Color e-readers with superb color accuracy and a great user experience have been the holy grail for the industry. Major players are evaluating the technology to best position themselves for compelling e-paper smartphones and ebook readers to be released in 2021. The tech they will be employing is called E INK Kaleido 2 and here is everything you need to know about it.
Last year, after three years of development, E INK released Kaleido e-paper in 2020. Kaleido utilizes a new printed Color Filter Array (CFA) technology in conjunction with E Ink’s second generation, faster and brighter, Carta 1100 ink. The new printing process alleviates the need for a glass-based CFA, making the displays thinner and lighter than previous generations, while simultaneously having higher optical quality. This allows e-reader companies to combine the power of traditional black and white displays with color for a more fully realized ebook shopping experience. In addition, E Ink’s faster ink enables quicker updates for animations and video.
Kaleido e-paper can produce color for each pixel that is displayed on the screen. This includes red, green, blue, black or white. Colors can be combined to give you different colors or shades. The way it works is if you want light blue, blue will be toned down and white will be brighter. If you want orange, then yellow and red would be blended. It will ultimately display over 4,096 different color combinations at 100 PPI.
It was primarily Chinese companies that released the first wave of e-readers and smartphones. Pocketbook enjoyed tremendous success with their Pocketbook Color, due to its low price and it was available in English. Onyx Boox released the Poke 2 Color, with Android 9 and Google Play, the first batch sold out in 24 hours, the second, less than a month. Suffice to say, everyone is enamoured with color.
E INK recognized there were some fundamental problems with Kaleido, that needed to be addressed right away. After six months of development they released Kaleido 2 or it is now known as Kaleido Plus. It solves many of the issues we noticed with the first generation. The greyscale uniformity has been drastically improved, so the background will always be grey, instead of colors trying to mix together to create grey. It has better color accuracy, support for screens as small as 5.84 and as large as 10.3, and everywhere in between. Since they are focused on larger screens, this means they have solved how many colors can be displayed simultaneously and upped the PPI, for higher resolution content. They also augmented the regal waveform controllers for faster performance, in regards to displaying graphic novels, comics, manga and ebooks. The color gamut has been improved by over 3x and text is crisper.
In 2021, there have been two devices officially announced and a few others that will be unveiled soon. The first was the Bigme B1 Pro, a 10.3 inch digital note taking device that allows people to freehand draw, take notes, edit pdf files in full color. The second was the Hisense A7 CC, a 5G enabled smartphone, with a 6.8 inch display. Early photos of the devices show a noticeable improvement with displaying a wide color gamut and higher accuracy.
Manufacturing of the color filter arrays have also been ramping up. E INK has two factories in China that are producing them are a rapid pace, they also expanded another factory outside of Boston, USA, to make even more. What this means, is in 2021 we will see an avalanche of new e-readers, e-notes and smartphones come out with color e-paper displays.
I have heard from the upstream supply chain that Netronix have development kits for Kaleido 2. This means that their core clients such as Barnes and Noble and Kobo will get access to them and evaluate whether or not they want to do anything with it this year, I think one of them will. Amazon does their own designs at Lab126 for future Kindles, so they have their own design teams and engineers in place to evaluate emerging technology.
2021 is the year of color, we have a bunch of surprises coming your way soon.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.