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May 2009
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Pixel Qi demonstrates hybrid reflective/backlit display

While Pixel Qi on their website explicitly states that their displays are not based on eInk technology and that they are not affiliated with eInk Corporation this piece of news is highly related to eInk, because potentially we may have a eInk competitor here.

Pixel Qi Hybrid Display

Pixel Qi Hybrid Display

It is a display which according to Pixel Qi is extremely cheap to build from standard LCD display components and in fact it is for the most part an LCD display. With one exception – it can be switched to reflective mode. In this mode it consumes much less power than ordinary LCD display would and becomes monochrome but it can potentially display 3x as many pixels.

According to Pixel Qi consumers will see these displays in notebooks and netbooks by the end of 2009 and in “other devices” sometime in 2010. It looks like it’s easy to integrate this technology into existing designs since according to nerdword, Pixel Qi engineers rigged couple of retail-purchased laptops with their new display with seemingly little effort.

While this technology is mainly geared towards netbooks, notebooks and cellphones to make them usable in the sunlight (another interesting piece of news being Pixel Qi planning to supply displays for $75 laptops), it’s quite possible that much cheaper products price along with acceptable power consumption (though still much higher than eInk which is based on electrophoretic technology) and ongoing developments in battery technology may produce eBook reader that will run for several days on one charge, be usable in sunlight and cost less than Amazon Kindle.

2 comments to Pixel Qi demonstrates hybrid reflective/backlit display

  • David Lang

    reading the direct announcement (and comments on the Pixel Qi website) I think that this is going to be almost exactly the same technology that is deployed on the OLPC

    it has two basic modes of operation

    backlit color LCD with one color per pixel (effective resolution ~2/3 to 3/4 the raw resolution)
    reflective monochrome LCD

    the controller chip for the display implements the tricks necessary to get the color mode

    the controller chip is also able to maintain the display with the rest of the computer shut down.

    this can save a lot of power compared to normal ‘low power’ modes, and with the right hardware the main computer can shutdown between keystrokes (in a book reader, only waking up when you hit a button to turn a page), but this is still a continuous power draw, unlike the e-ink display the kindle has.

    so given equal efforts to let the system sleep, the e-ink displays will run longer on the same battery, ut the Qi display has the advantage of the backlit color mode and the faster display response time of the LCD. but that ‘equal efforts to let the system sleep’ s a _very_ big condition. a system that does a good job of sleeping with the Qi display could last for a lot longer than the kindle currently does with the same battery.

    the e-ink display in my kindle is usable at lower light levels than the reflective mode of my OLPC, but under higher light levels they are both very good.

    but there are a lot of people who look at my kindle and say ‘if only it had a backlit display’, so I expect that someone will come up with a book reader based on the Qi display. it will be interesting to see the result.

  • George

    Exciting, but I’m still waiting for a truly black black and a trul white white.

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