BenQ chooses e-reader path over iPad

BenQ has no plans to launch a tablet device this year

Taiwanese electronics maker BenQ plans to continue to focus on e-readers instead of developing a tablet device similar to Apple's iPad, and believes a color version of its nReader due out later this year will be one of the keys to winning the market.

"The screen is the key," said Danny Yao, a vice president at the company. "Reading on an LCD screen isn't natural, it makes your eyes tired.

"E-reader screens are designed with no backlight, so you can read for hours and hours without discomfort and e-reader screens also use less power, so your battery lasts for days, not hours," he said.

Comparisons between the two products are not easy because they perform such different functions. E-readers are made for reading books, magazines, comics, documents and other material, while tablets such as the iPad are made for Internet browsing and watching video, as well as reading. The difference in the screen is the LCD screen on tablet devices, including the iPad, and its backlight, which requires more power. E-reader screens use very little power.

Apple promises up to 10 hours of music, Web browsing via Wi-Fi, or video on the iPad before a recharge is needed, while BenQ says the nReader can run for two-weeks without a recharge.

Eye comfort when using digital displays is another matter. Comfort can be increased by making sure the light surrounding the display is no more than three times nor less than 1/3 the luminance of the display, according to Jim Sheedy, a doctor of optometry at Pacific University College of Optometry in Portland, Oregon.

The kind of display doesn't matter, he said. Discomfort comes about when the surrounding light is significantly different than the luminance of the display.

BenQ plans to offer a color screen version of its nReader later this year to compete against the color screens of a tablet computer, but the color nReader still won't be ready for any kind of video function. "Video will come in the next generation of color nReaders," said Yao.

BenQ launched the original nReader in January for around US$280. The device sports a 6-inch touchscreen and plays music in addition to displaying e-books. It's already on sale in Asian markets, including Taiwan and Japan.

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