The 3rd generation color e-paper, E Ink Kaleido 3 is now available for e-readers and digital note taking devices. It offers richer colors, increasing its color saturation by 30% compared to the previous generation, E Ink Kaleido Plus, in addition to 16 levels of grayscale and 4,096 colors. Kaleido 3 also uses E Ink ComfortGaze, a new front light technology that reduces the amount of blue light, with a reduced Blue Light Ratio (BLR) and Blue Light Toxicity Factor (BLTF) by up to 60% and 24% respectively. BLR is the ratio of toxic blue to total blue light output, and BLTF is the ratio of brightness to hazardous blue. Additionally, the responsiveness of the ink means that Kaleido 3 can play animations and videos. How does the innerworkings of this new color e-paper work?
The last few generations of color e-paper could only display 4,096 colors and 100 PPI. Kaleido 3 managed to increase the color accuracy to 150 PPI. This was accomplished by putting the Color Filter Array closer to the ink layer. The company did further updates to the print pattern, in the past they used glass and they switched over to plastic. Do colors look washed out as previous versions of Kaleido? E INK said K3 reduces the light scatter and loss of color. LCDs using CFA do not have this issue given that they are emissive. The tradeoff is energy efficiency, and eye fatigue. E INK is also using RBGW colors and not CMYK.
What is the deal with the new ComfortGaze technology? ComfortGaze was specifically designed to be within certain guidelines for BLR and BLTR. In the past, most front light designs did not address both of these color spectrums, and they were tuned specifically for the aesthetics of the light color to the viewer, rather than the eye health benefit. ComfortGaze was not exclusively designed for Kaleido 3 in mind, instead it will be compatible with traditional e-readers and e-notes that use a black and white display panel.
Kaleido and Kaleido Plus were only compatible with E INK Carta HD display panels, this limited the number of digital note taking devices that employed the technology. With the Advent of Kaleido 3, E INK put a priority on supporting their latest generation screens. It is now compatible with E INK Carta 1200, which the latest generation Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and Paperwhite Signature edition employ. The main benefits is 30% performance increase, across the board. Page turn speed has also been increased. It is also compatible with Carta 1250, which is primarily designed for digital note taking devices. It includes all of the benefits of 1200, except it reduces the latency in drawing with a stylus, so pen to screen is quicker. E INK also disclosed to Good e-Reader that K3 is compatible with On-Cell Touch, which is only found on the Onyx Boox Nova 3 Color. E Ink’s new technology incorporates touch directly into the e-paper – making the display clearer for the end-user and the cost of materials lower for device manufacturers. It will be the new standard going forward, and capacitive displays will be a thing of the past. This new technology dramatically increases performance of black and white displays by 30% and increases the contrast ratio, providing readers with clearer and more defined text. When used with E Ink Kaleido Plus or E INK Kaleido 3, the color contrast ratio and color saturation increase by 40% and 15% respectively, providing an enhanced display for color ebook and digital textbooks.
E INK Kaleido 3 will be able to play videos, similar to other e-paper. The framerate will be 8-9 frames per second. It is achieved by an updated module hardware design with enhanced compatible waveforms, and customer’s software enhancements. An example of software being able to increase frames is with various speed modes, such as A2 or Onyx Boox X-Mode.
One of the big advancements in this new color e-paper is support for larger screens. It has been optimized for 7.8, 10.3 and finally 13.3 Will the color resolution increase beyond 150 PPI on larger displays? E INK told me “Potentially yes – mainly as the TFT resolution will dictate the final resolution of the display. At this time, all will have the same resolution.” This seems like a NO to me, so how will 150 PPI look on a 13.3? Will colors be bright and vibrant? We might have to wait for an official release to make the ultimate call. I have seen a few 10.3 with Kaleido Plus, and the colors looked really good at 117 PPI, which was increased beyond the standard 100 PPI, via software enhancements. I am sure the next wave of 10.3 devices will employ Carta 1250, which not only will boost up performance, but color accuracy too.
Before E INK made the official announcement on Kaleido 3 last month, the company did send out development kits to their customers who have continued to release color e-paper. They did not mention them by name, do to various NDA. I surmise they sent them to Onyx Boox, Pocketbook, iReader, iFlytek, and Bigme. All of these brands typically release at least one color e-paper device per year, sometimes more. When can we expect new hardware based on the new color screens? We might have to wait until Fall or Winter of 2022. It takes a while to understand new color technology and how it can be optimized with software. There is now more choice than ever with support for Carta 1200, Carta 1250 and On-Cell Touch, being able to experiment and then finalize a design, mass production and then final release takes 3-6 months. I am fairly sure, once the next wave come out, there will be a stark difference between Kaleido Plus vs Kaleido 3.
Finally, will Kaleido 3 work with foldable e-readers? E INK said that they will and even have a new prototype that they are floating around various screen technology events such as Touch Taiwan and SID Display Week.
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.