Right now the Paperwhite 2 is the only device using Carta screens; most other ebook readers use Pearl screens. Both are the same type of epaper screen tech produced by the same company, E Ink.
Since the 1st gen Paperwhite uses a Pearl screen with the same resolution as the new Paperwhite with the Carta screen, they make for good examples to compare the differences between the two types of screen tech.
So are the new Carta screens a noteworthy upgrade? Or is it mostly just marketing hype?
Personally, I’m inclined to believe the latter. The background color on the new Paperwhite is slightly lighter and the text is slightly darker. The new screens also have more of a subtle yellow tone than gray. But the difference is so marginal that it’s hard to justify calling one an “upgrade” over the other.
It’s been three years since E Ink went from Vizplex to Pearl. I posted a comparison review with some pictures and I didn’t think the difference was very significant back then either.
Electronic paper technology evolves at a very slow pace compared to other electronics. In just a couple of years we’ve gone from low resolution 800 x 600 (143 ppi) 7-inch LCD screens on tablets to super high-resolution 1920 x 1200 screens with 323 ppi.
E Ink has upped the resolution of their 6-inch screens from 800 x 600 to 1024 x 758 over the past couple of years, and the Kobo Aura HD has a unique 1440 x 1080 6.8-inch Pearl screen, but overall E Ink advances at a slower rate than other technologies, and color E Ink has still yet to become effective enough to really take off.
E Ink is always looking for ways to improve their screen tech, of course, but I’m just not seeing much of a noticeable difference between Carta and Pearl. E Ink claims a 50% increase in contrast on the spec sheet for Carta. Pearl has a 10:1 contrast ratio and Carta is rated at 15:1.
I’ll let you be the judge. Do you see a 50% increase in contrast between the two Kindles in the picture at the top of this post? There’s a little bit of improvement but it certainly doesn’t seem like that much.
It’s hard to tell with smaller text so here’s a couple of more pictures showing the largest font size (click for bigger). I’ll let you guess which Paperwhite is which (if you are having a hard time telling the difference, the url for each image shows if it is 1 or 2).
Here’s a look at those same exact pictures above at full resolution. I cropped the same two words from each screen and stuck them together to get a better look.
Up close the difference is more apparent. The black text on the Carta screen (top) does indeed appear darker, and the lines seem sharper. That’s something I can notice with a small font size as well, text being clearer on the Carta screen. But Amazon changed the capacitive screen and the light layer on the newer Paperwhite so it’s hard to say for certain if the increase in clarity is due to the improvements in those areas or if it is the Carta screen. I guess we’ll have to wait until other ebook reader manufactures start using Carta screens to know for sure.