Do NOT Buy an Ereader Yet: 6 Upcoming Color Epaper Technologies

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If you want an advanced color ebook reader, wait for these technologies that seek to transform the market. Upcoming e-reader screens like TCL’s Nxtpaper and E Ink’s Advanced Color e-Paper version 2 (Gallery 4100 or ACeP v2) will enhance ebook-reading this year and beyond. Below are six incoming technologies worth waiting for to transform your reading soon. 

  1. E Ink’s Gallery 4100

This e-paper is sensational mainly due to its ability to quickly refresh text and maintain a magnificent color. However, the technology’s cost, specifications, and availability remain unclear. 

Luckily, we can grasp crucial hints from Timothy O’Malley’s (E Ink’s Associate Vice President) interview in early 2022. 

Gallery 4100 Is a Developing Title

The commonly used term to refer to the E Ink technology is Advanced Color ePaper. So, “Gallery 4100” is just a working title. The company will likely drop the name when the product becomes readily available. 

You Could Wait Longer for Color Ereaders Based on Gallery 4100

Currently, the 13.3-inch Atelier development kit is the closest you can get to Gallery 4100. There remains no clue on when to expect ACeP v2 technology. 

Although O’Malley claimed that Gallery 4100 was readily available as a development kit, it takes a substantial time between product development and availability. So, there remains a long way to go despite E Ink working to reduce the ACeP market barriers. 

ACeP v2 Color E Ink Delivers On E-readers

One of the big news is the coming of the four-color pigment E Ink system. While the company declined to provide the exact release date, they highlighted features to expect, the most significant being fast-refresh. 

Notably, Gallery 4100 generates color images using four pigments and blacks using two. This means that Gallery 4100 will rapidly increase refresh speeds by automatically simplifying the illustration. It will also render black-and-white images more quickly as they have less complexity than colored images. 

Black-and-White E Ink Ereaders May Be Cheaper Than ACeP v2

ACeP uses four colors, while E Ink and the like use two (black and white). The complexity in ACeP causes slower refresh speeds as the hardware has to arrange the image in cyan, magenta, yellow, and white (CMYW). On the other hand, a black-and-white panel is quicker as it only needs two pigments. 

The additional complexity in ACeP v2 requires a more expensive manufacturing process and beefier hardware. For this reason, the first ACeP panels will likely cost way more than the black-and-white E Ink. Today, you need several hundred dollars to acquire the readily available ACeP development kits. 

If the price remains, a consumer e-reader would be unaffordable. However, ACeP’s fast refreshes and high color saturation are likely to make it the only technology to feature in Kindle. These characteristics make ACeP the perfect choice for reading comic books and textbooks. 

Gallery 4100’s Battery Life

Gallery 4100 is more power-consuming than E Ink Carta. However, O’Malley cites the difference as minimal compared to the Wi-Fi power drain. So, the Gallery 4100 may require a trivial amount of additional power. 

ACeP v2’s Resolution, Size, and Cost

O’Malley was hesitant to provide the estimated price, release date, or dimensions. However, you’re likely to dig deeper into your pockets when buying Gallery 4100 than in Black-and-white E Ink. Unfortunately, the price variance between the two remains unknown. 

  1. E Ink Kaleido Plus

This incoming technology uses the color-filter array (CFA) to generate color. The CFA is a color filter connected to another electrophoretic panel. This leads to many layers of full-color display with a more diminished resolution than in the standard E Ink panel. Unfortunately, colors produced through CFA aren’t appealing to the eye. 

The readily available CFA panel’s color depth ranges at about 4096. This affects Kaleido Plus’ color saturation, with images looking washed out. The e-reader isn’t bad, but it lacks the quality you expect in a Kindle. 

  1. Display Electronic Slurry (DES)

DES has similar technology to E Ink Kaleido but is cheaper and has higher color saturation. Besides, it uses a red-blue-green CFA layer for colored text and a latticework for its black-and-white layer. DES’ use of fewer display elements contributes to its high color saturation. 

