back to article TCL's latest e-ink tech looks good on paper, but Chinese giant will have to back up extraordinary claims

As the world's second largest TV manufacturer, Chinese tech conglomerate TCL is best known for its displays. In that vein, it has shown off its newest e-ink technology at IFA, dubbed NXTPAPER, which promises richer colour and a refresh rate comparable to that of a smartphone. Electronic paper displays, like those on the Amazon …

  1. cbars Silver badge

    Great

    There was a phone that did try to cross over, the Yotaphone, I believe it was reviewed on the Reg too. Reading the news outside on your lunch break is much more pleasant on eink

    Slap more eink screens on the back of smartphones, I say

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Great

      i remember that one, is was about the time I was bemoaning my galaxy S2 battery just didn't hold up for eBooks when travelling a distance. I thought it was a pretty good idea.

    2. Whitter
      Thumb Up

      Re: Great

      I still use mine. Great phone.

    3. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Great

      Onyx are apparently bringing out a Boox fully eInk phone.

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Can you fold it or cut it?

    If not, it's not "digital paper" we're discussing, it's digital ink. I'm all for the technology, but the name is grossly misleading.

    One day we might have thin foldable sheets of "paper" that can be written, erased and rewritten electronically - that would be fun, but this is not it.

    1. ChrisC

      Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

      I wouldn't say grossly - eInk attempts to digitally replicate (with no small amount of success) the look of ink on paper, so describing an eInk display as "digital paper" isn't *really* that far removed from reality. Sure, you can't do to it all the things you can do with a real sheet of paper, but in the specific context of being a replacement for paper *when used for the purposes of displaying printed information*, it's damn close.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

      I'm not convinced that foldable is desirable, unless it's also very cheap (and easy to recycle.) If it's really foldable, that means there will be creases, both intentional and unintentional, and even if the display doesn't degrade in quality at the creases, their presence will get annoying pretty quickly.

      I'd far rather have a good quality rigid display at the expense of portability, unless a foldable display is cheap and easy to replace when it gets creased.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

        Rollable screens seem a much more feasible idea. Someone (LG maybe?) has already demonstrated a TV that rolls up. It may not be able to fold up quite as nice and flat as paper, but old school scroll cases would still be far more convenient than rigid displays.

        1. John Hawkins

          Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

          Putting the scroll back into scrolling maybe?

          1. ChrisC

            Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

            Could use it to create digital versions of those roll-out vertical banners you see at trade shows and suchlike...

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

          PlasticLogic did most of the early work on this, looking for ways to avoid having to use glass substrates. Came up with some great stuff but not enough cash to go to market: usual 80/20 rule. Some day…

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

          "Rollable screens seem a much more feasible idea."

          And would allow the "PDAs" from the TekWar TV series to become a reality (think papyrus scroll that pulls out to be A4 sheet), as well as bigger things like Marty McFly's roller blind

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

        "If it's really foldable,"

        Can you make a Paper Aircraft and maybe Release it Into Spaaaaaace???

    3. CrackedNoggin

      Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

      Can you stuff it in wet shoes to dry them out more quickly?

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

        No, but you can bind many pages of it together and hold it over your head to keep yourself dry in the rain. It’s the Pac-a-Macbook.

    4. Natalie Gritpants Jr

      Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

      Still won't be paper unless you can burn it safely

    5. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

      Can you stain the carpet with it or squeeze it out of a squid? If not, it's definitely not digital ink. So I'm not sure your effort ot naming is much better Mike137

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Looking forward to seeing this in action

    Maybe a new generation of laptops could use that. If you can actually watch films on it, the energy savings would be immense for those who send their days reading and writing email.

    Technology can be great.

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: Looking forward to seeing this in action

      This is hype, nothing more. I've tried 2 on Arduino, I won't be back for a 3rd.

      "e-ink" makes it sound like it is the ink that is supposed to look real, it's not, it's the paper (I guess "e-ink" is more believable than "e-paper"). When you look at the screen shots you think "ooh neat" but when you get it you're like "wait...". The problem is, while the screens are cheaper than their more sophisticated competitors (at least on Aliexpress), the competitors can use tricks to mirror or out perform "e-ink". ie. magnification, dimming, dithering.

      For 60 years "Etch A Sketch" has held a pretty unique crown, e-ink won't be stealing it (sadly).

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Looking forward to seeing this in action

        To paraphrase:

        "Cheap last gen tech is awful therefore this cutting edge future tech will be awful too."

