and an iPad and have used both for reading books. I prefer reading on the Kindle because of the eInk screen, weight of the device and the orientation of the buttons. I do find the iPad has a much more engaging screen and is a very usable reader, except when it comes to reading outside. I made the mistake of taking my iPad with me to the park to read; the glare was far too much, even in the shade.

Ultimately for me it feels better to read on the Kindle. The Kindle is made for reading and it shows in the engineering, just as the iPad is a multimedia device that has a few apps for reading books.

Agreed. Kindle makes the most sense as a dedicated reader, and indeed if that were all I were using it for, then the Kindle would win.

The compelling thing about the iPad, for me at least, is that it isn't just a reader.

I think the "kindle is awesome" crowd are people who use a reader to read novels. The Kindle is simply almost identical to the experience reading a printed book. However good the iPad is as a reader, it is not even close to the same as a printed book mainly because of the backlight.

I use my Kindle to read all sorts of non-fiction works (I very rarely read novels). I'm not sure why everyone assumes it's only fiction readers that would care- there are plenty of non-fiction books that aren't reference books. I find it much preferable to read over the iPad, for all the standard reasons (glare, eye strain, etc.) I also find highlighting to be much preferable on the Kindle (maybe Amazon has updated their iPad app, but the version I have won't let you highlight across page boundaries) as well as going to footnotes and back. Of course I do a lot of my Kindle reading outside (at the pool, at the park, whatever) so that plays a major factor as well, it's like I don't want to use my iPad unless it's dark (this applies to more than just reading) because I hate seeing reflections.

The only times I really use the iPad in place of the Kindle is when I'm in a dark place (I've used it quite a bit outside at the hot tub at night), and I use the iPad for Instapaper usually instead of the Kindle.

Another reason I prefer longer reading (which Instapaper doesn't really fall under, while articles are usually longer form it's not like it's a book) on the Kindle is because with the iPad I find that I'll be too easily tempted to press Home and mess around with something else (I realize this is my own fault and not necessarily a fault of the iPad, but it's something that I'm sure other dual-owners have experienced).

> with the iPad I find that I'll be too easily tempted to press Home and mess around ...

Yes, how many times have I earmarked papers only to find myself web surfing or playing games? gah...

Is the backlight actually all that much of a differentiator? It seems like it should be, but apart from the greater uniformity of a backlight, what are the practical differences? This question of emissive versus reflective light is itself a fuzzy distinction because, with an LCD, you're seeing light bounced through the diffuser behind the liquid crystal, not directly from the CCFL or LED.

There is, however, a surprisingly major difference (at least to me) which is highlighted by this microscope comparison: Dot pitch. The iPad's IPS panel has a pretty average dot pitch, but I was surprised to see that the Kindle's e-ink display has essentially none. Even though the eye compensates for dot pitch, I have to wonder if that still might make a difference.

I am not sure if there is that much of a practical difference between having a backlight or not. As someone who reads a lot of fiction though the Kindle experience feels exactly like a paperback with the added bonus of a dictionary and notes. The iPad may be better for some people but it is not the same thing as reading a printed book like the Kindle is.

In a study by useit (Nielsen's group), they found reading the Kindle is slower than reading the iPad is slower than reading a book.

So, to say that using a Kindle is more like reading a book than an iPad strikes me as bogus. I don't understand how a backlight or not decides an item's bookishness. Certainly, neither has pages.

Have you actually used a Kindle or another device with an e-ink display? It is uncanny how simliar it is to paper. It literally looks like a piece of paper morphs into new page when change page. It is really out of this world.

Anyway, there are many reasons why the Kindle is more like reading a real book besides the display that looks identical to a piece of printed paper. First of all, neither books nor the Kindle have a backlight which does, in fact, make the Kindle more simliar to a book than an iPad despite its lack of pages... You can read a Kindle on the beach or on a deck in the brightest sunlight you can imagine and the screen will just look better. The same goes for a real book. Just try that with iPad with a backlight and you will see a difference there.

Also, due to the lack of backlight the Kindle is much better suited for reading before sleep just like a real book. The backlight of a computer monitor is the reason computer people struggle with falling asleep. A good fiction paper back is the best sleeping pill in the world and you just can't get that effect with a backlight screen.

