E-Ink or Backlit Screen? What’s the Difference?

I’ve noticed a bit of confusion lately about e-ink vs backlit screens. So let’s fix that.

Simply explained:

Looking at a backlit screen is like looking into a light bulb. A backlit screen is bright, even in a dark room. Your computer screen is a backlit screen.

An e-ink screen is not lit. Just like a piece of paper, the only way YOU can see it is if you shine light ON it. You can read an e-ink screen in a well lit room, but if you were sitting in the dark you would not be able to see it without some other light source. .

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Backlit = bright. E-ink = not bright.

Now for a few other points about each:

Backlit screens

Backlit screens are found on desktop computers, laptops and tablets (like the iPad and the Kindle Fire).

Backlit screens wash out in bright sunlight.

The use of backlit screens before bed (like with a tablet) makes sleep difficult for many people.

Some people complain of eye strain with extended use of backlit screens.

E-ink screens

E-ink screens are clear and sharp in bright sunlight, making them the #1 choice for outdoor (beach) reading.

To read in a dark room, (bedtime reading), you need a light. A clip on book light works great for most e-readers.

The Paperwhite Kindle has an e-ink screen. It is unique in that it has a built in light that covers the whole screen. The light reflects, it does NOT come from within. If you turn the light up, the screen looks bright, but that is light that is layered on TOP of the e-ink. If you turn the light down, you will see the standard plain old e-ink screen. So the Paperwhite is just an e-ink device with a fancy light.

One more piece of confusion to clear up: Kindles come in both backlit AND e-ink screens. Kindle Fire Tablets have backlit screens. Kindle e-readers have e-ink screens.


34 thoughts on “E-Ink or Backlit Screen? What’s the Difference?

  1. That is without a doubt the clearest explanation of the difference I’ve ever read. I’m going to share a link to this post on Bookin’ It after I finish my morning tea and have enough wits about me to tackle my blogs for the day. Great job, Kathy!

    • Oh, yes, I SO agree with you! The iPad is great fun, BUT, when it is time to read, I bring out the Kindle. I do NOT like reading on the backlit screen of the iPad. The Kindle, on the other hand, is the best reading experience by far. 🙂

  2. I have to agree with the other Marsha, only she spells it the more feminine way! You are the clearest explainer in the world. I’m so glad you understand tech!!! We used to have a tech guy at work who felt it was his job to make you feel like the stupidest person on the planet. Fortunately he retired before I did, or I’d still be sitting here as the stupidest techy not worthy of walking on the planet even. 🙂 Then there was Share Chair, and the sun rose over techland. 🙂

    • ShareChair’s sun shines down on all of us, doesn’t it? Finding her blog was one of the best things about joining WordPress for me. Oh, and I’m older ‘n’ dirt, so I spell my name the reeeeeally old-fashioned way, from way back when, in the Dark Ages when “tech” was just the Highland way of saying “take.” (As in “you tech the high road an’ I’ll tech the low”) You are no doubt a young whippersnapper with a more modern sensibility and thus, have a zippy, up-to-date spelling of the name, that’s all. You youngsters are way more hip than I, I’m afraid. Teching my leave now………

        • Pshaw! :You are a mere sprout! I’m turning 69 in less than a month. Honestly, every time I realize that I’ll be 70 in a year, I can’t get over it. My best friend in the world is 40, I’ve taken up blogging and started a book, and I’m determined I’m not going to let my brain rot while my body sags. I can’t stop the forces of gravity, so the sagging goes on, but I can, by golly, refuse to become a grey-haired lump on the couch! And ShareChair helps me with my commitment to learn something new every day to exercise my brain. So, yay…both Marcia and Marsha are holding Old Age at bay by visiting this blog every day. Aren’t we clever?

          • My age wedges me between Marcia and Marsha, and your encouragement (you guys sure know how to slather it on!) keeps me on my toes, too. We’ll keep these brains exercised! 🙂

            • You ROCK, Kathy! And you RULE, too! Rock ‘n’ Rule. My favorite music! *snort*

              Seriously, you have been such a help to me in my quest for learning new things. I watched my mother refuse to even try to learn how to use a computer or anything else new and different, and gradually, her ability to learn new things at all just faded away. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to stay as sharp as possible for as long as possible, and keeping up with new technology (within reason) is one good way to do that. I have other tricks, too, but blogging helps me make new friends, and using my gadgets keeps me on my toes. So, hats off to you for making so much of it more understandable. Muaaah! (Thats a smoochie, not a very short, evil laugh!)

          • Hi Marcia, my new clever friend. I love my young friends. They keep me young, not just at heart, but body as well. My friends, the History Girls, one in 30s, 1 in 40s, 1 in 50s, and me. I love the range, though I have to say, it’s odd being at the top of the heap. When I was in my 30s, my best friend was a lady nearing 70. She was so instrumental in my life, teaching me tips of life really, and giving me a different perspective than my mom – who was my great heroine, and I thought could do no wrong. I found out that there were other ways to face life. My younger friends do the same thing for me. Life is huge, and there’s more than one way that is the RIGHT to face it. Have a great week-end!! 🙂 Marsha 🙂

            • I agree wholeheartedly, Marsha. Some people are old and defeated at 35 and others are young and vital at 70 (and beyond, hopefully). And one thing I have learned is that the only thing in Life you have any control over at all is your reaction TO it. In other words, if you really want to be happy, no one can stop you. And happy is better! Long may we stay active, interested, involved, and happy! I’m headed outside now to garden for awhile, another restorative and educational activity. I’m way behind on weeding and feeding. You have a great weekend, as well, and I’ll see you around the Chair of She Who Shares, if not elsewhere on WordPress.

                • Works for me! I just checked out your blog and can see I need to spend some time exploring there. I really enjoyed what I saw. I look forward to getting to know you better. Hope you’ll enjoy one or both of my blogs:
                  Bookin’ It
                  Who’s Your Granny?

                  Be sure to say hi when you visit! I’ll do the same. Now I’m off to finish reading Terry Pratchett. I can use the laughs.

  3. Anonymous says:

    glad to be able to share with the Macia/Marsha’s that Kathy’s sharing is an all around wonder…a great person to know….in reality,as well as inthe world of tech………….a world I know very little of…….by the way………I turned 60/10 this summer………….I couldn’tdo 70…..my kids celebrated the age with me……in print……so it really is the truth!!!!……may do 60/11 next year……70 just seems to “old” to me

    • Well, a belated happy 60/10, Anon. I think that’s a pretty neat way to express it. I’m going to remember it for the birthday after the one coming up. As for Kathy being a great person to know in reality, I never doubted it for a minute. It comes through in all she shares. But thanks for confirming what I already suspected. Have a great evening!

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