13.3-inch E Ink eReaders Destined to Fail up Against iPad Pro

iPad Pro vs E Ink

Large ereaders with 13.3-inch E Ink screens have an uphill battle of epic proportions ahead of them to have any chance at all to carve out a niche in the current market, especailly when they’re up against the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that basically sells for the same price.

It’s no wonder that none of the large established companies want to take on the risk of even attempting to release a 13.3-inch reader. Sony tried it with their DPT-S1 in a weird roundabout way (selling it indirectly through 3rd party merchants), but now they’ve seemingly given up on the project as there have been no new developments in three years.

The Sony DPT-S1 still sells from B&H.com for $799. That may sound like a lot but it started out at $1100. Even at the lower price it would have to sell for half that to have any chance at all for success.

The new 13.3-inch Onyx Boox Max has the same problem to overcome, not to mention any other potential 13.3-inch E Ink readers that may or may not get released by the end of the year.

The prices are simply too high for these types of specialty devices to appeal to more than 1% of the population.

If you shop around you can find the 12.9-inch iPad Pro for under $700. Right now one of the merchants at Amazon has it for $695.

Not only that but the specs of the iPad Pro absolutely blow E Ink ereaders out of the water. It’s like comparing a ’72 Datsun with a new Ferrari.

You’d have to be crazy to buy a 13.3-inch E Ink ereader instead of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro for the same price.

Some people prefer E Ink for the extended battery life and easy-to-read screen in sunlight, but how can that possibly compete on any level with all the added features and the hardware quality of an iPad Pro?

It’s sad to say but 13.3-inch ereaders have virtually no chance to succeed up against the likes of Apple.

45 Responses to “13.3-inch E Ink eReaders Destined to Fail up Against iPad Pro”

  1. That is of course unless you are not willing to purchase anything from Apple. No iPads, no iPhones, no iPods, no iPod Touches, no iAnything.


    Sorry, I couldn’t resist and that is the way I feel.

  2. Unless I am completely mistaken, book readers are more interested in e-readers than in tablets for obvious reasons. Second, as David mentioned above, I do NOT intend to buy Apple. It is a sort of religion, and I refuse to see Jobs as a prophet.

  3. I love my e-ink ereaders but I use them just to read. I do wish they were slightly bigger, like maybe the size of some of the smaller tablets like the Samsung Nook S2 or an iPad mini. 13″+ seems too big. I don’t have any expectation that I can do more on them than read. The only thing that would be nice would be able to check email on occasion but other than that I have no desire to have an e-ink that runs like an iPad or any other color tablet for that matter.

  4. Nathan, you are right on. As a longtime Newton user, I’ve wanted an e-ink device for reading annotation and for non video projects (e.g., writing, sketching, and MIDI). Sony failed to implement Bluetooth and to open their OS and the M96 I returned two years ago had terrible software.

    • The 13″ iPad Pro feels a little too heavy. I’d be interested in the Sony or Onyx if it were equally productive to and significantly lighter and cheaper than the iPad.

  5. A large e-reader would still have weight, battery life, and no glare in direct sunlight.

    I can see some niche business users, where a large e-reader is a better choice than a large tablet.

    Also not sure why this article compares large e-readers to an iPad. The real comparison is a large e-reader to a large tabley. IMHO — there are several brands of large tablets, not just Apple.

  6. I think the Large “e-reader” is for a very specific market… Lawyers (documents), construction workers (plans), Maybe students (textbooks)…maybe.

    But, for the large number of ebook readers…its a waste of money. Because, most of us have phones to supplement our book reading.

  7. Reduce the price of the larger e-ink tablets & do one or both of the following …

    Have the E-ink tablets operate a plain PDF/epub reader but look to the local network as a plain mono laser printer that stores in PDF. Sell it as a paper saving device.

    Supply folding clamshell tablet covers that have the E-ink tablet operate as a book/laptop like second screen for existing Android/Ipad/Windows tablets such that the E-ink tablet can also operate as a Bluetooth keyboard/touch pad for the tablet.

  8. I am not Apple adverse. The product functions and there is actual support for the rare times it may not.

    I was waiting for some type of color e-ink 13″. I am a digital photographer/graphic designer. Reading art books always in B&W is not my preference. And a larger size screen is an asset for visuals.

