Even with tablets featuring full-colour high-res LCD screens available for less than $150, ereaders, with their black and white electronic paper displays, are more popular than ever because they’re as easy on the eyes as real printed paper. So if you stare at a computer all day, maybe it’s time to consider an E Ink monitor for at least one of your displays.
That’s how the Waveshare EINK-DISP-103 is designed to be used: as a 10.3-inch desktop display that forgoes LCD or OLED technologies for a black and white (16 shades of grey) E Ink display with a resolution of 1872 x 1404 pixels. It’s larger than the screens used on the Amazon Kindles and most other ebook readers, but it’s definitely not the largest E Ink screen you can get in a device; Sony’s DPT-RP1 Digital Paper tablet boasts an electronic paper display measuring 13.3-inches in size.
The E Ink monitor doesn’t include touchscreen functionality, but on the side and on its bezel are a collection of small buttons that can be used for adjusting contrast, forcing a full-screen refresh to get rid of artifacts, and switching between display modes. Unlike an ebook reader it’s also lacking its own processor or operating system, so it won’t do anything until you pass it a signal from another device through its mini HDMI port. The display doesn’t even have a backlight or any kind of self-illumination, so if you’re working through the night, you’ll need to keep the lights on or a lamp nearby.
One of the drawbacks to E Ink technology has traditionally been its slow refresh rates, which isn’t a dealbreaker when simply flipping through the pages of a book, but can be problematic when trying to use the displays as a computer screen.
To help improve its performance, the EINK-DISP-103 can switch between three display modes: GC16 which produces the best imagery at the slowest refresh rates, A2 which reduces resolution and grayscale depth for faster screen refreshes, and then A2+ which is a hybrid of both. It’s doubtful you’ll ever want to try watching YouTube or Netflix movies on this display, but for other daily tasks, like monitoring social media or writing emails, it sounds like it could be a nice backup for your main LCD screen.
What will hamper the adoption of E Ink screens like this isn’t the lack of colour or the limited refresh rates, it’s the price. Waveshare is asking a hefty $US540 ($812) for this display, which is especially pricey given Sony uses the exact same 10.3-inch E Ink display in its DPT-CP1 Digital Paper tablet which it sells for around $600, but manages to also include stylus functionality, Wi-Fi, and a self-contained OS. But the EINK-DISP-103 is a great idea, so here’s to hoping someone can make a clone that brings the price down to something a little more reasonable.