Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

Hello!

My name is Alexey Starodymov, I have been using electronic readers since 2009. I like these devices, and I like reading books too. Therefore, I devoted a certain part of my life to gadgets of this type – I actively work with them, test, study, write reviews and do some other related activities, which have a very diverse nature. How many people have I advised specific readers with arguments and taking into account their requests – I don’t even know. Probably, we are talking about several hundred. But I didn’t count, so I’ll say this: at least a hundred for sure. In short, I can call myself an expert in this type of device without false modesty. And it is unlikely that in the post-Soviet space there are many people who have devoted as much time and effort to readers as I do.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

The other day I looked at a review of the PocketBook 633 Color model from Eldar Murtazin. I treat Eldar with respect, nevertheless I grew up, including on his articles – like many of those who, in one way or another, connected their life and profession with gadgets. But in this particular case, I had a desire to discuss with the chief editor of Mobile-Review.com. Do not express “fairy”, do not express rejection of the material, namely to discuss. And to publicly voice your opinion about color readers, about the new E Ink Kaleido screen, and about the PocketBook 633 Color model as a carrier of the latter. Fortunately, this reader has been on my hands for over a month, like almost all monochrome PocketBook models. And I can compare them in detail.

I will note that this material of mine was published with a promotional note. This is indeed the case – this is the editorial policy of Mobile-Review, and I treat it with understanding and respect. Meanwhile, I can only talk about E Ink Kaleido using the example of PocketBook 633 Color, since it has long been in my hands, and I tested it heartily. I haven’t seen any other models with E Ink Kaleido (yet!), Although I’ve heard something interesting about them – see at the very end. In general, such things: there is a note, but the thoughts are quite sincere. And I am ready to express them even with a mark, even without a mark – as you like and on any site. And prove your judgments with proofs and pictures of a real device.

But – okay, more to the point. Here, in fact, is a video review of Eldar:

Here is a text version of this review:

And here is what I have to say after watching. The points.

1. Regarding the display quality of plain text

I agree with Eldar that the E Ink Kaleido screen looks different, not like the usual monochrome E Ink Carta displays. And, nevertheless, I cannot but clarify that the situation with the display is still not as critical as Eldar says in the video. In particular, I would highlight the wording “letters go in dots” and “100 ppi resolution” – Eldar Murtazin reports this when it is plain black text that is displayed on the reader’s screen, and not any color image (for color pictures and fonts, I still back below).

The trick is that the usual black text on the E Ink Kaleido screen, which is used in PocketBook 633 Color, is just displayed with a resolution of 300 ppi. That is, with the highest possible for the display. The photo below shows a color PocketBook 633 Color and a monochrome PocketBook 632 (I have both readers in my hands).

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

And here is the enlarged image of the text on the screens. Can you see the difference in the display of letters? Let me assume that no. And it really does not exist, because both there and there are 300 ppi.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

That is, there is no looseness of black fonts on the screen of a color pocketbook – the fonts look exactly the same as on the display of a regular monochrome reader. Just one to one. And they are perceived by the eyes the same way. Although, of course, the background of the color model is indeed somewhat darker: not white, but grayish, and even mesh. This moment, of course, someone may not like, but I would not call it fundamental in the perception of the screen. Moreover, it could not be otherwise, given the “sandwich” design of the E Ink Kaleido screen.

That is, in other words, an “extra” RGB layer is added to the usual monochrome E Ink Carta display to display a color image – and you get Kaleido. This is how it looks:

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

The main thing I want to say is: here you are buying a color reader; it turns out that color pictures are not displayed the way you would like. You will still be able to read ordinary text books on this model with exactly the same level of fonts clarity as on a monochrome reader. At the same time, PocketBook 633 Color is only a thousand rubles more expensive than its black and white counterpart from the PocketBook line, namely PocketBook 632 Plus. The color model is priced at 15, the monochrome model is priced at 999. So I would not say that you are taking an incredible risk. If you don’t like the way color pictures look, PocketBook 14 Color can be used as an ordinary black and white reader for reading text books.

Yes, it doesn’t have the same uniform background as the black and white models. But! A grayish background with a mesh (a feature of the E Ink Kaleido technology, which I wrote about above) is really perceptible, noticeable, striking only when you compare a color and monochrome reader head to head. That is, when both of them are in your hands, you put them side by side and set yourself the goal of comparing them – as it was in the case of Eldar, as it was in my case. If you do not try to compare and find the difference, then most likely there will be no doubts. For example, like this guy from Instagram:

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

2. Regarding the modest color palette of 4 colors

Eldar rightly notes in his video that the colors on the screen of E Ink Kaleido are faded, the palette is modest – just over four thousand shades. And therefore, the image does not look so bright.