Finally, just look the article we are commenting on. Do you not notice how similar the Kindle character is to the newspaper, magazine, and book characters at 400x? I would dare sare it is sharper.

Yes, except when I flip pages in a book, they change rather rapidly. I don't have to wait for a second or two per page turn. This delay actually completely kills the Kindle reading experience. I've only read 2 books on my Kindle, but have read over a dozen since getting my iPad.

I got used to hit the "next page" button when reaching the middle of last line, which makes the screen flash at the exact moment when your eyes run back to the top of the page (you have enough time to read about a half-line after pushing the button). Actually I even sometimes hit the button when I'd like instead to re-read a sentence on the current page :)

This, also a rather unfortunate change in the recent firmware (to me, anyway) is that this page turn starts when you press the button instead of when you release it. I was so used to pressing it in anticipation, and releasing when I neared the end of the page that it's caused a bit of a problem with the new update. I'm sure I'll adjust, but I much prefered the previous method.

Yeah, I don't like that change either. But as for the page turn in general. It's not "a second or two" and I guarantee you I can turn a page on the Kindle faster than you can turn a page on a real book. And I can do it one handed while standing in a crowded train. :)

To each his own but to me the screen is much more of an important comparison than the page turn is.

I have the same issue with the kindle v iPad on page turns. The iPad even seems slow.

Fact check. From the study mentioned. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/ipad-kindle-reading.html

"The iPad measured at 6.2% lower reading speed than the printed book, whereas the Kindle measured at 10.7% slower than print. However, the difference between the two devices was not statistically significant because of the data's fairly high variability. Thus, the only fair conclusion is that we can't say for sure which device offers the fastest reading speed. In any case, the difference would be so small that it wouldn't be a reason to buy one over the other."

Also, that study wound up being based on 24 subjects reading for about 17 minutes. Hardly a comprehensive test.

Really it comes down to personal preference.

Let's not forget turning pages on the Kindle is rather slow, which to me implies that while reading speed may be lower, reading experience isn't neccesarily worse.

Reading speed is not all I care about. In fact, I don't care about it at all, really, so long as it's within acceptable limits.

The only possible way it can strike you as bogus is if you have never taken both of them outside and tried to read them. If the focus group was conducted in an office, then the results are basically meaningless.

I use my kindle on my boat. 99.9% of the time I'm sitting in the sun reading it. I can do that with a book, and I can do that with a kindle. The iPad or anyother backlit screen is just not an option. I can barely see my cell phone or camera screen on the water, but I read the kindle becuase it is a fundamentally different technology.

I got bad reflections on my iPad just sitting on my bed. It's like holding a mirror up in front of your face, and you have to adjust it to not catch distracting things.

This is bit of a deviation, but I am reminded of how my super Nintendo system has turned colors in part because of UV light.

I am curious if the kindle, in your use case, will- at the end of it's life- have distinct hand-prints where the original color is intact (if not physically smoother).

And I use my iPad to read novels....I enjoy the backlight actually.

Erm, this guy lost the opportunity to make a few hundred bucks with that post, because I want that microscope!

The image links to Amazon with what looks like a referral id in the URL if you want to kick him back a finders fee.

I'll do that, thanks!

Thanks for the link, but I'm in London, so with the shipping Amazon UK will be cheaper, I think... Thanks again!

What shipping? DealExtreme has free worldwide shipping.

That's fantastic! I think they'll get me at customs, though... Too bad :/

The exact model is available with free shipping throughout Europe at play.com - http://www.play.com/PC/PCs/4-/11521117/Veho-VMS-004D-Deluxe-...

It seems that they only deliver electronics in the UK...

And everybody should see why and how eInk devices (Kindle, Sony PRS, etc) are hundred times better tools to read books and papers.

Be careful with the word 'everybody'. Surely someone would prefer higher contrast, the ability to change foreground/background color, and faster page turning (without that annoying black flash) over crisper text.

Me? I still prefer print. Though I imagine that much like my preference for CDs over mp3s, my preference for print is doomed to die out over the next few years as the technology improves and I slowly get over my nostalgia.

I dunno, it's pretty definitive that emissive displays cause more eye strain than a book (and E-ink is really close to a book). For any serious reader, eye strain seems likely to be at the top of their to-be-avoided list.