    Perhaps there is a valid technical reason e-ink technology is only B&W. I suppose I will simply quit holding out and go for the iPad.

    To each their own…

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge so generously here on your site.

  9. I’m a professor and download academic articles as PDFs. I’d rather read and annotate the digital files – to save paper and also because I keep a database of PDFs and would like to have my annotations stored with them. I use Mac devices and recognize all the advantages of having an iPad, but what are the advantages of the new Boox 13.3″ eReader? I know it’s easier to read, especially outdoors. Anything else?


    • Longer battery life, expandable memory and an open Android OS are about the only advantages aside from the sunlight-friendly screen. The main problem, however, is that it’s an older version of Android that is hardly optimized for E Ink and can be quite buggy and unreliable since 99% of Android apps aren’t designed to work with E Ink screens/devices.

      For those wondering why I chose to compare 13.3-inch ereaders with the iPad Pro, it’s because I was shocked to find the iPad Pro now selling for less than the 13.3-inch ereaders. The overall size is very similar and the screen ratio is the same, unlike Windows tablets and other tablets that mostly have 16:10 ratio screens. Plus Apple is the #1 tablet brand. I don’t like Apple’s ecosystem either so I barely pay attention to them or their products anymore, but I do have enough common sense to recognize when their products are superior. I thought the 13″ iPad Pro was way more expensive than 13″ ereaders but that’s not the case at all. There’s such a huge disparity between the quality and functionality of the two it’s hard to believe anyone would choose to pay more for something like the Sony DPT-S1 that supports PDF format and nothing else over an iPad that can do practically anything. It makes no logical sense to me.

      • Nathan — There would also be a weight advantage for e-readers.

        What I’m puzzled about in your article is why you didn’t talk about tablets in general. The one reason I would never go with an iPad is no expandable storage. Complete deal killer for me.

  10. Not long ago Amazon sold all remaining stock of Kindle EX’s with outdated software and other limitations by lowering the price. Most units did not register as an Amazon device without intervention of customer service. Point is… there is a market for a bigger screen, limited but present. Used DX’s usually sell for a higher price than those old units. How about a 9.7 inch Paperwhite-DX? It should be cheaper than a big Voyager… and a good compromise versus 13.3 inch.

  11. And why would you settle for an iPad Pro when you could get an even more functional Windows tablet? 😉

  12. I don`t know whether Nathan turns himself as an Apple advertiser or he wants to decay the value of 13.3 inch e-reader!(Kidding)

    But to mention that your newly invented philosophical theory has an exception,I should say that I have my Samsung galaxy note pro 12.2 inch with LTE for a year and I have purchased Onyx Max recently.

    Each device has its own applicable usage.Your comparative description is not like comparing two cars,rather it seems to me comparing airplane with ship!Of course each is used for travelling and carrying passengers,but none of them are above or below the other.

    • It will be interesting to hear what you think after using the Onyx Boox Max for awhile. Onyx’s software and hardware can be really hit or miss at times (the T68 was a mess, for instance) but at least you got it from Booxtor, who at least knows what he’s doing compared to some of the other idiots out there, so at least there’s a chance it could work well for certain things. But I still find it hard to believe that it’s going to provide a better user experience for large-form reading (PDFs, comics, magazines) than the 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro.

  13. And the 12.9-inch iPad Pro just keeps getting cheaper. $649 on eBay new. Even the most expensive brand of tablet on the market is cheaper than a similar-sized E Ink ereader with far less capabilities.

    It’s not about promoting Apple—I don’t even own a single Apple product and rarely even mention them on this website—it’s about showing how insanely behind the times and expensive E Ink is by comparison. How can a company possibly succeed with such a product?

