Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

Tablet PC's in Bright Sunlight?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the it's-all-about-the-visibility dept.

Displays 37

chadma asks: "I'm developing a program to be used on a Tablet PC; the unit will be used outdoors >80% of the time. I've seen some tablets from ViewSonic and MotionComputing and wondered if anyone had any experience or suggestions in the best screen for high sunlight conditions. Has there been any study or anyone with experience that could suggest the colors we use in the design? Would a white background with black text be most appropriate?"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

I would just like to point out that I'm homosexual (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8097812)

I thank you for listening

NEC, Fujitsu (2)

ajagci (737734) | more than 10 years ago | (#8097817)

Look at NEC or Fujitsu's pen-based computers; they predate TabletPC and they have offered displays that can be used in direct sunlight for years. They probably have updated them to TabletPC software by now.

Many PDAs are also usable in direct sunlight, so if your software is portable, you could run it on something like the Sharp Zaurus.

May be way out there... (3, Insightful)

Drakin (415182) | more than 10 years ago | (#8097893)

But have you considered oh I don't know...

Allowing your users to choose the colour scheme of the program, to provide the best visability in whatever conditions they're in?

Re:May be way out there... (1)

enosys (705759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8101654)

I'm sure that plenty of users would just stick with the defaults or even not know how to change them no matter how easy that is or how bad the defaults are. Therefore I do think you should find good defaults.

I also think that alowing users to change the colour scheme is a great idea.

Re:May be way out there... (1)

IronicCheese (412484) | more than 10 years ago | (#8107349)

most users wouldn't know how to answer this questions any better. Best to do the homework for your user base.

Remember - giving the user options they can't understand *isn't* choice. It's a burden.

It's also abdicating your responsibility as a UI designer. This guy is asking exactly the right questions.

Outside in the sun means sunglasses (2, Insightful)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#8097924)

Use more contrasty colors (black and white are good) in order to make your text stand out from the background. Let the TabletPC owners and makers worry about glare, but make sure that your text is easily visible through polarized sunglass lenses.

The Brightest Color (4, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 10 years ago | (#8097961)

chadma sez: "Would a white background with black text be most appropriate?"

You'll get the higest contrast with the brightest and darkest color. Black is, of course, the darkest. The brightest is that slightly chartruse yellow you see on some emergency vehicles and safety gear. It's the brightest because it stimulates the most receptors in the eye (the maximum overlap between the red receptors and green receptors). For the same reason, it'd also be the most efficient for a given visual level.

Higher contrast is harder on the eyes, but you'll be fighting sunlight so the contrast of the screen will be relatively much less than that of the environment.

To keep the glare from the screen down, wear polarized sun glasses You might even be abloe to combine them with a polarizing filter on the screen to make it more visible while the environment appears darker.

Re:The Brightest Color (1)

The Mayor (6048) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098316)

I see a few issues with this advice.

Black on yellow is the most likely to catch our attention, particularly in our peripheral vision. But the eye is most sensitive to green. I wouldn't recommend black-on-green, though.

Higher contrast may be harder on the eyes, but I'm not sure how that matters when viewing a laptop in sunlight. The contrast will be so poor if the bright bits of the screen are illuminated by a backlight as opposed to the sunlight. Try getting one without a backlight at all (like the *original* mac laptops from a *long* time ago). I don't know of any, but I'm not up with tablet PCs, either.

Whatever you do, don't wear polarized sunglasses (unless you decide to mod your laptop by removing its polarized glass). In order to display data on an LCD monitor the backlight is passed through polarized glass on the laptop screen. Wearing polarized sunglasses will only cause the wearer to tilt their head at a funny angle so that they can see the screen at all. From my experience, the polarization of LCD monitors is usually at a 45 degree angle to the polarization of most sunglasses. If you do decide to mod your laptop, you'll end up with a screen that appears blank to most people, though, which is quite an interesting effect. But if you hold your head at the wrong angle the entire screen goes black. Not good.

