The benefits of electronic paper make the unique display technology the ideal choice for reading, and have allowed e-readers to stay relevant and popular even while colour screen tablets are often cheaper than some Kindles and Kobos. But would you opt for a laptop with a black and white e-paper screen?
That’s what a team from a Boston-based company called Modos is currently developing. The Paper Laptop, as it’s simply called, will forego an LCD or OLED screen for a large electronic paper display. The team hopes to bring the benefits of e-readers — like great battery life, less eye fatigue, and better visibility in bright sunlight — to portable computers. As much as gamers may balk at the idea of being limited to a monochromatic black and white display (Modos hasn’t made any mention of adopting the colour e-paper displays that are slowly trickling out onto consumer-ready devices) the reality is that the majority of laptop users mostly use their devices for email, spreadsheets, word processing, and other text-focused tasks, where e-paper excels.
Browsing the web won’t be as rich an experience as it is on a device with a full colour screen, but Modos has also recently demonstrated its work on an e-paper monitor that’s been tuned to achieve 60fps refresh rates, making scrolling web pages extremely smooth and facilitating full speed video playback. Images and videos are still limited to black and white, but that’s potentially a limitation that could help make procrastinating by surfing the web less appealing: an unexpected bonus to the technology.
Although Modos’ claims that its portable is the “world’s first e-ink laptop” are probably accurate given its use of the types of e-paper screens that companies like E Ink produce, years ago the OLPC team’s XO laptop took a similar approach with a low-power TFT LCD display that worked well in bright sunlight while sipping power.
The XO was a failure on many levels, but Modos appears to be taking a very measured approach to getting its Paper Laptop into the hands of consumers. At this point, it’s still in the prototype stages of the device. In a recent blog post, the company revealed it is “in the process of securing funding for our pilot program and building prototypes for its participants” while also asking interested members of the community to participate in a survey that includes questions about potential pricing and applications for the laptop. The company is hoping to get at least 50,000 interested buyers before moving forward with the project, and hopefully in the coming months it will be able to show off its prototypes, which should help get potential buyers more excited about the idea: assuming it can deliver on all the benefits that e-paper promises.