Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comparing eReaders: Plastic Logic Que vs. iPad

ereader_que ereader_ipad
(The photos above represent approximately how large the Plastic Logic Que and iPad are relative to one another.  Notice how much thicker the bezel is on the Que than on the iPad, leading to lesser differences in screen sizes.  For reference, the Que has the same footprint as a piece of standard notebook paper.)

With all the focus on the iPad, Plastic Logic Que, and other eReaders, below is a comparison of screen sizes and physical dimensions of the various devices.  I used the pixel count and diagonal dimensions from the tech specs of each unit to come up with horizontal and vertical dimensions for the screen sizes.  Here’s how they compare.

First, the screen sizes:


And then, the physical dimensions of the devices.  (For reference, the Plastic Logic has the same dimensions as an 8-1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper.)


With all the talk by Plastic Logic about the size of their device, I’m surprised by how similar in size their screen is to the iPad’s.  And the iPad has a smaller footprint (although it’s slightly thicker and heavier).

For reading PDF documents, it seems like the iPad and Plastic Logic Que would be the best, followed by the Kindle DX.  Factors in selecting between them would include:

  • Do you prefer the easy to read eInk technology (Plastic Logic/Kindle) or the ability to quickly flip through pages (iPad)?
  • How important is multi-day battery life?  You could expect to get several days of reading per charge on the Plastic Logic Que or Amazon Kindle vs. one day (10 hours) on the iPad.
  • Do you want color and (possibly) the ability to interact and mark-up your document?  If so, the iPad will likely be your best bet.
  • How important is resolution?  Plastic Logic Que’s has 944 x 1264 pixels (150 dpi) vs. iPad’s 768 x 1024 (132 dpi).
  • Do you want a lot of storage?  iPad has the rest beat by a mile with capacities ranging from 16 to 64 GB.  Plastic Logic's Que is available in 4 or 8 GB flavors.
  • What about price?  Apple has Plastic Logic beat here too.  The iPad starts at $499 for the base model while the Que starts at $649.

Like I’ve said before, I think the iPad has essentially killed the Que.  Other than niche markets for people who do a high volume of linear reading through long PDF documents (such as academics), I see little reason to favor the Que over the iPad.  Even for people who do read high volumes of documents, if price is an issue, the iPad wins on this dimension as well.  I suspect Plastic Logic will lower the price of the Que shortly after launch.  But I also expect developers to come up with some pretty slick PDF applications for the iPad – including the ability to highlight and mark-up documents.

I love the eInk display on my Kindle and would be thrilled to be able to read PDFs on a larger, similar type of screen.  However, paying a higher price for a device that does much less than its competition just doesn’t seem like a good selling point for most consumers – particularly with the iPad beating the Que out of the gate by at least a month.  Plastic Logic’s Que seems to be priced too high and released about 6 months too late.

P.S. – Here is another look at the screen sizes of the Plastic Logic Que, iPad, and iPhone relative to a piece of notebook paper.  Compare the footprint of Plastic Logic’s screen to the size of the paper.  The difference (the purple region) is the area of the bezel of the Que.  Seems like an awful lot of wasted space when viewed from this perspective.



Wes Winham said...

Looking at the Que's website, it does say they have note-taking baked in:


The powerful reviewing tools in QUE help you be more efficient. You can easily add a note, highlight text and even zoom to make the small numbers on a spreadsheet easier to read.

I'm not sure if that means what I think it means, but they're at least trying to say it allows document mark-up. Another factor that some might consider useful would be multi-tasking. I doubt most people need to flip back and forth between documents, but I know I would find it useful.

QUE was made for multi-tasking. With fingertip control, QUE lets you quickly go back and forth between your documents.

I definitely agree with you in regards to price though. They're not going to get much tracking selling at several hundred dollars north of the iPad.

I also can't figure out why in the world the Que doesn't have a built-tin micro-sd card slot or USB slot. They could very easily make any storage arguments moot, or even swing it in to their flavor.

cyborgssc said...

In your P.S. comparison of a piece of paper to the size of the screens, remember that most documents printed on 8.5"x11" paper have 1" margins on all sides. The true comparison is to the printed area of paper, which at 6.5"x9" is nearly a wash compared to the Que's size. This presumes of course that the Que will not "render" the borders in a PDF as blank space on the screen, but rather intelligently zooms the document out to fill.

wozzy said...

"I also can't figure out why in the world the Que doesn't have a built-tin micro-sd card slot or USB slot."

They do have aUSB slot, it's on the bottom of the unit.

Marc Weisel said...

Great post. You've read my mind because I've narrowed my next "reader" down to these two devices. I agree the iPad looks like the stronger choice at this point. If the prices were flipped and the Que was released last year, this comparison would be more competitive. Plastic Logic really needs to lower the price to $500 or less (for the non 3G model) to convince people like you and me who are "on the fence". I love the e-ink technology, but a LCD screen is "good enough" when we factor in the price differential.