Re:The Brightest Color (2, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 10 years ago | (#8099831)

The Mayor (6048) sez: "I see a few issues with this advice...But the eye is most sensitive to green."

The eye IS most sensitive (ie. has lowest threshhold to fire) to green. There are more green receptors or the green receptors are more sensitive than the red, and definitely more so than the blue.

But yellow (slightly to the green side) is the brightest apparent color, because of the overlap of red and green cones. It sounds like it contradicts what you said, but it doesn't. Yellow can be from yellow (wavelength) photons that stimulate either red or green cones, or from a mix of red and green photons stimulating those cones. Either way, it's a more efficient process because more receptors are available for stimulation.

Look at it this way: What color becomes closest to white (ie lightest grey) when the color is turned all the way down to plain black-and-white (like the color control on a TV)? Green is definitely grey, yellow is lighter, most like white.

And he sez: "From my experience, the polarization of LCD monitors is usually at a 45 degree angle to the polarization of most sunglasses."

Excellent. I didn't know that they had polarized output. Doing a polarization mod and others not being able to see it, now that sounds like a cool hack.

Black/Yellow (1)

quinkin (601839) | more than 10 years ago | (#8101263)

It is well accepted (and easily measurable) in HCI that yellow/black edges are the easiest and most accurate to perceive.

In terms of the glare I would suggest that you do not use a dark background. Glare is by definition reflected light so by using a dark background you increase the perceived glare.

On a different vein, my glasses are treated with an anti-reflective coating that allows people to see my eyes instead of white discs (and makes night driving a pleasure instead of a stress). Does anyone know of any screens that incorporate this sort of technology?


Trans-Reflective (2, Informative)

!the!bad!fish! (704825) | more than 10 years ago | (#8097970)

Look for a trans-reflective display.
These work best in bright sunlight, although can appear washed out in dim indoor use.

I'm still wondering... (0, Redundant)

croddy (659025) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098014)

who even uses these, ahem, Tablet PC's ??

Re:I'm still wondering... (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8102171)

"who even uses these, ahem, Tablet PC's ??"

I will be when they improve a generation or two. I'm an artist and a tablet PC would be great for my drawings. The problem is they're the price of a laptop, but have about half the power and screen quality of them. When that equalizes a bit, I will likely purhcase one.

No apostrophe required. (-1, Offtopic)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098038)

Really, fellahs. It's not difficult. No apostrophe is required for a plural.


Re:No apostrophe required. (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 10 years ago | (#8099216)

No apostrophe is required for a plural.

Then there's Dave Barry's comment: In modern English spelling, an apostrophe is used to warn the reader that an "s" is coming.

Re:No apostrophe required. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8101066)

It's optional and recommended after an acronym

Re:No apostrophe required. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8112319)

Actually: no, retard boy. You couldn't be more wrong...

Re:No apostrophe required. (1)

eu4ik (103529) | more than 10 years ago | (#8105696)

That should be:

"...In modern Engli'sh 'spelling, an apo'strophe i's u'sed to warn the reader that an "'s" is coming."

Don't you feel 'safer now? I hate being 'surpri'sed by the letter between "r" and "t".

Re:No apostrophe required. (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 10 years ago | (#8106375)

Indeed. As I hit the Submit button, it occurred to me that I should have gone back and inserted those apostrophes. Well, you're welcome to the karma points ...

(We might note that Dave didn't do this, either. Sometimes he misses a dumb joke, too. ;-)

goodnight awl (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8098071)

Sleep tight!

Linux on Tablet PCs (1)

wehe (135130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098074)

Just in case your are developing with Linux, here is a list of Linux installation reports on Tablet PCs, Pen Pads, Convertibles and WebPads [tuxmobil.org] . This might as well serve as a concise overview about available Tablet PCs in general. There are also pointers to Linux applications for such machines.

Places to ask... (3, Informative)

dmayle (200765) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098097)

A much better place to ask this question would be the forums over at Tablet PC Buzz. [tabletpcbuzz.com] It's a great forum for Tablet PCs, and almost all of the people there own one, so you'll get a better representation from them...

