The vast majority of e-readers have a flush screen and bezel with a glass layer or sunken screens that either use a capacitive touchscreen layer or Infrared technology. There has been lots of confusion on what e-reader technology provides the best user experience. Good e-Reader seeks to address all of your questions with a new video.
Sunken screens on e-readers is very old technology, but provides more crisper text. Most e-readers that have sunken screens are often employing Neonode Z Force, which has a series of Infrared sensors alongside the bezel and recognize touchscreen interactions. Infrared does not recognize things like 5 point multi-touch, but only 2 touches on average. This would allow this tech to recognize pinch and zooms with 2 fingers and also screenshots, by holding your fingers down on the upper left and lower right side of the screen. It is important to note that some sunken e-readers do support capacitive touchscreen technology, but it is more evident on newer e-readers and not older ones.
Most entry level e-readers use sunken screens and bezels that do not have waterproof technology. The Kindle Basic 2019 and most older Kindle models like the Paperwhite, Kindle Touch etc. Older Kobo e-readers like the original H2O and the Nook Glowlight. One of the best examples of a modern e-reader that has a sunken screen, but does it right is the Nook Glowlight Plus 7.8 and Kobo Libra.
One of the big benefits of sunken screens is there is no glass layer on top of the e-paper display, so you get crisper text. This because there is no extra layers that are superimposed on the display. Some of the downsides is that the front-lit display system often suffers, because there is nothing containing the light, so you normally have fewer LED lights, providing a darker screen, even with the light pumped to the max. We noticed in our reviews of older e-readers that there was often puffy grey splotches alongside the corners of the bezel. The Nook Glowlight Plus 7.8 has 17 LED lights and provides a really robust lighting experience, and ditto with the Kobo Libra.
Sunken screens can also suffer from scratches far more than flush screen and bezels. This is because there is nothing protecting the screen against nicks and dings.This can be mitigated by a matte screen protector or carrying case.
Flush screen and bezel e-readers are often included in e-readers that are considered premium and cost more. Examples include the Kindle Voyage, Kindle Oasis, Kindle Paperwhite 4 and the Kobo Forma. They also are prevalent on digital note taking devices such as the Onyx Boox MAX3.
One of the advantages of flush screen and bezels is that it is easier to waterproof them. The lightning system is also better because the light is contained underneath the glass layer and on top of the e-paper layer. Most e-readers often use capacitive touchscreen displays that support 5-point multitouch, this makes it easier to pinch and zoom and conduct interactions on the screen. For digital note taking e-readers it is easier to also include a WACOM screen for stylus interactions. They are also easier to keep clean.
The downsides of flush screen and bezels is that text is not as clear as a sunken screen, this is evident when people read for long reading sessions. They are often more expensive, this is due to the glass layer and capacitive touchscreen display. I also noticed that if you read outdoors, glass often reflects light more than sunken screens.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.