The e-reader market has lost some of its initial appeal due to the rapid rise in popularity of tablets and other similar mobile devices. However, 'tablets' with E-Ink screens continue to offer the best reading experience in terms of reducing eye strain as well as providing long battery life. E-Ink screens have not scaled well in size, with the 6" screen size being the most popular and economical choice. Products with bigger screen sizes such as the Kindle DX (9.7") have not enjoyed market success.

E-Ink - A Brief Background

We will not go into the technical details of E-Ink here, but it suffices for readers to know that E-Ink avoids the use of backlighting. Instead, it relies on reflection from ambient light for visibility. In the latter aspect, it is very close to real printed paper. The major downside is that the refresh rate of E-Ink screens is very slow and only the monochrome technology is mature enough for mass consumption in the e-reader market.

E-Ink screens have been trying to evolve in two different ways. On one hand, we have attempts being made to get some sort of color display with E-Ink characteristics. On the other hand, E-Ink is trying to bring out flexible displays as well as produce larger sized screens. While screens of up to 32" in size are available for digital signage purposes, the maximum size currently supported for direct-to-consumer sales is 13.3".

The Need for a 13.3" E-Reader

Most of our workload nowadays involves sitting in front of a computer monitor and/or staring at tablet/smartphone screens. It is common for people to experience eye fatigue due to these activities. Having used multiple tablets and phablets for content consumption, I realized that none of them fit the bill when it came to reading technical documents or annotating them for future reference. In addition, all these technical documents are typeset in either A4-sized (8.27" x 11.69") or US Letter-sized (8.5" x 11") pages. This ruled out usage of any of the large number of e-readers based on the 6" E-Ink platform. A4 and US Letter correspond to diagonals of 14.3" and 13.9" respectively. 13.3" with an aspect ratio of 4:3 is ideal for displaying documents typeset in either A4 or US Letter-sized pages.

The Sony DPT-S1 - A 13.3" E-Ink Device

Sony's Digital Paper System (DPT-S1) was launched in April 2014. It takes things to a whole new level by making use of a 13.3" E-Ink Mobius screen. It was launched with a price tag of $1100, and was quite unpalatable for the ordinary consumer. It comes with a stylus / pen for taking notes as well as PDF annotation, and business users are its main target.

Initially, my impression was that lower priced variants with the same screen would soon appear in the market and target the average e-reader. Unfortunately, we are at the end of 2015, and the Sony DPT-S1 remains the only E-Ink Mobius-based product that consumers can purchase in the market. A little bit of silver lining lies in the fact that Sony has steadily been bringing the price down (from $1100 at launch to $800 right now).

The Sony DPT-S1 comes in a nondescript box. The package consists of a quick start guide, the e-reader in a leather sleeve, the pen / stylus, three replacement tips for it along with a tool to aid in pulling out the old tips, and a 7.5W (5V @ 1.5A) USB charger with a USB to micro-USB cable. The gallery below provides high-resolution pictures of the various components.

As can be seen from the gallery above, the main reader is like a sheet of white paper surrounded by a thick bezel. The bottom bezel is slightly thicker to accommodate the navigation and context menu buttons at the center with the power button at the right corner. The power button is on a slanted panel and is not flush with the rest of the frame - this prevents accidental pressing of the power button during use.

The important aspects of any e-reader are the dimensions and the weight. While the unit as a whole comes in at 9.125" x 12.125", the viewable area / screen is 8" x 10.625" (corresponding to a diagonal size of 13.3"). Note that this needs to be compared to an A4 sheet (8.27" x 11.69") and a US Letter sheet (8.5" x 11"). The viewable area is slightly smaller than both of them, but definitely much better than the 9.7" E-Ink screensfor documents typeset with those page dimensions.

The weight of the reader alone is 355g, while the stylus/pen adds an extra 9g. Placed in the supplied sleeve, the complete package weighs in at 496g. All said, the unit is quite ergonomic to use - both in hand, as well as on a table. The screen has a pixel resolution of 1600 x 1200 and can display 16 levels of grayscale. It is likely that most use-cases for the DPT-S1 involve text-heavy documents. The DPI and color limitations are not much of a concern.

In the rest of the review, we will take a look at the hardware platform in detail and follow it up with a look at the software aspects before providing some concluding remarks.

Hardware Platform
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  • AndrewJacksonZA - Friday, December 18, 2015 - link

    (Sony is not very liberal with review units unlike other manufacturers, btw)

    As someone who's a fan on Sony's quality and style, it totally baffles me why they don't give more people review units.
  • digiguy - Friday, December 18, 2015 - link

    Sorry Ganesh, I thought that a "featured review" was a review paid by the manufacturer. So of course, that means I misunderstood this. Please accept my apologies. Especially sorry that it happened with you. I had already said in the past on this website that you and (the now gone) Kristian Vatto were my favorite reviewers here on Anandtech (well Anand too, but he was already gone at that time). I highly appreciate that you paid this unit yourself in oder to review it. I have been researching this product since 2014 and have found very few reviews. So it was really a nice surprise to find one on AT.
  • phexac - Friday, December 18, 2015 - link

    Don't worry about people saying stuff like this. We greatly appreciate the initiative, the effort and the time you put into this review.

    There are always commenters on every board that claim the review must be paid for because they can't fathom someone with an opinion that differs from theirs.
  • digiguy - Friday, December 18, 2015 - link

    If you are referring to what I said I think you didn't read what I added... I was convinced that a featured review was a sort of a sponsored review (by the way what is a featured review?). And nowhere I said that this review wasn't welcome. On the contrary, if you had read what I posted today... So your assumption "claim the review must be paid for because they can't fathom someone with an opinion that differs from theirs" if referred to me, is completely wrong.
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, December 18, 2015 - link

    Just to be clear, "Featured Review" is the default subtitle in our system if we don't manually set a subtitle. And in that case, it just means it's the review we're deciding to feature today, hence the reason it's at the top of the site.

    We don't do sponsored reviews - we accept samples of things we want to review, but not any kind of payment for reviewing them. And if for any reason that changed, it's something I'd let you guys know about.
  • digiguy - Friday, December 18, 2015 - link

    Thanks a lot Ryan for clarifying that, and sorry for the misunderstanding... This is one of the things I really appreciate about this website, that the authors take the time to reply to readers and, what's more, do it quickly... I regularly follow and actively take part in several tech websites/blogs (in several languages) but yours is really one of the best if not the best in terms of both expertise and interaction with participants. And this has not changed after Anand left, nor after the takeover. Keep up the good work!
  • Tams80 - Sunday, December 20, 2015 - link

    So an iPad is best your use cases; great. Most of use aren't like you though, so maybe this Sony will be better. As you use your iPad mainly fro sheet music, I take it you don't often continuously stare at the display for any considerable length of time.

    (thats probably why Sony paid for this review)

    Ganesh as already put you down; but I suggest taking your tin-foil hat off.
  • digiguy - Sunday, December 20, 2015 - link

    Again another guy that doesn't read what's written after the first post, and writes absolute nonsense
  • digiguy - Sunday, December 20, 2015 - link

    And by the way, Ganesh only replied to a misunderstanding of what is a "featured review", without knowing I had misunderstood it. So nobody has put down anybody and the only meaningless thing here is what you wrote. Add to that, that you don't know more than anyone else what "most of use" are...
  • JoeMonco - Thursday, December 17, 2015 - link

    I used to read exclusively on an eink screen Nook. I then switched to an iPad haven't switched back because there was no difference. But as the others have said I adjusted the brightness of the screen appropriately to the room brightness.

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