    • Well,thanks for your comments here.Actually,I need a screen large screen for the sake of reading only.My note pro LTE works fine with the rest of the stuff,but not for the sole purpose.Even newly arrived galaxy S2 tablet,9.7 inch,which was claimed initially that will replace e-book reader couldn’t beat it a bit!I worked with it for a week,and find nothing significantly superior than my note pro.Regarding the Ipad pro,please be advised that those range of prices are not working here in Canada.The Canadian dollar is weak and duties/shipping fees are rocketing.I also personally dislike OS environment which is not rational,I know.As I told,I need a device for the sole purpose of reading.Regarding portability,I have no problem with 13 inch,as I didn’t have either with my galaxy note pro.As I told before,ship and airplane are two devices for carrying passengers.You could say that this is my personal choice that I prefer ship over airplane,but telling to the people persuasively that the tickets of travelling by ship are going to be cheaper than airplane,so those(<1%)should go with ship rather airplane when crossing over pacific ocean is another untold story that I have heard in this posting!

  14. I think those people whose work with computers will be glad to use this device in order to relax their eyes. Many people read technical documents.

    • I don’t know. I would like to see scientific evidence of that. I work with computers all day and I have never noticed the slightest difference in reading on a tablet vs E Ink in terms of eye comfort. I think it’s mostly just marketing BS that E Ink came up with years ago and people still believe it today. There’s no question it affects some people but the percentage is very low, and mostly people with vision/eye problems. Reading on a screen too large is likely to cause more eye strain than reading on a backlit tablet with the brightness turned down. There’s a good reason newspaper and magazine articles use narrow columns instead of the whole page. More horizontal eye movement creates more strain having to move your eyes back and forth farther, plus it’s harder for the eyes to follow the words to keep their place.

  15. More horizontal eye movement creates more strain having to move your eyes back and forth farther.

    Then, textbooks ought to have narrow columns and I think it is not the case.

    • Regardless, unlike the effects of reading on E Ink vs LCD, this is a fact that has actually been proven. Plus most textbooks I’ve seen are rarely wall to wall text. They usually have columns too and images/graphs/tables to break up long lines of text.

  16. May be you have more accurate information than me, but I wonder why is it recommended not watch TV a lot, then? I thoutht it was eyes damaging because its luminance.

    If it is not damaging to read in an LCD, what is the leitmotif of this blog? XD

  17. And here all I want is a 7″ Paperwhite. Is that too much to ask? Dammit Amazon!!!

  18. Your article is terribly biased against e-readers. I thought you were an objective journalist, but that’s not the case.
    First you cannot compare an e-reader with a tablet. They have different uses. The tablet is for entertainment and for some specialized applications which do not require hours long looking on the screen, while the e-reader is specifically meant for extensive reading. Eye straining is a serious problem for many readers, professional or not. So, with an 13.3 inch e-reader one can spare printing thousands of pages of articles every month and protect his eyes, which increases the effective working time, and tires the brain at a lower rate. These are not insignificant advantages. I have already placed and order for the Onyx Boox Max, and had a good experience with the M96. In the US, another 13.3 inch e-reader is scheduled to be launched in September. Competition is good, while this is a chance for the niche players to achieve success.
    Please don’t compare oranges with apples because it’s utter nonsense. Even if only 1% of the readers needs a bigger e-reader, that 1% at the global scale, or at least at the scale of the European Union and of the US could mean a huge sales potential.

    • First off there’s no mandate that requires tablets to be used for entertainment purposes. They can be used exclusively for reading, research, and as learning or business tools to save paper. E Ink and ereaders have a number advantages, but I don’t buy into the notion that reading on E Ink is somehow healthier and superior to reading on LCD screens, especially high resolution screens at lower brightness. There is no scientific proof that reading on an E Ink screen is better for the eyes than reading on an LCD screen. Reading for long hours can irritate the eyes no matter what, even reading on paper.

      Just because this website primarily focuses on E Ink ereaders doesn’t mean I’m going to automatically say they are better than everything else when I feel like there are better options available. Some websites steer people toward a specific agenda. I just tell it like it is. I don’t care if it ruffles a few feathers.

      It’s good to see large E Ink ereaders like the Max coming out, but the price is automatically going to kill the opportunity for most people. That’s the key problem that it all comes down to, and is the substance behind this article. People can get a similar-sized iPad from the most expensive tablet maker on the market or they can spend even more for a much less sexy and less functional E Ink device. I wish they were cheaper so they would have a better chance is what I’m really saying. At this point I’m afraid they are going to go the same way as color E Ink did a few years ago, which has seemingly been abandoned due to lack of interest from consumers and manufacturers.

