Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nook Touch screen plus Pixel QI 's coming one

Larger photo at CNet (CBS Interactive).

I visited Barnes and Noble last night to see the Nook Simple Touch.
  In November I visited the store to see the NookColor, and when I saw that unit, I bought it immediately because its display made a big, positive impression on me and I wanted an ereader for color magazines (National Geo especially, which is spectacular on it) and very-portable color web-browisng.

  I had a different reaction to the Nook Touch last night, and I was really surprised after reading so much about it.  The font/text for books was lighter than I expected -- I tried several books, some of them public domain so that I could see the default-text look using several font faces at almost every size.

  I asked the salesman if there was any way to get the font to be less gray looking, as it was less crisp and dark than is the current Kindle.  No, he said.  With the salesman encouraging me to try a few books, I opened several of them.  At first I thought it was because I had chosen books which were originally done with color fonts and therefore the text seemed gray instead of black.  But the screen contrast with text was the same for the normal public domain books.  He said that is the way it looks and it looked fine, but I preferred the Nook 1 text I have seen.  It looked good, but it just wasn't what I'm used to, with crispness but that screen contrast is what I've liked about the Kindle.

  So, in my view, there is probably an effect from the touch-screen technology.  It probably doesn't bother others the way it does me, and if one isn't used to the Kindle 3 version of the Pearl display, people will be very happy with this one.  It has a clean look, and the unit is nicely small, if a bit squarish, and will more easily fit into a big pocket.

  The image of the Nook Touch here is from CNet. I reduced the size of the photo because the reduction process sharpens it from the actual shot at CNet, which you can see by clicking on the image.

  The touch screen is VERY responsive. I liked its response more than I like the touch screen of my NookColor eReader/Tablet, which is oversensitive and will activate a link if my finger is just hovering over it and is therefore not ideal for writing email.  But I love the NC display, which has fantastic resolution and gorgeous, natural, while vivid, colors.  I don't use it for novels, as serial-character reading (vs quick-browsing in random style when web browsing) on an LCD screen, even when dimmed to 5% of max, is not that relaxing to my eyes. However, with material that involves the relief of associated color images and with the degree of screen contrast on the NookColor, it's excellent.

I enjoyed being able to sit at B&N and read, in-store, portions of photography books I was thinking of buying.

(Especially for the photography-inclined)
  Looking at several, and seeing more than I can with Samples usually, I found the Revell book especially well produced as a digital book, because I could compare it with the considerably larger paper-bound book in the store, page by page.  The NookColor does not zoom pictures in a book (though it does with magazines and with web-pages, beautifully) nor does it show them in Landscape, except with children's books for some reason.

  The publishers of the digital copy choose to make two versions of the photographs -- one that showed the size of it the way it would appear in the book (but then the text would be too small to read) and one that involved closeups of each segment of the photo so you could read the advice that goes with each section of the photograph and you can page left and right to see it all.  They also made the fonts a comfortable size.

  The translated-to-gray colors of course won't look very good on an e-Ink Kindle.  Although I've read text of a few photography books on the Kindle, I don't recommend it for viewing the photos. However, the free Kindle for PC and Kindle for Mac apps will show them in color on your laptop or desktop.  At any rate, a sample is always available.

  I wound up buying it after 15 minutes of browsing it in-store, but a few minutes with other books convinced me not to buy them.  At any rate, a really nice feature of Barnes and Noble - a free hour with a Nook book in-store and you can resume next time you visit.

So there I was, with the paper-bound books, the NookColor-viewing of same books, and with my Kindle showing Amazon Kindlebook reviews of each book :-).  True story: a guy who was browsing wanted to know what each device was and thought the NookColor looked great.  Then he picked up the Kindle and he said (really), "It looks like this...," pointing to his books.  He said he'd choose that one because the 'print' looked like a book (obviously he wasn't seeing my color paperbacks that were open) and I told him I liked both ereaders, for different reasons.

  But to get back to my original reason for writing, I was really surprised that the Nook Touch was just not contrasty enough for my eyes.  The touch can't be beat. It was nigh perfect. However, the black refresh that comes only every 5 or 6 pages is then a tiny shock and seems to last longer because you don't have a chance to get used to it with the other pages just shifting text-content by fading in.   The black seemed to last longer as a result but I think that was just an illusion because the other pages didn't have the flash.  Outside of that, they did a very nice job on the non-flashing page turns, which are smooth although not noticeably faster than on the Kindle.

