Hardware Platform

In the previous section, we had a brief description of the external hardware aspects of the Sony DPT-S1. A few aspects not noted over there include the presence of a microSD slot on the back as well as a micro-USB charging / data transfer port just beneath the navigation / context menu buttons at the bottom. The microSD slot can accommodate microSDHC cards up to 32GB in size. The back panel also includes a reset hole that can be activated with a pin while booting up to restore the device to factory conditions.

Thanks to a forum member over at mobileread, we have some insight into the internals of the system. The pictures linked in the forum are reproduced in the gallery below.

The board shots reveal the following components:

  1. Freescale i.MX508 application processor (single core Cortex-A8 at up to 1GHz)
  2. Samsung LPDDR2 K4P8G304EQ x32 8Gb (1GB) DRAM
  3. SanDisk 4GB eMMC 4.51 19nm flash (SDIN7DP2-4G)
  4. Wacom digitizer
  5. Neonode zForce NN1001 optical touch controller

In addition, the FCC ID printed in the back (VPYLBWN572) indicates the presence of a Murata WLAN module which internally uses a Atheros AR6003G 1x1 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz radio-on-chip WLAN controller.

The stylus / pen supplied as part of the DPT-S1 is passive. It doesn't need any batteries. No recharging is necessary. The Wacom digitizer is also passive in nature. According to a forum post on mobileread, it is possible to use non-Sony digitizer pens with the DPT-S1. This indicates that Wacom's EMR (Electro-Magnetic Resonance) technology is in use. The power requirements for EMR are satisfied by the display side. The digitizer generates a magnetic field that allows energy inducement in the pen's resonator. This can, in turn, be detected by the digitzer to determine the coordinates of the pen's position and its orientation.

The DPT-S1 has a touchscreen with multi-touch support. The teardown reveals an optical touch controller. The DPT-S1 integrates a set of light emitters and detectors along the edges of the screen and an optical light guide to the neonode touch controller IC. The IC controls the light sent out and also monitors the detectors. Changes in lighting conditions can indicate the presence of a touch object. The coordinates can also be calculated by the IC once calibration is in-place.

The device contains a rechargeable Li-ion battery rated at 3.7 V DC, 1270mAh. With the supplied 5V @ 1.5A USB charger, Sony indicates that full charging can take up to 2.5 hours.

Coming back to the general characteristics of the hardware, we find that the rear side of the device is a fingerprint magnet despite not being glossy. The front screen itself, thankfully, is not that bad. The navigation and context menu buttons make an audible click when pressed. While this is good feedback, there appears to be a lack of consistency across the three buttons in terms of the force required for activation. The placement of the power button in a slanted panel works perfect, but some users might prefer the power button elsewhere. The placement of the micro-USB port is unfortunate in the sense that the device has to be taken out of the sleeve for charging purposes. All these are minor aspects in the overall scheme of things.

The physical characteristics of the E-Ink Mobius screen (8" x 10.625" with a 13.3" diagonal, 1600 x 1200 resolution and 16 levels of grayscale support) have already been discussed. Readers might be wondering if a 13.3" tablet would be a good alternative if the backlighting / eye strain issue is not a big problem.

The above photograph shows the same graphics-heavy PDF page displayed on a Sony DPT-S1 and a Dell Inspiron 13 7000 series in tablet mode (13.3" 1920x1080 touchscreen). Despite the absence of color capabilities, it is obvious that the aspect ratio of the DPT-S1 leads to a better experience with the perusal of the content.

Introduction Software and UI Aspects
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  • Zan Lynx - Thursday, December 31, 2015 - link

    Or knows that you're supposed to set the screen brightness lower than the room. I've never had a problem reading on a phone or a tablet.
  • Tams80 - Sunday, December 20, 2015 - link

    It's great to see this device exist. If I was still in university, I'd really be lusting after it.

    It's fantastic to see they are using Wacom EMR. Yes, there are edge accuracy issues with it, but I still think it is the best AD implementation (Wacom Feel is stunted a bit by wacom, but an ereader like this doesn't really need tilt sensitivity).

    What I think it could do with though, is more hardware buttons. Some for page turning, and some as programmable hot keys.
    I also take it the document notes are kept on each page? It would be good if there was an aggregation feature for notes; that gathers a copy of them all together in a separate file that has no breaks in. A snapshot of context relevant text would also be good.

    Ultimately some colour would be ideal, but that's still some way off I take it.
  • Solandri - Sunday, December 20, 2015 - link

    " A4 and US Letter correspond to diagonals of 14.3" and 13.9" respectively. 13.3" with an aspect ratio of 4:3 is ideal for displaying documents typeset in either A4 or US Letter-sized pages."

    This is a large part of the reason why these devices are overpriced and not successful. By insisting on displaying the entire A4 or Letter-sized page, you're wasting expensive screen real estate displaying blank margins. The device already has a bezel which acts as margins. You don't need to waste screen space showing that empty space. If the page has 2cm or 3/4" margins on all sides, then A4 becomes 12.1" diagonal with a 1.51 aspect ratio, US Letter becomes 11.8" with a 1.36 aspect ratio.

    Don't try to display the entire page, blank margins and all. Make the device 12" diagonal with a 1.5 aspect ratio and a white/grey bezel. Include a PDF reader which automatically zooms the page to eliminate margins, intelligently clipping lone outliers like the page number at the bottom of the comic book pic in your review. The device's screen area then decreases from 85 sq inches to 66.5 sq inches, or 78%, with a corresponding drop in weight and price, while giving up little to nothing in the size of displayed pages.
  • 10101010 - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    Perhaps in the "dead content" world of the Amazon Kindle and other DRM e-readers, a more optimized large format reader without margins could be made. But in the world of more interactive content, i.e. annotating/reviewing PDFs and such, the margins are very useful. Also, having a larger screen size gives the display software more flexibility, i.e. "keep bottom margin" or "keep side margins". For my needs, I wouldn't buy an e-reader like the one you are describing.

    So I think Sony is on the right track. The tech world still hasn't produced anything as good as paper yet -- 1200 dpi, full size, high quality pixels that don't kill your eyes, etc. It doesn't mean we should stop trying.
  • Tangey - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    the "better experience" of it's aspect ratio has nothing to do with the e-ink technology. Comparing it with a 4:3 tablet such as an ipad pro instead of the Dell, might have been a better decision.
  • flyguy29 - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    At $800, there should be nothing held back in terms of on board memory, processing power, and conveniences to make the product uniquely superior to tablets for books, documents and note taking.
  • 10101010 - Monday, January 18, 2016 - link

    Sony doesn't make the best decisions about how far to push the technology. They are learning, but for many years their policy was to self-cripple their hardware in one way or another.
  • TARRACARTER - Thursday, February 11, 2016 - link

    Helpful piece ! For what it's worth , if people is requiring to merge two PDF files , I merged a service here Altomerge
  • xrror - Thursday, February 11, 2016 - link

    I'd actually be tempted to invest in one of these... except as you say:

    "We hope Sony continues to provide firmware updates"

    Sony is really bad at letting products rot after the first year. If they don't manage to fix something within that year, they never fix it. And sadly these probably won't be common enough for a hacking community to form, so no modded firmwares to save either.

    Which sucks, because this DOES look really nice. Sony's worst enemy always seems to be Sony. *sigh*

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