      • Thanks for your explanation. If health is no more a reason to buy an e-ink device, probably I will not get another one.

        What other crucial advantages have e-ink devices? Battery time is not enough to me.

        • Health is a factor for people with specific eye issues, no doubt, such as a sensitivity to light, but for most people it’s not an issue. If there really were eye health benefits for everyone the folks at E Ink would go out of their way to prove it since that would be a huge selling point.

          Battery life is the biggest advantage with E Ink devices, of course. So is the fact that the screen looks better under bright light instead of worse like LCD, so reading outside and in brighter areas is more pleasant. Another advantage is the core focus on reading, with no popups for emails or notifications, etc. Tablets can make it a lot easier to get distracted from reading. Some ereaders have the advantage of page buttons (it’s a shame they keep disappearing in recent years). E Ink ereaders have 4:3 screen ratios too, which is better suited for reading in portrait mode than the taller and skinnier tablet screens that are mostly 16:10 or 16:9 (except the iPads—they are 4:3 as well). Another important factor is the software on ereaders like Kindles and Kobos is more refined and offers more features than their app counterparts that are available for tablets.

      • Agree, eye strain is not a serious medical condition, but from my personal and my friends experience, it is still an issue for those who read long hours every day.
        One simply cannot read one or two 70 pages articles or a 100+ pages book on an LCD screen. You don’t need a scientific study to determine such a simple fact. Besides, after two to three ours of intense reading on your computer, you get very tired, that is much sooner than when you read your texts on paper/e-paper.

        You might prefer for a similar price to buy an iPad, but not everyone shares your preferences, and you should respect that, instead of proclaiming that “13.3-inch E Ink eReaders are Destined to Fail”.

        You’re neither a seer to see into the future, nor one able to predict with 100% accuracy the behaviour of the potential buyers. Thus you only present here your guess as certainty.

        Let first the market decide if the 13.3 inch e-readers are needed or not, and afterwards an analysis is welcome.

  19. I bought the iPad pro and got a very good deal with trading in other devices towards it. I also have an iPad mini which I use exclusively for reading. I was using e-ink devices from BN and Amazon but definitely do not like the small size at all. When my mini is charging – if I am reading a Kindle book – I will read on my DX which I bought when Amazon lowered the price. Since Apple came out with their night shift, my e-inks have been put in the drawer with the exception of the DX. I have also now found with the Pro that the landscape two page format is great. My devices do not travel to work with me since on the rare times I do get a chance to read at work I use my Moto Droid. For long time reading sessions size does matter to me. I will read on whatever form gives me that size and currently is is the iPad. I just dealt with the eyestrain until night shift came out. I think night shift is great and I read using the black screen. I love e-ink frontlight over backlight but will settle for backlight until Amazon, Kobo or BN come out with an 8 to 10 inch e-ink reader. Whoever does that will get my exclusive business.

  20. Apple has the advantage of economies of scale. They design and sell tens of millions of this devices. And any retailer is happy to sell their devices with little profit. I suspect even Amazon can compete with Apple in terms of cost, quality, customers’ attention, marketing etc. And there is just not enough demand for ebooks. Yes more people can be convinced to buy an ebook but such campaign will also cost huge.

  21. The author’s argument is a joke. He has no understanding of why e-ink is preferable!

    You can get a tablet of ANY size that blows away the specs of e-ink devices and often cheaper!

    6″ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Delectronics&field-keywords=6+inch++tablet&rh=n%3A172282%2Ck%3A6+inch++tablet

    7″ [removed]
    8″ [removed]
    10″ [removed]

    13.3″ [removed]

    I want an e-ink screen because it offers similar benefits of reading paper text. LCD/OLED/AMOLED screens don’t do that.

    It’s a very basic concept. I want a huge ass e-ink screen because I read things other than pocketbooks,novels, and the like.

    I read textbooks, rpg books, full sized pdfs, scientific studies and journals.

    By the author’s argument there is no reason to buy an eink device ever because one can get a better specced tablet for the same price or lower than an eink device no matter the screen size.

    Guess what. More than 1% of the population are students.

    Try comparing the 6″ voyage or Oasis, heck even a paper white to a 6″ tablet’s prices. Are you going to claim they fail too?

