Great products combine great hardware with great software. Because of that, it’s frustrating to use the Sony Digital Paper DPT: It’s physical hardware, but there’s almost no software at all. If you’re looking to read, edit, or annotate illustrated textbooks, journal articles, or other PDF documents, you’ve come to the right place. However, Sony doesn’t make it easy.

Physical Design

sony notepad

Despite being the largest slab of E Ink you’ll ever see, the DPT-RP1 is as light as an actual pad of paper. This touchscreen computer is truly a marvel: With a 13.3-inch, 2,200-by-1,650-pixel screen framed in soothing matte plastic, it still lies flat on its back. A little more than 12 ounces and 8.8 by 11.9 by 0.2 inches in size, it measures.

There is only one home button on the top of the tablet, where the power button is located. Other than that, there are not many controls. I really like the simple design.

Screens from lower-cost Kindles don’t have backlights or front lights and have gray backgrounds as well. When it comes to text or maps, it isn’t as sharp as the latest ebook readers, which have 300 pixels per inch (PPI). Graphs, charts, and maps are fine with grayscale on E Ink’s 16 levels.

There is no SD card slot and 16 GB of storage is available, of which 11.1 GB is available. The battery life on this tablet is three weeks. The number of pages you flip is what really determines the battery life of most E Ink tablets. I had to recharge it every three or four days during the testing period; it takes 3 hours to charge completely. You should definitely charge your phone fairly regularly, unlike with a Kindle.

Software

sony notepad

It appears that this software is from 2004, which is the main problem. Among other things, it can only read PDFs that are not protected by DRM. Not ePub (electronic book), not Mobi (electronic book), not CBR (computer book), nor library PDFs (library PDFs). Open the PDF file. I converted both books and graphic novels I had previously ordered from Amazon to PDF using open-source software like Calibre. Several hotlinks, charts, and graphs were not affected. However, we cannot recommend that as a way of life, since the conversion app may stop working at any time.

It’s no problem, I hear some of you saying! Maybe you still use Windows 7 and you only read non-DRMed or cracked documents, are suspicious of cloud services, or read-only non-DRMed or cracked documents. Congratulations! Just remember that you aren’t typical.

Since the tablet doesn’t have cloud connectivity, you must download Sony’s PC/Mac software to save documents to the tablet. For the drivers to install, you will need to disable your antivirus or firewall, just as it was in 2004. Software for your tablet and PC does nothing more than allowing you to drag and drop PDF documents between them and reorganize them. During the setup process, you can connect to the internet using dual-band, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, provided your connection does not require a domain or portal page. Tablets do not have any way to browse or download content, so having a PC is necessary.

It just has a file manager as its main interface. If you press the home button, you can view a list of documents or write notes with your pen. The drop-down menu provides options for viewing pages as thumbnails, viewing your annotations, comparing two documents next to each other, uploading annotations, and creating side-by-side pages. The PDF viewer does not allow you to jump to a specific page; the only options are an imprecise slider and a grid view. Working with lengthy documents becomes much more problematic than it should be.

Turning the pages of a book is done by swiping. You can swipe without any problems; the pages can be a little slow to change, but the screen does not flash. However, you can also zoom in other ways: Tap the top of the screen, tap the zoom icon, and then tap the area that you want to zoom in. This application is clunky and slow once more.

The stylus that comes with Sony allows you to take notes or mark up documents. It’s not a standard capacitive stylus, so you will have to buy a replacement for $79.99. Once imported back into your PC, your notes and markups will be preserved. On the tablet’s annotation list, you can see your notes and markups as well.

Compared to a live notebook or sketchbook, the tablet is better suited for annotation. Even though the stylus tip has an excellent grip on the screen, it’s a bit slow when it responds to E Ink, and it’s not pressured or tilt sensitive. Underlining, circling, correcting, and bulleting things will be its main purpose-not taking whole meetings’ worth of notes or drawing pictures. Get the iPad Pro for those purposes.

The tablet does pretty much nothing else. As opposed to a Kindle, it can’t viewbooks, read aloud, translates languages, hooks into keyboards, or browse the internet. Users are only allowed to read and mark up documents.

Reading Experience

Due to its 13-inch screen, the DPT-RP1 presents an alternative way to read books as well as a large tablet like the Microsoft Surface Pro or iPad Pro. But its competitors will come later. However, it truly scratches an itch no other e-reader can.

Since I don’t use any other e-readers for reading, I did not find that itch to incorporate reading books. While reading textbooks or heavily graphical travel guides, the DPT-RP1 really opened up the text. Seeing pages of notes and interpreting them was much easier on the big screen than it was on a small e-reader, in part because I could read more at once. Legal briefs, for instance, could become a huge deal because of this.

There is a bit of reflectivity on the matte screen, but not enough to bother me. I enjoy its easy-to-view screen, though I don’t find it quite as easy to use as the newer Kindles, with their higher-resolution screens.

The margins are an ideal place to add marginalia to textbooks. There is usually some white space around the edges of the screen for bullets, underlining, and doodles and these can all be synced back to your PC for later review.

However, I found it difficult to use this tablet for strictly note-taking — the slight lag in the E Ink was too distracting. Its lack of versatility makes it unusable in a creative environment. My friend was not pleased with the latency or lack of pen sensitivity after I gave her this tablet.

There was no alternative to syncing files from a PC onto the tablet, and I kept wishing that the tablet supported public library apps. By email? By mobile app? Online? Dropbox? What else?

Comparisons

DPT-RP1 is definitely a product I can see people loving. You may remember the Kindle DX from way back then. You can use this device if you’re a lawyer who prints out stacks of 11-by-14 briefs on your office computer and then syncs them with this device. A tablet like this is your new best friend if you are an academic who reads PDF-format journals cluttering your desk. Don’t bother with an iPad if you’re a musician who wants to carry around sheet music without it getting dog-eared.

For creators, however, an Apple Pencil-equipped 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the better choice as it’s more versatile when it comes to filing formats and apps. It has a higher-resolution screen, supports more file formats, and has a less expensive price if you are simply looking for a large ebook reader.

Despite being superior to the Sony Digital Paper in some ways, I’m not convinced by the ReMarkable and Onyx Boox Max Carta tablets. In addition to ReMarkable’s pen being more responsive, the screen is not nearly as big as Sony’s, and the screen is a major selling point for Sony. The Onyx Boox Max Carta does not have finger-touch functionality, and it runs an old, insecure version of Android with apps that are prone to glitches (despite this, it does have apps). The device costs $1,000. Although the Sony DPT-RP1 does have some flaws, it still stands out as the best extra-large e-reader.

Pros Cons
Comes with a stylus for marking up documents. The stylus is laggy, lacks pressure sensitivity.
Light. Very basic software.
Big

SUMMARY

Digital Paper DPT-RP1 offers a simple, easy way to view and mark up large digital stacks of documents.