Who prefers non-frontlit E-Readers over Frontlit ones and why?
#1  gamba66 07-13-2019, 11:22 AM

I have seen various posts of people searching for an E-Reader without a Frontlight but I am always wondering why?

I have thought about this and there are some reasons that make sense while others are pure speculation (since I don't have any experience with frontlit readers myself).

Pro Frontlit:
  1. Reading in the Dark
  2. Better ability to read Low-Quality Content through dimming options etc.
  3. Whiter Background then on non-frontlit: higher contrast

Cons Frontlit
  1. Worse Battery Life (obvious one)
  2. Worse contrast when completely turned off (speculation!)? due to additional layer (also sometimes claimed with capacitive touch layer)
  3. QC Problems such as white spots or uneven lightning

I would love to hear some first-hand experiences and why one would prefer a non-frontlit Reader in 2019 or if they are indeed old and outdated Technology surpassed by Frontlit ones.

I for one still use my Hanvon E920 which has a 9.7" screen with a resolution of 1600x1200 (200ppi). I am satisfied but I really long for an onyx boox note pro due to the frontlight but I am still deciding since it is super expensive.

I am specifically thinking about larger E-Readers here such as the Sony DPT-S1, DPT-RP1 and Remarkable which all do not have a frontlight but I would love to hear opinions regardless of size.

#2  davidfor 07-13-2019, 11:32 AM
I use the frontlight nearly all the time. I adjust it frequently to work best with the ambient light. Basically what works best for me at the time.

I'm sure using the light does reduce the the battery life, but, I'm still getting enough hours of reading with it on between charges, that it doesn't worry me.

#3  theducks 07-13-2019, 03:25 PM
Love my Kobo Aura2's light.
My vision (low light) has taken a hit. I have no prob with the screen at night without needing supplemental lighting

#4  LucyOne 07-13-2019, 05:13 PM
My first e-reader didn't have a frontlight, and I replaced it after half a year because I missed having a light when I was on the bus and it was getting dark. So I bought the same model with a frontlight soon after it came out.

I mostly need the light when I read in bed at night or even at day time in my living room when there's not enough light coming in through the windows. It is very convenient and the contrast is really much better than without a light. I don't think the newer devices have a worse contrast without the light on than older non-frontlit devices. At least not very noticable.
Low-quality content would only apply to PDFs but the light helps with that, too.
I never had a problem with battery life although I read a lot. I very rarely have to charge my devices fully because I plug them into my PC for loading books quite often. Only the Kindle devices cannot be turned off fully and lose their charge very quickly.

The quality issues can be really bad, though. I've had tried out various models, about 20, over the years and only kept the ones that were evenly lit. I've seen many Kindles, all with different lighting and hues, clouding and brighter spots. The new comfort light feature with orange/yellow LEDs has caused new problems with even more uneven light. I also fixed the light bleeds on my Kobo Clara HD, but only because that was possible and the light was otherwise even.

I think it is technically difficult to have an even light on large screens. That might be why there are no models with a frontlight larger than 8" (or are there?).
I wouldn't buy a reader without a frontlight anymore, just because I want to be able to read anytime anywhere. Also, I've really got used to the comfort light which I use during the day, too. It looks much more natural than blue LEDs.

#5  rcentros 07-13-2019, 05:50 PM
I didn't like eReaders with a built-in front light because I had trouble with the fonts not "standing out" enough (not enough contrast). They somehow looked like they were "floating" and I kept losing focus. I finally figured out the solution, get darker fonts. I use Deja Vu E-Ink Serif on my front-lit Kindle Paperwhite and Tolinos. But if I had to use the built-in fonts with the Paperwhite I don't think I would like it much. You can "bold" the built-in fonts, but they lose their shape (kind of like reading something produced on a typewriter where the keys haven't been cleaned out in a while — for those old enough to remember typewriters). Now that I've got a good, clear, dark font, I almost always use the Tolino Shine or Vision or the Kindle Paperwhite. It's probably an issue with my eyes, but the built-in fonts with front-lit readers just don't work for me. Too light.

#6  SteveEisenberg 07-13-2019, 06:12 PM
Where I read, there is sufficient light. I mildly prefer the reader not be a light source and so did not answer.

I also prefer making up my own answer to a poll

#7  Philippe D. 07-13-2019, 06:35 PM
I use the front light on my Kobo often enough that I prefer to have it - being able to read in the dark is indeed a plus. It's important to me that it be easy to switch the light on and off.

#8  Tarana 07-13-2019, 08:21 PM
I have a really good reading light, so no need for special lighting features normally. That said, some of the doctor's offices I spend time in have dimmed lighting for those using devices so you almost HAVE to have a lighting feature to read now.

#9  Deskisamess 07-13-2019, 09:12 PM
Having enough light for reading has been a life long struggle for me. Front-lighting was a miracle for me. I use the light at all times, except when outside. The front lighting improves contrast for me, so even during the day, I keep the light all the way up. In a dark room, I turn the light down to about 12 to start with, then turn it down more as my eyes adjust.

I read without my glasses when in bed, and hold the Oasis about 6-7 inches from my eyes.

On days when my eyes are bothering me, increasing line spacing also helps with contrast for me.

#10  Ripplinger 07-13-2019, 10:18 PM
I remember using my Sony PRS-350, which I absolutely loved. But I'd always have to have the case with the built in light with me all the time plus a spare battery. I take my reader with everywhere and I can find myself reading in very dim light in some places, including outside at nighttime. That's the main reason I switched to the Kobo Glo and now the Kobo Glo HD, so I could have the front light and not worry about a bulky case and extra batteries.

I read anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours day, and I don't have to charge my reader more than every 2 weeks, usually more like 3 weeks. The light is always on around 70%, even if I'm reading outdoors in sunlight (it just gives more contrast to the text, plus I don't like to bother fooling around adjusting the light all the time). The reader is in sleep mode only, never off, but wifi is always off (I prefer to buy all my books to my PC and sideload to my reader).

I've never had a Kobo reader with uneven light. The Kobo Glo was good even lighting, but you could notice the darker cones a bit at the bottom where the LEDs are, but only if you really looked for them. The Glo HD is near perfect, even lighting and color and no cones visible from the LEDs anywhere.

For me, I'd never go back to a reader without a front light. The convenience of always having light spoils you, and I've never had a problem with it draining much more battery than without the light.

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