E-ink vs LCD outdoors

e-ink vs LCD

E-ink technology is claimed to be how the future generations are going to read. With the current market of tablets out there also supporting e-books and e-readers, people can justify spending extra money on a multifunctioning tablet instead of getting a proper e-ink display designed for reading. Yet if you are looking for a tablet to read books on, I would highly recommend an e-ink display device. One of the benefits of e-ink displays is the great readability outdoors.

The e-ink display has many things in its favour. E-ink is not as harsh on the eyes as an LCD or plasma screen is. E-ink also consumes less power, while looking like real paper and being usable outdoors. Although e-ink cannot be read in the dark like other backlit displays can, I don’t see this as a problem. It is quite straining on my eyes for the only source of light to be coming from a screen, and if I do use a screen in a dark room for too long, I get migraines. Also, e-ink does not have the response rate of an LCD or plasma screen, but since e-ink is widely used for reading e-books, I don’t think this is that much of a disadvantage.

To demonstrate how surprisingly good an e-ink display is outside, I took my iPad and Amazon Kindle and soaked in some Vitamin D. As you can see by the pictures below, the iPad with its LCD display can’t compete with the Kindle. When I pointed the screens at the sun, the Kindle was still readable, while the iPad was not.

directcomparison - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

An overhead shot of both devices in full sun shows again, that the Kindle was able to be read easily. The iPad, as before, would rather reflect a lovely image of myself holding the camera then display something readable. It is worth noting that the iPad was on full brightness.

overhead comparison - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here


As you can see, e-ink displays are superior at readability in sunlight. So if you plan on purchasing  an e-reader device in the future, it is best to keep in mind this difference between an e-ink display and an LCD screen, and where you are likely going to use your new toy. Although, if you do want an LCD or plasma screen, or already have a device with a plasma or LCD screen, Andreas has posted a blog about using a matte screen protector on plasma and LCD displays which cuts the glare somewhat when you go outside, thought e-ink is still better. After all, there is not much point in having a gadget if you can’t use it.


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Stuart Cope

Stuart Cope is a former contributing editor at Nothing But Tablets, which was merged into Pocketables in 2012.

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9 thoughts on “E-ink vs LCD outdoors

  • I think another worthwhile thing to note is that, depending on where you live, ebooks can be bought cheaper than the corresponding one in stores. That’s another plus, I think.

    I really like the concept and I’m fairly certain that I’ll be buying one in the future.

  • I have a Kindle that I use during car trips and my wife has an iPad. The Kindle is so much easier to read with all the changing angles of the sunlight due to driving.

  • I live the possibility to read the kindle in direct sunlight. A couple of weeks ago we were at the beach and the kindle was a joy to read.

  • Avatar of Allen Schmidt

    Nice article. There are definitely huge advantages with e-ink compared to normal tablet screens. I have to say that the Nook Color is better than other tablets in sunlight. They use some ani-glare coating deal that does help. I thought it was rubbish marketing, but it was much better than an iPad. Also, the screen size makes a big difference. I can’t read books on the iPad or the Xoom because of the bigger size. The size of the Nook puts out less light than the bigger tablets, and seems to come across much more gentle on the eyes.

    But with that said, the Nook is readable outdoors, while the e-ink is a hands down winner.

  • I’d love to have both, but I’d rather only carrier one device. While a dedicated e-ink device is much better for reading I’m going to have to stick with one thing to carry around for multiple functions.

    • Perhaps you’d just take the reader along when you want to read. You wouldn’t have to carry that with you all the time (presuming you’d take a tablet everywhere, although, in my case, the one thing that I’d never leave home without would be my phone). I think of readers as really specific objects, not something that one would need to carry around at all times.

  • Avatar of samIam78

    I’d like to have both as well. I think reading is very different from the things I’d use a tablet for and a smaller lighter form factor with very long battery life works for an e-reader. A larger brighter screen and shorter battery life for the tablet. BTW I think you meant Vitamin D.

    • Avatar of Stuart Cope

      You are correct, I have no idea what caused me to think it was Vitamin B! But thanks for picking up on it! Fixed :)

  • I see game as a strain to the eye of an LCD screen why not e ink, i will love to see color e ink screen.


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