The E Ink has a new version of e-paper in color, and while it’s not quite as pretty as OLED or has a new tech gloss for things like mini- and microLED, the E Ink Gallery 3 is definitely easy on the eyes. Gallery 3 isn’t quite as fast as the e-ink on your Kindle, but it does have some absolutely excellent upgrades over previous versions of Gallery technology and brings us so close to the color e-ink screen that big companies like Amazon might actually risk putting up with a tablet.
Currently, few companies make E Ink color discs based on E Ink else Color Technology, Kaleido. This includes the PocketBook Color (really stylish!) and the Boox Nova3 Color (cooler in theory than in practice). Kaleido was E Ink’s first attempt at coloring e-ink that came in a tool most people could buy. It’s based on a traditional black and white E Ink display with a color filter placed over it that contains red, green and blue pigments. I’ve used quite a few products based on that technique, and while it’s great to see the comics and book covers presented in color, so far Kaleido has been a pretty disappointing experience. Instead of the paper-like white of black and white e-ink, the Kaleido is this…muddy greenish-gray thanks to this color filter. Colors appear only when the backlight is engaged or the full power of the sun is pouring on it. The decision is also trivial. The black and white E Ink has a resolution of 300 dpi, but the Kaleido, depending on the version, ranges from 100 to 150 dpi. The effect is noticeable and frankly unpleasant. E Ink introduced the Kaleido 3 earlier this month and it should fix some issues I had with the latest version, Kaleido Plus, but the muddy colors and reliance on the backlight are still part of the Kaleido deal.
Exhibit 3 seems to remove some of Kaleido’s biggest flaws. Instead of 4,096 colours, it can produce more than 50,000 colours, all at 300dpi resolution. There doesn’t appear to be a need for a backlight for the eye-catching colors – although in the press release E Ink claims the Gallery 3 will have a front-lit LED lamp that should reduce blue light emissions. The reason why previous versions of Gallery color technology retained a similar color gamut with similar accuracy but was not found in consumer devices. That’s because previous versions were as slow as molasses. The full color pages in the latest version took 10 seconds to change. In Gallery 3 this time was reduced to just 1500ms (or 1.5s) when selecting the mode to improve quality over speed. When speed is preferred over quality, the time drops to 350 milliseconds. That’s still pretty slow when you’re used to refreshing your iPad Mini 60 times a second, but that’s a huge leap in speed from generation to generation.
And it’s the big leap in improvements, generation after generation, that got me excited. E Ink needs to significantly improve its refresh rate if it is to compete with displays that refresh 60 times per second or more. This kind of jump in performance, generation after generation, may not be just a coincidence but a sign that the company is really getting started…
This means that we can see actual color E Ink products compete with OLED and LCD technology. Given how easy the E Ink is for the eyes, how much better it performs in sunlight, and how long it lasts to charge, the E Ink tablet would theoretically be a platonic ideal if the page refresh technology could get fast enough.
And maybe E Ink is thinking about that, too. E Ink has released two demo videos along with its announcement. One shows an E Ink display that unfolds like dozens of perishable OLED demos we’ve seen and the other shows an E Ink bending like a whole bunch of Samsung phones.
Again, this technology isn’t quite as accurate as what you’ll find in a foldable phone, or even a roll-on phone right now. But it’s a step in a very cool direction.
E Ink didn’t say which companies, if any, would put Gallery 3 tech in a tablet or phone, but companies like Boox and PocketBook have shown a real willingness to tinker with the next tech and explore all that an E Ink tablet can do in addition to letting you read a book. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an announcement from one of those companies, or the growing number of E Ink tablet makers in China, by the end of the year.