The Notion Ink Adam Tablet gets a lot of attention as one of the first products expected to hit the streets with a Pixel Qi low power, outdoor readable display, but that’s not the only interesting element of the tablet’s design. Today Notion Ink’s Rohan Shravan wrote a blog post exploring some more details about the Adam Tablet’s design.

For instance, the bump in one side of the device not only holds the batteries and makes room for the rotating camera, but also gives the tablet a slightly better viewing angle and gives you something to hold onto while using the tablet with one hand.

One of the items I was most interested in, though, was the choice to use a screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio rather than a 4:3 ratio. While many folks lament the move away from 4:3 screens with 1024 x 768 or similar resolutions and blame widescreen video for the change, Notion Ink thinks a widescreen display makes sense for another reason. When you’re using a tablet like the Adam in portrait mode instead of landscape, it’s easier to fit a text column comfortably on a widescreen display.

At least that’s what Shravan claims. Of course, the beauty of modern software is that it shouldn’t be that hard to simply reflow a web page, eBook, or other text-based document to properly fit a screen of any resolution. But if you think about it, books tend to have resolutions that would be considered widescreen if you held them sideways too.

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10 replies on “Notion Ink explains the Adam tablet design”

  1. Why is there no 1:1 displays? i know the human eye is widescreen by nature, but wouldn’t 1:1 displays make much more sense mathematically?

  2. I read the blog post. The comments about “16:9 vs 4:3” represent marketing and not design.

    If you’re going to call something “wide”, like “widescreen”, then it naturally begs the question: “Wide compared to what?”

    For example, a resolution of 1024×768 is called XGA. The wide version of THIS is called WXGA and is typically (at least) 1280×768. You’ll notice that the width became wider. That’s why WXGA is the wide version of XGA.

    A resolution of 1024×600, like I believe the Adam has, is WSVGA. That’s the wide version of SVGA (800×600). Sure, it’s wide compared to SVGA, but SVGA stopped being an impressive resolution 15 years ago, and compared to XGA (which is also outdated, even by 4:3 resolution standards), it’s SHORTER (not wider) because you’re getting LESS pixels vertically (and not more pixels horizontally).

    It’s ridiculous that Notion Ink, or ANYBODY, pretends like they’re doing us a favor (like saving us from black bars in the margin) by giving us fewer pixels. In fact, Notion probably didn’t have a choice because almost nobody is producing small 4:3 aspect ratio panels. Pixel Qi most certainly isn’t. The only advantage is that they’re available, and you “save battery life” because there are fewer pixels to power (they should just sell us screens with 4 pixels and brag that our useless devices will last for days on a single charge).

    If you want to have a widescreen, then add pixels, and then brag about the sharper image. I’ve used tablets (not to be confused with “tablets”) with a 1024×600 resolution, and they’re pretty terrible in portrait mode. Think about it. In portrait mode, that 600 pixels tall screen becomes a 600 pixels wide screen. The earliest laptops had VGA (640×480) resolution screens. That means that your WSVGA screen in portrait mode is bested by 40 pixels by a VGA screen in the width department. That’s.

    So, a screen, when used in the very orientation that Notion Ink is boasting about, is bested in the width department by a standard VGA screen, and that’s what we call a “widescreen”?

    Wrong. It’s just a short screen and a pretty thin one too. Fortunately, today’s technology consumer is a moron and believes that “wide is better”. It is, for the manufacturers.

    1. I do agree that they had little choice in what screen to use and they are trying to make it seem like a good choice but that doesn’t mean there message doesn’t apply at all.

      You’re argument basically seems to be confusing resolution with screen ratio and that’s basically comparing apples to oranges.

      For example the Notion Ink isn’t bested in the width department by a standard VGA screen unless you neglect to also turn the VGA screen to a portrait position. But then you aren’t making a direct comparison unless both are facing the same direction and you’re ignoring screen size if the pixel density is the same or not.

      Like goraaal’s point that not everything is easy to reflow and thus a longer/wider screen can have it’s advantages. Not to say it doesn’t also have disadvantages but they are trying to promote their product and not point out its flaws. It all depends on your content…

      The point though towards your argument is that Ratio is a different issue to pixel density, which is what can really make the screen look better.

      Like a 7″ with 1024×600 will look better than a 10″ of same resolution and ratio.

      Or you can have a 10″ 1366×768 screen and a 10″ 1024×600 screen with basically the same ratio but the 1366×768 has the pixel density advantage.