  The mildly surprising, when intermittent, black flash was noted by CNet's Carnoy also, but he feels the touch screen is enough, alone, to put the Nook Touch ahead of the Kindle in his view, as other features aren't that important to him (and others will feel the same way as he does).  I saw no noticeable ghosting as some have reported.  I liked the way the page contents faded into the next.

  I recommend that those trying to decide between the two units go to Best Buy and see both units together and make a decision that way, especially if you don't need the features that are missing in the Nook Touch but which had been included in the older e-Ink Nook-1.

PIXEL QI is developing a new screen for the Notion Ink Adam was able to get a demo by Pixel QI folks at a Computext.  The current Notion Ink Adam Tablet's Pixel QI screen has been a disappointment for those waiting for what is essentially a good piece of hardware.  You'll see an example of that in the comments. Goodereader writes:
' John Ryan the COO of Pixel Qi told us that the new screens were in development and they were relying on Notion Ink to adopt the new technology into future manufacturing.

  The screens themselves looked tremendous compared to the previous iterations and even with trade-show lighting there was no glare at all.  The display models they showed us at Computex was a new film layer they had on-top of the screen.

We have to hope that the Notion Ink is going to adopt this new technology into future Adams because their current crop of Pixel Qi screens has been received with a lukewarm response. '
I can't say that the images shown on the webpage are all good indications of what they describe, but it's an interesting story, especially if you've followed the long development of and the anticipation involved with the release of the Adam.

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  1. "I saw no noticeable ghosting as some have reported."

    I suspect ghosting only shows up after exiting pages that have "aged" on-screen for a while.

  2. An interesting observation regarding the crispness of the text with the new Nook. I will be judging for myself on Tuesday when it comes in the mail. Plus, since Daily Steals had a good deal on the PanDigital 6" e-ink last week that I could pass up, I should be getting that one soon as well.

    And as I have done in recent months with an Ectaco jetbook lite, Archos 70, IPOD Touch, Nook 3G, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 7", I will be probably unload at least one of them on Ebay. :)

  3. Andrys,

    I find reading a tablet in night mode, with white text on a black background to be much better on the eyes. Do you find that to be the case as well?

  4. I'm curious as to what the big deal is with touch screen. To me, that's the least important thing about an e-reader. Necessary for a tablet? Yes. But not an e-reader. I mean, I can get basically anywhere I need to on my Kindle with just a few satisfying clicks. And for the rare occasion when home, menu, the 5-way, and forward and reverse aren't enough, the slight inconvenience has up til now never been enough for me to say "Oh gosh, if this thing were only touchscreen it'd be perfect!" If that's the only thing this new Nook seems to have going for it, then I think I'll stick with my Kindle, and be happy.

  5. Regarding the 'non-dark' fonts (which Len Edgerly noted on the Nook he got as well), I do not think the touch technology is involved, since as I understand it, it is IR sensors are around the circumference of the screen, (accounting for the deeper inset of the screen relative to Kindle) and don't physically interpose in any way. Rather it is probably because the fonts have not been sufficiently 'tuned' to the eink display. Witness how many times a Kindle update has mentioned 'darker fonts'. The eink has only 16 greyscale levels, and if you just take a font designed for a LCD screen (with typically 256 greyscale levels) and use it on a 16-level greyscale screen, there's going to be some difference. So each glyph in each font needs to be adjusted so that (for example) a vertical stroke that is 2 pixels wide is rendered in exactly two vertical rows of pixels and not 3, where antialiasing kicks in and gives a single vertical column in black with some light grey on either side, hence a stroke that appears 'lighter' or less distinct.

    From most accounts, Nook is a solid release, but I would say it is an update or two away from achieving its full potential (which Kindle owners can relate to). Whether B&N will take the trouble to adjust the fonts (or indeed even is licensed to be able to do so) is another question. Perhaps we'll also see improved PDF handling, landscape, and the return of the webkit web browser of Nook 1gen.

  6. Tom, I haven't gone to TKC yet but will be there in a bit to see Len's thoughts too. I guess this was from Friday? Or in Twitter? I've been away for the most part, for the last two days.

    I seriously think it's part of the technology, as this happened with the Sony's latest touchscreen using the same process also. People used to darker fonts said the same thing about the Sony's, from a company which in the past knew how to get a darker font out of the older screen.

    I'm pretty amazed that no one else had mentioned it on the Nook Touch in the many columns though.

