Showing posts with label e-ink. Show all posts
Showing posts with label e-ink. Show all posts

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Icarus Illumina XL HD released

Icarus released a re-vamped Boyue T-80 - the Illumina XL HD - with an E-Ink Carta screen and 300 dpi (I reviewed the previous generation here). The RAM and storage are also upgraded to 1 GB and 16 GB. With the expanded storage - the largest I've seen on an e-reader - there is the removal of the SD Card slot.  It is not clear if the front-light has been improved or, more importantly, if Boyue revamped its poor stock firmware. I expect Midia to similarly update the inkBOOK 8 with the same upgraded T-80 device.

The release of the Kobo Aura One likely led to Onyx and Boyue to re-think their hardware strategy, as many third party vendors that order large batches of their e-readers will find it difficult to sell re-branded Boyue and Onyx e-readers that come with out-dated E-Ink screens (Onyx recently updated their 9.7 inch e-readers with the Onyx Boox e-Note 10.3 - a device that comes with a 227 dpi E-Ink Carta screen). It makes little sense, for third-party vendors, to release another underwhelming device with an E-Ink Pearl display and a similar dpi to the entry-level Kindle and still price the device similar to the Aura One. On paper the updated T-80's hardware is superior to the Aura One but I would still choose Kobo, with its quality high contrast screens and better after-sale support.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Apple's 'True Tone Display'

Apple introduced 'True Tone Display' with its iPad Pro (9.7 inch version), stating the technology as the first of its kind in a tablet. This means the smaller iPad Pro's display comes with four ambient sensors that measure the ambient light in a room to adjust the brightness and colour temperature. Despite the clich├ęd coverage of Apple's latest supposed 'innovation' (e.g. here and here), this is similar to a feature Amazon introduced with its fourth generation Kindle Fire HDX.

'True Tone Display' is part of a broader strategy by manufacturers to ameliorate problems with light emitting displays. For example, Amazon, Google and Apple all introduced different features to change the colour tone of screens to counter problems with blue light emission. Overall, while these features are helpful, reflective tablet screens are not suitable for prolonged reading. There are alternative technologies (e.g. E-Ink, Plastic Logic, Electrowetting and Mirasol) but many are currently underdeveloped for more featured reading (e.g. colour and multimedia). Also, in the case of E-Ink, the options, from Amazon and Kobo, tend to be restricted to six inch displays.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Recommended entry level e-reader

This is the first post in the series of recommended budget technology and one that relates to the best entry level e-reader. In this case, unfortunately, there is an easy recommendation due to the lack of choice with e-readers and the uniformity of the six-inch display size. There are options at 6.8, 8 and 9.7 inches but these would not qualify as an entry level device due to their relatively high price (larger sizes, due to their restricted availability, and niche demand, means the cost of many of these devices are inflated. Nevertheless, there will be future posts on larger e-readers). For this reason, two devices are selected - the Kindle basic and the Kobo Touch 2. There are other similarly priced options available but these two devices are more readily available. For example, other possible entry level e-readers would be the Bookeen Cybook Essential Muse or Pocketbook Basic Touch. However, both these are restricted in their availability.

Between the Kobo Touch 2 and the basic Kindle, the recommended device would be the Kindle. Amazon continues to improve its e-reader firmware and while it does not offer the best customization of the e-reading experience (e.g text alignment, line/margin spacing variation, adding fonts), it comes with its own rich features, with options to sync both Kindle and side-loaded e-books, send documents wirelessly to a user designated email, Wikipedia integration, Goodreads integration, translation, vocabulary builder and more.

While Amazon exclusively supports MOBI or it propriety version of MOBI (AZW3), rather than EPUB, it is possible to convert between e-book formats and this generally produces identical results (conversion can be through Calibre or on-line). This means you are able to store non-DRM converted EPUB e-books in the Amazon cloud and the e-book will sync across devices.

However, there is a significant problem with the Kindle's adoption of the MOBI based format, in the that there is no support with Adobe Digital Editions. What this means is that either a book is to be purchased in a DRM-free EPUB format, then converted, which some publishers offer, or the e-reader is locked in the Amazon store. This does not apply to the Fire tablets that can work with DRM protected books, through installing or sideloading applications compatible with the EPUB format (e.g. Mantano Reader can be sideloaded to access DRM protected books).

Generally, the basic Kindle is the better overall entry device but the Kobo Touch 2 is the better option if you wish for more flexibility in reading both MOBI and EPUB, due to both formats being supported and with further support with Adobe Digital Editions. Yet there will be a compromise, compared to the Kindle, in cloud storage and more extensive syncing services. This means if you wish to manage a large library across different devices, including personal documents, then the Kindle is the better option.

Friday, 13 November 2015

The ultimate e-reader?

The Good E-Reader is aiming to produce an 'ultimate' e-reading device, running Android, that offers all the premium features desired by dedicated e-readers. However, the product concept puts forward a device that already exists - albeit through niche and lesser known sellers. Icarus, Onyx, Hanvon  and Boyue, for example, all offer open Android firmware on dedicated e-readers. Another point is that Android, in my opinion, is not suitable for an an e-ink device. Most dedicated e-reader applications, available through Google Play, are designed for tablets and e-ink refresh rates render the use of these applications bothersome, to say the least. Also, the proposed device misses the point in regards to firmware - the problem with re-branded e-readers from Chinese manufacturers (sold by, for example, Icarus and Onyx), before the adoption of Android, was poor functionality and an overly complicated and unintuitive interface.

To develop an 'ultimate e-reader' requires not only the bulk ordering of hardware with premium specifications, but also, more importantly, the development of dedicated firmware that would compare and even surpass the experience available on the Kindle. This is problematic as Amazon offers a user experience that is difficult to match - this includes everything from extensive cloud syncing, send-to-Kindle and free conversion to mobi file format. However, there is a workaround to this through the integration of third-party applications into an operating system; this may include existing cloud storage services such as Evernote, Onenote and Dropbox. For example, Kobo offers the option to send web articles to their devices through Pocket, though this lacks the all-round versatility of Amazon's send to Kindle features. The point here is that Android is not a platform that works with e-ink; dedicated e-reading devices require the development of firmware that makes use of the unique strengths of e-ink, while considering its current limitations.

I do think the project of an 'ultimate e-reader' is a good idea but it needs something more extensive and collaborative. May be an alternative direction would be to crowd fund, at first, a project to develop a dedicated operating system for e-readers. Delivering on this means whatever iteration follows from this 'ultimate e-reader' would already have an existing firm basis. The trajectory of Android, as a mobile operating system, and its uses by other manufacturers for their own purposes, demonstrates this. Ultimately, this would be a bigger project but something that is sustainable beyond a one-off premium e-reader; further it may offer variety, in the future, beyond six inch devices that dominate at the moment. Of course, this does not solve the problem of cost that comes with ordering hardware for larger devices but it might, at least, kick-start the process for an initial six inch reader. If this synergistic experiment of both excellent firmware and hardware works, then this may be expanded to larger e-readers.