Cholesteric (4, Interesting)

reluctantengineer (557965) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098414)

Actual, much better than trans-flective is the cholesteric [google.com] display. It actually looks better in direct sunlight than it does indoors! And it takes very little power, power consumption is proportional to how many rows you redraw (power is only consumed when you update the image, unlike a normal LCD which is related to time and brightness). Downside is refresh rate, you can about 4hz full-screen, or 8hz half screen, or 16hz quarter screen, etc. You will have problems finding these displays in commercial products, but if daylight readability is absolutely critical it may be worth paying to have some installed after-market.

Usability testing, anyone? (1)

ForteTuba (658340) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098670)

I know there's value in asking people about their past experiences with similar problems, but all too often what you get is people's opinions about your problem, experience-based or not. Another approach would be to mock up a couple of interfaces and get some honest-to-god users. Take them all on a field trip outside and test the various color combinations. Finally, as Drakin suggested, consider providing a small range of reasonable color choices, make the default the one that tested the best overall, and let each user pick the colors they want.

Advice from a user (5, Informative)

JackAsh (80274) | more than 10 years ago | (#8098733)

I have an actual Tablet PC that I use every day, the Acer C110. It's a wonderful tool, but it is not designed for use in the sunlight. Heck, it's not even that good when I sit at a conference room with bright lights above the center of the table - sitting at the edge of the table looking down on a horizontal reflective screen reflects the lights overhead... However, I have the ability to prop up my screen with my old PDA, which solves the issue quite nicely. The angle is just enough to avoid the lights. :)

The TabletPC is a wonderful tool. I wouldn't give mine up for anything in the world. Well, maybe something with a greater monetary value that I really wanted, as I would then go and buy myself another TabletPC - they're not in short supply. ;) Anyway, this is not your best forum for TabletPC advice. I suggest you try heading over to TabletPCBuzz [tabletpcbuzz.com] and use the forums there, you will find a TON of experts on the TabletPC.

Regardless of that, there's really a couple solutions:

a) If your application is a commercial app, designed to be run by just about anyone that chooses to purchase it, I'd suggest creating a "skins" menu for it, similar to the option within Franklin Covey's [franklincovey.com] tabletplanner 3.0. This will allow your outdoor mostly users to pick a high contrast scheme, whereas the indoor users (or users who avoid using it until they are indoors) will pick a different one. Heck, even allow some form of button mapping to different schemes, mapped by default to your presets that test best under different conditions.

b) If you're targeting a vertical market and intend to design the whole solution, start to finish, I recall someone designed a TabletPC designed specifically for use outdoors. You could work that particular model into your design specs, and test your app out with the PC in question and the best looking/working colors, etc.

I apologize, as I do no recall what the specific model or maker was - I suggest you ask your question in the general forums at TabletPCBuzz [tabletpcbuzz.com] . They will be able to provide you with further information.

Best of luck,

-Jack Ash

do it old school (1)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8099332)

get one of those camera hoods from around the turn of the century...

Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8100111)

Your outdoor-oriented 'hello world' program is very interesting to us.

circular polarizer? (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 10 years ago | (#8100151)

A circular polarizing filter might be the solution to the display problem, but there's a catch: LCD screens emit polarized light, so the linear polarizer must be matched to the LCD's polarization after it has traveled through the circular polarizer.

Anyone know if circular polarizing filter material is available in sheet form?

LCDs in Sunlight conditions. (3, Informative)

holland_g (651151) | more than 10 years ago | (#8100192)

I work in the general aviation market. Whenever you put LCDs in the cockpit, you have to consider sunlight and take the appropriate steps to enhance the LCD and backlight.

For LCD viewing in sunlight conditions, you want to have a brightness of at least 150 foot Lamberts. Generally the CCFTs will degrade over time, so derate that by 50 foot Lamberts. You are looking at a spec of 200 foot Lamberts in your backlight brightness. Not common in off the shelf laptops.

The contrast ratio needs to be greater than 200:1. The higher the better.