  7. Yes, the latest TKC (I think it was posted a little late).

    The first gen Sony touch readers had a physical layer on top of the eink display that reduced readability but the latest gen uses IR (not truly 'touch' activated but proximity of opaque objects to the screen breaks infrared beams that cross in front) and does not have this issue - it is the same 'naked' Pearl screen that K3 uses, and Kobo/Nook also now. So I think the 'lighter' fonts is the same thing we have seen on Kindle in the past that has taken a couple of tweakings to get to where it is today, which did not involve any physical defects.

  8. I think you'd only notice light fonts if you compared it with something better (like Kindle ), and then only perhaps with higher than average sensitivity. And Pearl screen by itself is better than pre-Pearl, so comparing with Nook 1G is no contest. Interesting that they added Caecilia to Nook, which Kindle has always had. As if to invite direct comparison.

    Might have to mosey to a B&N with my Kindle to do said comparison...

  9. Tom,
    That's exactly what I said -- that people who had not used the Kindle 3 Pearl would probably not notice it. See "So, in my view..."

    I don't agree that the Nook Touch Pearl screen is better in darkness and contrast than the Nook-1 though, which I thought was certainly better in screen contrast than the Kindle 2. I think you should go see the Nook Touch though, yes.

    But the Nook Touch lightness did bother me quite a bit. I wasn't in the slightest tempted to get it while I was, the Nook-1 and did buy immediately the Nook Color on my first visit.

    The salesman (Leon) wouldn't let me take a picture of the Nook Touch or the display at all, although he helped me, as did Amber, with the NookColor in-store. Amber re-booted the WiFi system so that I could get a better connection, as mine kept going out. Very helpful, as it worked fine after that. No cookies anymore though!

  10. It's true, I need to be more careful about comparing screens I have never actually seen IRL. But K2's screen as I understand it was 'the same as' Nook1's (produced on the same production lines by the same manufacturer), as K3's is to Nook2's, and there is definitely an improvement from K2 to K3, therefore 'logically' I assume things would be better from N1 to N2, 'all else being equal'. Of course, B&N could have screwed up and made it worse.

    In any case any comparisons need to be done side-by-side, with the same lighting conditions, and ideally displaying the same font and even the same text. Anything else is likely to be unreliable, given the malleability and variability of human visual perception. Nook2 has 6 different typefaces (4 of them that N1 didn't have), and so one can only compare the 2 fonts they have in common directly. The 'new 4' have to be judged on their own merits (with possible exception of 'Caecilia' where there might be some fonts in common with Kindle that would allow for a decent comparison between N2 and K3.

    Anyway I'm definitely curious enough to stop by a B&N (something I haven't done in years).

  11. Tom,
    Actually, the K2 screen was different. The K1 screen was so slow they had to do indirect manipulations of content on the screen, the cursor did not go into the screen to interact with words because the screen was too slow.
    That's another reason it cannot get software improvements that are made for the K2 and K3.

    The K1 had a silver column and a little mercury-like square that went up and down it, and you had to choose from 4 or 5 words on a line or row, if you wanted to look it up (dictionary) or anything else.

    The Kindle 2 screen was also able to do somewhat sharper fonts and I had a few articles on how lacking the screen contrast was, at least on a few batches.

    They made it so that the fonts were somewhat thinner but then there was less of a given font showing and so it was that much harder to 'see' then. I still prefer reading on my K1 to my K2 for that reason, although I had one of the good-contrast Kindle 2's, relatively speaking.
    I much preferred though direct access to words on the screen and the overall functioning of the K2. Also, its web browser was much better.
    The Kindle 2 features were the best otherwise of the readers I'd tried at stores.

    I liked the Nook's screen much better than I liked the K2's and said so, but I hated the software functioning of the Nook and its horrible menu system and also the remote-control way of handling the e-Ink screen from the LCD-color controlling screen at the bottom.

    Obviously, an entirely different team programmed the NookColor, as its functioning is pretty logical.

    Re Kindle 2 batches with bad screen contrast:

    I think it took 1.5 years for Amazon to fix that (July 2010) for some Kindle 2's that suffered from really bad contrast.

    I am sensitive to font darkness. Mine had always looked pretty good but I could always see that it was a little thinner (that was intentional but I thought it was a bad choice) and more like a light brown than black while the Kindle 1's looked a bit darker.

    I picked up the K2 accidentally one day and thought my K3 fonts had suddenly faded :-)


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