Eye strain is definitely antithetical to reading. That said, I'm not too worried about it with an iPad type device: I am looking at screens all day every day, and eye strain just isn't a problem.

Perhaps when I get older/my eyes get broken in more. But for now, I'd be fine with reading on something with an LCD - it really doesn't bother me.

I can surf the web for hours on end, but when I try to read dense text I find my eyes rebel.

Either pretty definitive isn't as definitive as all that, or I'm a complete aberration.

I genuinely prefer reading text on an active, high contrast display (monitor, ipad) rather than a passive, low contrast display (physical books, e-ink).

I find the sharp edges of a monitor's display very relaxing after reading an actual book.

Yea I read my computer screen almost 18 hours a day, and I don't get eyestrain either.

Yep, sometimes I think the people complaining about eyestrain are still thinking about 60Hz CRTs. I think I'd slightly prefer e-ink for lots of reading (though a backlight is important to me), but I never have any feeling of pain or strain while reading on my iPad. (Perhaps others' experience is different, of course.) If anything, I just want it to be sharper like a high-res phone display.

One of my co-workers told me that he prefers reading ebooks on his iPhone 4 to his iPad - we side-by-side compared them, and the iPhone screen density makes a huge difference.

That said, the form-factor is a little awkward for longform reading.

This is a key point: the iPad's display is only going to get better over time, while e-Ink displays are probably not going to improve much from here. They might get faster, but what else is likely to change? I can't imagine investing in a company that spends time optimizing an e-Ink display. It would be like building a better vacuum tube.

When the iPad gets the so-called 'retina display' from the iPhone 4 model, it's all over.

That's what I'm afraid of. I wish they would make better e-Ink displays. And I wish they would make better vacuum tubes too.

I've only found that to be a problem with black text on white. I just finished an 800 page book on my phone with white text on black with no issues. I've found that I prefer reading on my phone to the kindle or physical book, mostly because the page turning is instant, my phone is always with me, and I can read one handed in bed without needing a light.

If you have an android phone, check out Aldiko.

This is definitely the main point in this "debate"; some people will just prefer one screen type over the other. A lot of people seem to be advertising these opinions as objective fact, and that's quite a dangerous trend.

I'm personally of the opinion that e-Ink is what I'd prefer for reading, but I absolutely despise reading on screens; anything lengthy I print out. And while I think that e-Ink is better for reading, that's all that e-Ink devices (while being a lot cheaper than the iPad) do. If you read less and do other things more, then e-Ink is unlikely to even be an option for you unless you feel like shelling out for another device for the few times you do read at length.

I'm a rabid reader, and buying an e-ink device was a boon: though I've read many short papers on my laptops and a on my phone, I certainly wouldn't read thousands of pages at once on an LCD device, and I've precisely done so with my PRS. That, and the battery lasts 2 weeks of constant reading.

The contrast of e-ink, in my experience, improves with brighter lighting. Outdoors in sunlight it's quite good. Also, I find a bright white CFLs to give better contrast than similarly-bright incandescents.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

In my first experience with the Kindle, I was fascinated by the backflash. It's clearly not desired, but the technology apparently isn't there yet to do away with it. I just found it so neat that such an apparent flaw is kept in the product because even with it, it's a "good enough" experience. If I imagine myself on the team making Kindle, I think I might find it unacceptable that the screen flashes on every page turn.

Aside from that, the first Kindle had some sort of really awesome scrolling mirror thing on the right. What is it, and how does it work? How can you make material selectively reflective like that?

I like eInk, but I read books and papers with color, with pictures some mostly so, and I'd rather not wait and get epileptic seizure every time I turn the page.

Clearly eInk has advantages and equally clearly it has faults. Neither better nor worse, just different.

I wonder what the production cost of an iPad with TWO displays would be? The iPhone now has glass on both sides, what if the front could be LCD and the back E-Ink? Since E-ink is permanent, it could also be a great way to "personalize" your iPad with e.g. a custom design on the 'back'. Steve, are you reading this?

That reminds me of Pixel Qi, a display that's a mixture a normal LCD and E-Ink: http://www.pixelqi.com/home

It's not actually the same as E-Ink, it's still an LCD screen when in low power reflective mode.


E-ink displays are very expensive. The one in the kindle costs > $60 to the manufacturer.