To this I can object as follows. Yes, the picture is rather faded, pastel. But this is entirely a matter of expectations. If someone dreamed of seeing a picture a la iPad Pro in a reader with an E Ink screen, then, of course, it will break off hard. But if a person needs a color image not to get a buzz from a riot of colors, but to solve practical problems, then such pastel colors may be enough. Well, for example, let’s open some document with a diagram. I just need to understand the difference in the fill of the segments. I don’t need the colors to be incredibly bright – I just need to see and feel the difference with my eyes. And PocketBook 633 Color provides it.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

Another example: comics. They are often printed on inexpensive grayish paper, and the colors in them are very muted, dim. So, when viewing comics on the PocketBook 633 Color screen, I personally feel that this is how they should look. It is dull, muffled, without a riot of colors.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

I can also say about children’s books. Monochrome readers for my daughter, who is 4 years old, have always been absolutely parallel. Well, they were not interesting to her – and that’s it. However, PocketBook 633 Color aroused her interest. Now she looks at it all about the insects she adores … And she is not confused by any ppi and other screen resolutions. Because she, like many, many, many adults who are not very deeply immersed in technology, thinks in completely different categories. Namely – like / dislike. And she liked the picture on the E Ink Kaleido screen – much more than monochrome. This, of course, is not a representative sample, but, in my opinion, it is still a very indicative fact.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

In general, I will repeat once again: those who were waiting for the E Ink color screen, which would show a picture of the level of smartphones and tablets, can relax. They did not wait for such an E Ink screen and, most likely, will never wait simply due to the different nature of this paper-like technology. At the same time, support for even such a “modest” color palette gives a lot of new possibilities. Moreover, what is very important, with the preservation of all the classic advantages of E Ink: excellent behavior in the sun, harmlessness to vision, economy. Although, however, not as economical as that of conventional readers – Kaleido requires a brighter backlight, which means that the device works for a conditional month instead of one and a half.

On the other hand, if you read in the sun, then it is quite possible to do without backlighting at all. See the photo below – this is how the PocketBook 633 Color screen looks on a sunny day outside. And in this case, the device consumes exactly the same amount of energy as a monochrome reader with deactivated backlighting. No more and no less.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink KaleidoDiscussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

3. About loose colored elements that are difficult to perceive with the eyes

Yes, all colored elements are displayed on the screen at 100 ppi – as opposed to regular black text, which is displayed at 300 ppi. And therefore, in some cases it is really difficult to make out small colored inscriptions, since the fonts turn out to be loose. I agree with this and express the hope that sooner or later a larger 8-inch reader with an E Ink Kaleido screen will see the light of day. I think that due to the large screen size, the picture will simply turn out to be noticeably larger, which means that this drawback will go away by itself.

But even now, in the case of a 6-inch PocketBook 633 Color with an E Ink Kaleido screen, I don’t see any fatal problems right now with the perception of small loose colored text. Ok, I don’t want to peer, I understand. Well, we take and scale these moments with multitouch. This is done in one second – see the short video below. In the same comics, fonts are larger, sometimes smaller … If they are very small, we scale, and the friability disappears. If readable, not scalable. It’s simple.

And here’s another thing. Small text and pictures are loose if they are colored. If the text is black, then it is as clear as possible, since it is displayed at 300 ppi. Even if the page contains 100 ppi color fragments. For example, here’s a photo. Colored pictures and black text have completely different structures.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

Well, the question arises: is the fuzziness of color images and, most importantly, small color fonts so irresistibly terrible? In my opinion, it is not at all as scary as it seems. Although, of course, personally, I would be very happy if the entire image on the screen, whether color or monochrome, would be displayed at 300 ppi.

4. About the lack of adjustment of the color temperature of the backlight

Yes, the backlighting of PocketBook 633 Color is ordinary, white, which was pointed out by Eldar. White – even without color temperature control, which, when set to yellow and orange, has a relaxing effect on the body and eyes. That is, this is how the model does not know how (unlike all the same PocketBook 632):

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

Only knows how to do this:

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

Why? Probably for the reason that being able to make the backlight yellow or orange would impair the perception of colors. I remind you that they are muffled here! For example, instead of cucumber green, we see pastel green … And if you add some orange highlighting here, then … It’s even hard to say what will happen. That is why, I think, in PocketBook 633 Color and other readers with Kaleido, they implemented the usual white version of the backlight. Disadvantage? Definitely! Critical? Not for everyone and not always. This is one of the features of E Ink Kaleido that you should take if you are looking for a color reader. And I would not criticize the device for the lack of yellow and orange shades.