    Christ my comment appears to be spam. Luckily I saved it and will have to remove the amazon links I gave for the different screen sizes.

    • If you want to prove me wrong so bad go buy an iPad Pro and a 13.3″ ereader of your choice and tell us which one works better for reading and studying. For starters it’s not about comparing the screen alone. It’s mostly about how poorly and unreliable Android runs on E Ink by comparison. If you could find a 13.3″ with polished, fully developed software it would be a different story. I’ve reviewed close to a dozen Android E Ink ereaders and they just aren’t good enough to warrant a premium iPad Pro price. Not even close. Comparing $100-$200 ereaders to tablets isn’t the same; they’ve proven their advantages over lower end tablets. Comparing $700-$800 E Ink ereaders to the equivalent high-end tablet market is completely different, especially since larger ereaders need to excel in more areas than just reading ebooks like the smaller models can get by with.

  22. Well Nathan.I have received my Onyx Max and I have the Ipad pro 13 inch as well.I suggest,as you suggested before,to buy both devices or at least try.There are complete differences between tablet and e-reader.While e-reader is very well organised for long time/term reading,my tablet is good for short.End of story,complete cancellation of your analyse/story/posting! Oh,near to be forgotten,I suggest you look for one academic friend who could help you out searching for eye strain related reading problems in scientific articles,published specifically online through journals.That will be accessible with academic user ID! Never say ” There is no scientific proof that reading on an E Ink screen is better for the eyes than reading on an LCD screen.”That makes me laugh at!Thank you!

    • Yeah, you really showed me. There’s no question that you’re right and I’m wrong with that kind of research and dedicated testing. It looks like 13.3-inch ereaders are on their way to being a massive success and the 13-inch iPad Pro is a huge flop. People would have to be complete morons to buy an iPad Pro instead of an E Ink ereader after those findings.

    • Amir, Its been a god 4 months that you are using the Onyx Max. Are you happy with it ? Do you thing its a better purchase than Sony or you would advice against it ?

  23. Steady Nathan, steady! Keep up the good work for all us enraptured eReaders! Your reviews, news and incisive analysis are much appreciated across the reading world.

  24. Nathan, Posters make very valid arguments and you are taking it personally and defending your positions like a 10yr old. You made blanket statements which are nothing more then your personal opinions which irritated readers who know better. Its clear you do not have a good understanding of the value the Ereader format has to certain people. I just purchased the Sony 13.3 5min ago and I want nothing to to with an Ipad because I dont care about the specs, programs it runs, extra features, or ant of the other stuff which is worthless garbage to me. I want to Read/mark up Technical Documents on the thing and I need it to do that one thing very well and nothing more. I hated reading on the IPad with a passion. The posters experiences and comments are 100% correct.

    • McLovin, Asking the same question to you which I asked Amir. How is your experience with the Sony. And any views on Onyx Max? I am planning to buy either one and wiuld really appeciate a feedback. I am a student and will really stretch myself financially but because of sensitive eyes (light senstivity) I cant read on laptops and Tablets

    • ….my dear friend, Natan just said that you and people like you belongs to 1% of the population who uses ereader only for “academic reading” and simple readings together with annotation, nothing else!!

  25. The reviewer fails to recognize the productive use as a reading and annotation device in academics, business, the legal or engineering profession etc.
    People don’t need an oversived, heavy multimedia tablet. They want a lightweight device and paper-like experience for studying and storing a large amount of textual information. I am waiting for a 13 inch ereader for years.

  26. There is colored e-ink technology available. Every ipad user that reads would buy e-ink second screen accessory. How is this not a thing.

  27. Nathan, I am an engineer and go in the field with my iPad and pdf plans. I am having great difficulty reading these plans (in sunlight) on my iPad. It has come to the point that I have stopped using my iPad in the field. I am thinking of buying the 13.3″ Max just for that purpose. At my home I will continue to use my iPad. I am amongst the 1% for whom the iPad becomes useless for a specific use.

  28. Hello,
    I am going to get the Onyx 13.3 Max and not the ipad pro. Honestly, my eyes get quite strainned when using And Ipad or any other tablets. E-ink is the way to go, it is more natural quite easier on the yes, true it is expensive and I did find one for 450 Euros.