I'd prefer the iPhone with solar batteries on the backside.

The answer here seems straight forward enough: just get an iPad and an eInk reader. Seriously, the eInk devices are great for replacing books (reading outside, avoiding glare, not caring about battery life), the iPad is great for internet/apps and augmenting the reading experience (eg. the way you can zoom and scroll so effortlessly makes reading those awkwardly formatted PDFs much easier. in fact you get a sort of entirely novel tactile experience)

Yes. You nailed it - I carry both of them with me 100% of the time. When I'm on the road, I _tear_ through books on my iPad in Hotel Rooms (Dark Light.) During the day, or while on the beach - the Kindle comes out and I also disappear in reading (Nobody in their right mind even attempts to read on an iPad in the sun - even with the Matte screen.)

And, best part of all - I have a MiFi (I spent many, many hours trying to decide whether to go with the 3G Ipad) - and I am astonishingly happy over the fact that I can now support the K3 (WiFi Support - Yay!), my iPad, my Laptop, and my iPhone with my 5 Gigabyte Capacity Sprint MiFi.

What's with the wayward "pixels" on the eink display, is that dirt or what?

I'll have to try a kindle someday. I had to wait for high resolution LCD because I am nearsighted and can literally see the pixel grid "screendoor" at HDTV resolutions on the desktop (even at 23" size) and it was driving me crazy - used a CRT until this year!

Those aren't really the pixels, they're the "phosphor" of the display. The pixels are behind the little blobs goo and are little electrical contacts that induce a magnetic field. When the field is one way, the pixels are dark, and vice versa. The field affects the nearby blobs of goo.


Wait, E-Ink is literally a magnadoodle?!

I must bring a magnet to barnes&noble...

Additionally, the Kindle doesn't shoot beams of light at your eyes.

It bounces them, though. Sometimes from the sun!

This is basically the fundamental difference between the screens.

I can't wait to get my next kindle. The iPad is nice from the perspective of video and the like, but it is still very much a computer screen. The Kindle simply feels exactly like mutating paper.

It'll be really cool if Amazon ever figures out colour on the kindle.

It'll be really cool if Amazon ever figures out colour on the kindle.

Actually, the display is made by eInk, not by Amazon.

There are color versions in development, last I heard they should be going in to mass production around the end of this year. I'd guess that Amazon will have a color version of the Kindle soon after the displays are available.

is anyone selling e-ink or even just transflective displays for laptops/computers/etc/ that I could use in my day to day work? most current e-ink stuff would be too slow for most things... but eh, for a second or third monitor I could use when reading things that don't change, it could work.

a transflective screen could also do the job... I had one of the little green OLPC jobbes for a while, and I really liked the transflective mode, though the device as a whole, imo, was fairly useless other than as a bulky e-reader. Still I'd pay money for transflective panels for my desktop, and I'd pay quite a bit of money for a transflective screen on my laptop.

Pixel Qi maybe, but 10" only atm, iirc.


nice... that's almost enough for me to put up with a netbook keyboard, or at least enough to /look at/ netbook keyboards again. too bad it doesn't fit a thinkpad X series.

I bought a Samsung N210 for my mother which has a surprisingly good keyboard.

As a side note: IIRC there is a 10" thinkpad X netbook in Australia (for schools) and for a short time earlier this year, they displayed a 10" model on the lenovo website, so there may be hope...

A 11.6" or 12" version of the pixel qi diy kit would certainly be great.

Thanks, I'll look at the N210, but generally the acceptability of a keyboard is rather dependent on hand size.

I don't know how much it matters what the screen looks like under magnification.

I think it's a matter of preference and which best suits your lifestyle; there are pros and cons of both.

Now compare the iPad display with one of a PSP, then a TV, a CRT, an LCD, an XRAY film, a Chess board, a canvas, etc.

That's what I use the iPad for.

Well, yes, obviously the comparison is only informative for the "reading" application of the iPad. This is also the reason that comparing the prices and some other aspects of the devices is pretty worthless. But if you're interested in the differences in screen technology this is a very neat comparison.

The simulated fibers on the Kindle's eInk screen are pretty incredible.

Can someone fire one up on the iPhone 4 display?

Apple Retina Display: Under the microscope comparisons with 1G and 3G:




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