      Thus ratio just determines how the layout is effected and is separate from how good everything looks.

      Though pixel density can also be used for marketing as Apple has shown with it’s so called Retina Displays 😛

    2. I agree with that the aspect ratio is the main problem here. What happens when you try to play back a 4:3 video? And… in portrait mode?

      But the thing about the resolution is up to the eyes of the beholder. Thing is though, I think the higher the resolution, the better, regardless of the screen size. Pixel density is a good gimmick when you want sharpness, but it can only last so long if all you want to have is a practical touch screen with a large area to move around freely.

  3. “Of course, the beauty of modern software is that it shouldn’t be that hard to simply reflow a web page, eBook, or other text-based document to properly fit a screen of any resolution.”

    Well hundreds of million potential tablet users would use them in a similar way they today use their portable audio and video players: to run stuff downloaded from p2p. It is a real hassle to do converts and that goes for audio, video as well as text files. Fact is, most of the ebook rips floating around p2p are imaged (not vector) pdf files. Those are a hassle to convert and hard to reflow. Notion Ink is doing things exactly right here. Any company that designs a tablet suited mostly for official store ebooks and so on will die off as quickly as the mp3 and portable video players that bundled with very weird and obtrusive DRM. Piracy is a fact and billions of ebooks will be pirated in the upcoming years. Adapt or lose.

    1. I’d say it’s worthless even with legally-obtained documents. I have tons of legal PDF files that have two or three columns of text with integrated pictures. There’s no way you are going to make me believe that the Notion Ink is going to reflow these documents and only show one column at a time. A 4:3 screen, however, will display full pages in a way that is far more readable. For normal books… yes, no big deal. I agree with Aftermath… this is marketing, not design. For more technical documents like magazines, textbooks, manuals, etc. this device is just as useless as the dozens of other Android tablets on the market.

      It really bothers me that every Android tablet that comes out is just making me more tempted to buy an iPad. Or I’ll just end up buying an Irex 800 large-format ebook reader and have it with my netbook for the tasks I have in mind.

      I realize I’m in a minority of users who want to use tablets for this purpose, but I didn’t know the minority was THIS small.

      1. Problem is technical documents, magazines, textbooks, manuals, etc. Aren’t all coverable by any one ratio. Especially if you factor the different standards used outside of the US.

        Whether you view a single page or two there are ways to view that a longer/wider view would be easier and there are others that a shorter/boxier view would be better.

        Calling either useless is ignoring the fact that there are many ways to view content and no real universal standard for all content to use.

        A 8.5″ x 14″ document for example would be better viewed in a long/wide view. While a the US standard 8.5″ x 11″ would be better viewed by the 3:4 ratio view. While sizes like an A3 document falls somewhere in-between. Thing to remember is many of these tablets will be sold around the world and not just in the US.

        There is also the fact these tablets aren’t for just viewing documents. So you may have to wait for a specialized device comes out that will fit your specific needs. Otherwise we all compromise as there really aren’t any devices that will fit all of us…

        At least until they develop flexible or projective/holographic displays that we can just spread out to whatever ratio we need.

        Till then we all have to compromise with what’s available and either see it in the best light or just focus on what we don’t like.

        1. CyberGusa, you keep on blabbering quite a bit here and above, but you’re not really getting the simple fact that 600 pixels is a damn small amount of pixels with which to represent a decent amount of information. Fact is, as was commented earlier, this is all about the manufacturers saving money because LCDs are cut to the same aspect ratio resulting in less waste. At the same time, current marketing targets the average consumer who, it seems, uses his device only to watch videos and is a bit too dense, like yourself, to see that when you render something detailed, like, say, a line of vector characters on a 600 pixel wide display, all you’re left with is a poor facsimile of the original. Well, unless you really like reading three words per line.

          Dammit, just give me more pixels! I’m a developer and the current trend to 16:9 displays means that it’s getting really hard to find a vertical resolution greater than 1080 whereas it used to be pretty common to find 1900×1200 not too long ago. I just find it unbelievable that movie watching has ended up determining display resolutions when there are so many other things people would like to do with their computers/devices. Maybe it’s just me, though.

          1. No blabbering, just pointing out where your complaining is misplaced. Your problem is more a matter of pixel density than the ratio of the screen.

            So if you want more pixels then get a regular Tablet PC and not something running Android or similar. You can then get a HD resolution display and sizes more convenient for you.

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