As a bonus

And I was not too lazy to see what they write about the PocketBook 633 Color on the Internet. For starters, the reviews are not uniform. There are disappointed ones (“I thought the screen here is like a smartphone, but it’s so pale”), but there are also quite positive ones. Here are a few of these reviews. Just to make it clear that there is a point of view diametrically opposed to the opinion of Eldar, who, as we remember, spoke strictly negatively about the display.

Review number 1

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

The woman writes that she reads children’s books on PocketBook 633 Color with her child. And so it turns out much more interesting than if the books were in black and white. And this is really so – as I wrote above, my daughter also gladly mastered the color pocketbook, while monochrome models did not arouse any interest in her.

Review number 2

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

This review is especially indicative – for the reason that the respected amelnikov73 has exactly the same two readers (color PocketBook 633 Color and monochrome PocketBook 632 Aqua) that Eldar had when shooting his video. However, the user, unlike Eldar, is quite happy with the E Ink Kaleido screen. Moreover, he has had a colored pocketbook for two weeks already – and this is important, since during such a period the euphoria from buying a new gadget usually passes, and shortcomings begin to catch the eye. But no, the user writes that everything is OK. He likes the PocketBook 633 Color screen.

Review number 3

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

Let’s recall the guy for whom PocketBook 633 Color became the first reader. He is delighted. Again, I will repeat my thesis voiced earlier: the features of the E Ink Kaleido screen, which can be assessed both neutrally and negatively, are visible only when there is something to compare with. If you don’t set yourself the goal of doing this, then everything will be fine.

Review number 4

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

And this review demonstrates that the perception of the E Ink Kaleido screen is a matter of habit: at first, the user was strained by the effect of the color filter, but now it does not bother much. (I will leave the question of non-opening files without comment, since the case may not even be in the reader, but in broken PDF files.)

All these reviews are real, they can be found under the latest posts on the PocketBook Instagram. They were written by real people, which can be seen by logging into their accounts.

***

What is the end result? In my opinion, yes, the device is not for everyone. In the sense that I would recommend PocketBook 633 Color to those who know exactly how and why they will use a color reader. Those who do not expect to get an incredibly bright and juicy screen of the level of the conventional iPad Pro. But I don’t consider PocketBook 633 Color and other color readers to be a meaningless device, unlike Eldar. I see a number of options for their application in practice – for reading comics, for reading children’s literature, for individual electronic textbooks, for documents with color graphs and diagrams … Well, do not forget that ordinary text books look the same on it as on an ordinary monochrome reader. So if you buy PocketBook 633 Color instead of the usual classic monochrome reader, you actually don’t lose anything. You still get it. Yes, this very acquisition (the ability to work with color) may not suit everyone – a fact. But here we, again, come back to the issue of expectations. The important thing is what you wanted to get, whether you understood what color E Ink is. Do you want a screen like a smartphone-tablet? Clearly, pass by. Want a screen with newspaper-grade colors? Okay, come in, make yourself comfortable.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

And here’s another, consider this a postscript. End device manufacturers, readers, have two ways to use E Ink Kaleido screens. The first one is to buy them and install them in your readers as they are. Second: to be puzzled by setting up the screen, modifying it for a specific device to achieve the maximum image quality. So: European reviewers took PocketBook 633 Color for a test and got hold of somewhere a Chinese reader for the PRC market, equipped with a seemingly exactly the same E Ink Kaleido screen. And it turned out that the developers of the Chinese reader took the first path, the simplest and most convenient – they took the screen as it is. But the PocketBook went to the second, more complex and expensive. For six months (!), PocketBook, together with E Ink engineers, has been refining the software reader so that the image on the screen looks as juicy, saturated, contrasting and generally pleasant to the eye – as much as possible in the case of E Ink Kaleido with its palette of 4 shades. This can be seen just in the snapshot from the review of European observers (see below). Pay attention to the windows of the castles … their spiers … to the clock … to the glare on the water … and in general to the saturation and quality of the image.

Discussion with Eldar Murtazin: alternative opinion about the first color reader with E Ink Kaleido

With all this, things are better with the PocketBook 633 Color model. I will say more: according to my own data (smiley), other color readers of other brands, which will probably appear on sale in the coming year, will receive just ordinary color screens that have not been modified from the point of view of software. That is, the same as those of the “Chinese”. Just keep this in mind if you are considering buying a color reader.

Alexey Starodymov (alexeystarrr@gmail.com),
IT journalist with 15 years of experience, e-reader expert

Published – 11 September 2020

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