You also want Anti Reflective coating applied to the front of the LCD. This causes reflections in the screen to be diffused and blurry, instead of sharp and clear.

I wish I could help (2, Funny)

Descartes (124922) | more than 10 years ago | (#8100314)

I have a tablet PC, so I feel like I should know the answer to this. The problem is I live in Seattle, so I don't acutally know what direct sunlight is.

I have a motion computing M1200, and it is passable in bright overcast skies. I'm curious of whether it would actually perform better in direct light compared to the diffuse depressing grey that is standard here.

If I ever see the elusive daystar, I'll bring my computer outside and give it a try.

Direct sunlight? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8100903)

I'm a vampire you insensitive clod!

Monochrome LCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8101214)

As you are already aware, normal color LCDs are unusable in direct sunlight. Many monochrome LCDs, on the other hand, have excellent visibility in direct sunlight -- unfortunately, I don't know of anyone actually building computers that use them these days. It's doubly unfortunate, because when there is direct sunlight, you needn't run the backlight on a properly designed monochrome LCD and can thus realize significant gains in battery life. Finally, color usually doesn't add too much to dedicated devices being used for data collection or many custom applications, so there's often very little need for a color screen in these circumstances, and monochrome would probably frequently be the ideal solution.

Oh well.

Re:Monochrome LCD (2, Informative)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 10 years ago | (#8101348)

Unfortunately, as you point out, no one is making a TabletPC w/ a monochrome display --- actually, I think the TabletPC specification _requires_ a colour display. It'd be great for outdoor viewability though, as you point out and battery life too. You can pick up Fujitsy Stylistic 1200s w/ outdoor viewable monochrome displays pretty cheaply though. It's a pen tablet computer though, not a ``Tablet PC''.

That said, there's been some great work done on making daylight-viewable displays for the newer TabletPCs, Fujitsu has them as an option for their Stylistic systems, and www.infocater.com offers an optional upgrade w/ the Motion (possibly other) systems which they sell for a special glass screen replacement &c. for daylight viewable displays.

I don't think a high-contrast colour scheme is going to help much though --- either your display backlight and filter is able to display decently in daylight or it's not.


Re:Monochrome LCD (2, Informative)

Cecil (37810) | more than 10 years ago | (#8102722)

My ~$140 CDN GameBoy Advance SP can do this, in full color. Turn off the backlight under good lighting and there is no difference at all. I often have trouble determining whether the backlight is on or off, in fact.

The screen is not the best screen in the universe, but it uses an LCD technology called 'transflective' or 'trans-reflective' display which combines the reflective backplane used in older LCD displays (think digital watch) with a backlight. Color saturation is somewhat lessened in direct sunlight, but that's life.

This technology is becoming more common in Tablet PCs, but is still in the very experimental stage in laptops. I have seen a grand total of two laptops with transflective screens. They were moderately priced and otherwise pretty much indistinguishable from the rest of the laptops on display. I don't remember the model number, but it was a Toshiba of some sort. They stood out like a sore thumb though because the screen looked so much brighter and glossier than the other laptops.

Motion Computing is Great, but Screens Suck (1)

shadowxtc (561058) | more than 10 years ago | (#8101254)

Myself and all my friends have an original run Motion Computing tablet (M1200, 800mhz, 1gb ram). The tablets themselves are the greatest things in every way other than their screens. The backlight is horrible and makes the colors washed out and hard to see at an angle even in low light conditions. In sunlight, forget about using it at all.

Motion Computing M1300 (2, Informative)

smatthew (41563) | more than 10 years ago | (#8103205)

Motion computing makes a version of the M1300 tablet pc that uses a transflective display. That display works wonders outdoors. Call them up at 866-MTablet and ask about it. I've got the normal version of the table (writing this post on it right now) and LOVE IT!!! Only think i wish i could get was ink-enabled AIM. That would rock.

fujiitsu siemens st4121 (1)

zzg (14390) | more than 10 years ago | (#8121338)

Only tablet with tranflective display that I know of.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?