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What’s the difference between frontlit and backlit screen

Nook Simple Touch GlowLight

Nook Simple Touch GlowLight

You’ll hear about “frontlit” screen very often in the next weeks. It’s because two ereaders are coming, equipped with this kind of the display: Nook (you can already pre-order it) and the rumored Kindle.

Frontlit stands for front-light, backlit is back-light.

There are many definitions around, but most of them are very difficult to understand, so I’ll try to simplify the comparison – especially in view of what the frontlit means in the new breed of devices.

Frontlit screen is an e-paper display with a row of lights around it, which make it possible to read in the dark.

The image on the e-paper is being produced without light. Simply, black and white micro-granules are being formed into letters and images. It’s great in the bright sun – as the image, opposite to backlit screens, is very well visible. But there is no way to read anything in the dark, unless you turn on an external source of light.

And there come the frontlit. As the micro-lights are placed around the screen, they produce the glow over the surface, so the image –  which is already there – is visible in the darkness.

Backlit screen is used in tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs. The source of light is being placed behind the display, and is used to produce the visible image. In backlit screens there is no image without light.

You can read on a backlit screen in the dark, but it’s very hard to see anything in the bright sun – opposite to the e-paper.

As you see, the names are referring not to where the lights are positioned, but rather to what part of the screen they illuminate.

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I’m not sure about color or motion in e-paper screens, I don’t need them. But having the opportunity to read in bed while my wife asks to turn off the bed lamp – it’s priceless.

Check also the infographic, which is a bit ironic comparison between e-paper and tablet screen. To get more simple tips like this, please subscribe by RSS or email. And below one of the cartoons I recently made – about the frontlit screen effect.

Playing with the Nook

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