While DES panel boasts richer color saturation than Kaleido, it suffered teething issues, including image ghosting and artifacts. This caused Reinkstone to drop the DES panel in R1, moving to a second generation. We’re yet to see what the final product brings. 

Devices slated to incorporate the DES panel include Topjoy Butterfly. It is unlikely that Amazon Kindle will use the panel since it’s Kaleido’s variation. 

  1. TCL’s Nxtpaper Mid

During IFA 2020 event, TCL introduced Nxtpaper, a reflective liquid crystal display (RLCD) technology. Unfortunately, the technology was delayed several times due to the pandemic’s impact on global supplies. Today, the future of RLCD technology still seems to be in limbo. The available video about Nxtpaper shows excellent color saturation, but the company is yet to comment on its availability. 

Recently, TCL announced Nxtpaper 10s, but this one isn’t an RLCD unit but a standard LCD screen with limited blue-light emissions.

Nxtpaper Mid tablet’s fate remains unclear. 

  1. ClearInk

Just like E Ink’s panels, ClearInk uses an electrophoretic-based reflective technology. The technology also uses the CFA layer for color generation. However, ClearInk uses one black pigment, unlike E Ink, which uses two. Since its launch in 2016, ClearInk has partnered with tech giants such as Tianma and Lenovo. 

One unique thing that ClearInk does is to create a cost-effective color video that doesn’t require backlight. Unfortunately, ClearInk has gone mum since 2019 and hasn’t released any product. Nonetheless, it still has advantages over rivals. 

ClearInk Has More Affordable Color and Video 

E Ink introduced Triton as an e-paper technology, but it failed miserably. It fell way behind Amazon’s Kindle. Besides, Triton was costly and marred with slow refresh rates and a weak contrast ratio. Simply put, Triton’s videos were a mess. 

ClearInk displays about 4096 colors which are less vibrant than OLED or LCD panels. However, its 33Hz video refresh rate is equivalent to YouTube or Broadcast TV. Although ClearInk and E Ink use electrophoresis, they still vary. E Ink’s use of two pigments causes choppy videos and slower refresh rates. 

On the contrary, ClearInk uses a smaller, single color for black-and-white images. It uses clearer and sharper ink than E Ink panels resulting in higher resolution, low power usage, and a color-layered video. 

ClearInk Consumes More Power Than in E Ink

Sure, ClearInk’s video has more power demands than E Ink, but it consumes less than LCD. Besides, ClearInk has a refresh rate of about 33HZ for motion videos which is good enough. 

Waveforms, Color Accuracy, and Ghosting Issues

ClearInk has its shortcomings. Some issues include ghosting, image retention, and failure to refresh the display. Surprisingly, the engineering team blamed the problems on previous prototypes. ClearInk’s color accuracy matches that of Kaleido Plus, meaning you can use it for comics and textbooks but not enterprise-class projects. 

Additionally, you need special hardware and software to develop images on the ClearInk panel. Note that LCD technology’s software techniques and hardware are incompatible with the panel. So, you can’t just drop the panel into a computer without improving hardware and software. 

  1. Tianma’s Color LCD

Tianma Micro-Electronics announced Electrical Bag, a reflective color LCD panel. This technology is compatible with front lights common in e-readers and doesn’t require a backlight. 

Tianma targets the educational market through its 10.5-inch form designed to read colored textbooks. Reflective LCDs can also display videos and images in full color. The only shortcoming is the weak contrast ratio and limited color range. Notably, the Electrical Bag has a PPI of 191 and a contrast ratio of 12:1. Nevertheless, the price is relatively low, and the technology is compatible with any device. 

In 2020, Tianma promised to avail the Electrical Bag to any interested manufacturer. However, the technology has not yet made its way into any products. 

Buy A Cool Color Kindle

The color E Ink’s Gallery 4100 technology is undoubtedly close to Amazon’s e-readers. While DES and Kaleido Plus can display color, the colors are faded and unfit for advanced devices. This makes Gallery 4100 the only technology that seems to rival Amazon’s e-reader. 

Amazon is yet to make moves on color e-paper which could expand its reach to the education market. Let’s wait and see which color e-reader dominates the market. 

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