        Yes, it's highly likely they're overegging the pudding here, but you can't know for sure it will be in any way comparable to what we've seen so far.

  4. Sykowasp

    This sounds like a modern version of the old reflective LCD screens. A matte display will give a paper-like look, and probably act as a diffuser for incoming light.

    1. Quentin North

      I think reflective LCD still required power to the display at all times to maintain state, which eink doesn't.

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Yes they do.

  5. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Digital board games

    A digital 'board' for playing chess outside would be nice. Whilst it would never have tactility of a real chess board, the advantages it could offer are:

    - a huge range of other games would be available, Go, Civilisation, - anything 'turn based'

    - human Vs computer play, human Vs human over internet

    - you can't lose the physical pieces

    - when playing Scrabble against other humans, the board can be instantly rotated 90 degrees

    Note: some games such as Scrabble would require each player to use their phone view their letters without revealing them to other players... unless this this digital game board had a lenticular section on each edge that was only visible to a player sat there.

    1. Dabooka

      Re: Digital board games

      I'm sure someone posted on here many months ago about a startup and a digital game board.

      Can anyone else recall it or am I dreaming agin?

  6. To Mars in Man Bras!
    FAIL

    Wake Me When It's Rugged

    E-Ink. Lovely to read on. Great outdoors in bright sunlight. But... fragile as feck. The damned screens practically break if you look at them the wrong way. E-Ink boffins need to address that shortcoming before attaching more bells and whistles to the things.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Wake Me When It's Rugged

      Shouldn't too tricky to fix. My Kindle has a few small dead areas where it has evidently met hard objects in a bag, but I always figured it was because it has a soft plastic screen, a material likely chosen for reasons of low weight, low cost, and low light reflectivity.

      A textured glass or thicker, stiffer plastic screen should be feasible.

      For the board game setup discussed above, a toughned glass would likely be required due to the size of it - and people being sure to place beer bottles on it. This thicker glass might cause parallax issues, but probably tolerably so for the use case.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Wake Me When It's Rugged

      The screens are no less resilient than anything else that relies on glass. I'm a klutz so I keep my readers in a case. One of them is 10 years old and still going strong. Should be standard for anything more than about 5cm in diagonal.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Wake Me When It's Rugged

      "The damned screens practically break if you look at them the wrong way."

      Maybe you have an exceptionally hard stare? Both my and my wifes Kindles are still working perfectly after many years of use.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Wake Me When It's Rugged

        I'd probably still be using my JetBook from 10+ years ago if it hadn't been in my hand when I fell down stairs. I'd certainly have my replacement Kobo if my daughter hadn't jumped on it using the bed as a trampoline.* (Note: as I've said before, I very rarely buy new electronics, so both were second-hand). My experience is that, within the usual use-range, they are very durable, subject to using a case.**

        *Admittedly, I do like the back-light on my replacement (second-hand) Glo, which I would not have but for the need to replace the Kobo.

        ** I do keep thinking about making one out of aluminium plate given the way I have killed the previous ones!

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Wake Me When It's Rugged

      "E-Ink. Lovely to read on. Great outdoors in bright sunlight. But... fragile as feck."

      They're also bloody expensive

      an E-ink 14inch monitor costs over $800

      The monochrome module ALONE is over $400: https://shopkits.eink.com/product/13-3%CB%9D-epaper-display-vb3300-nca%E3%80%90display-module-only%E3%80%91-%E3%80%90flexible%E3%80%91/

      colour ones are over $1200 and the 31inch display is insanely expensive:

      https://shopkits.eink.com/product/31-2%CB%9D-color-epaper-display-ec312tt2/ (NB: This is NOT true color eink, it's a ink/LCD hybrid. AECP is even pricier!)

      For a lot of "business use" (ie, "not games"), e-ink would be better than LCD screen if it wasn't for the cringy price

  7. Chris Gray 1
    Go

    Would love It

    I have one of the original Kindle "Keyboards". Its one of the ones where Amazon provided old low-bandwidth internet access for free. (That might still be active - haven't tried for a while - I just use WiFi to get books.) The device still works as well now as it did when it was new - I've seen no fragility, all the buttons still work fine, battery charge lasts weeks, etc. I use it mostly indoors, but it was fine in direct tropic sun.

    I would love a good colour E-Ink device - it would make the book cover images much nicer! Many of the newer E-Ink devices include one or more LED lights that you can turn on to illuminate the screen, so you can read in darkness.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Would love It

      Kindle Keyboard also plays Audiobook

  8. Duffy Moon

    I would just like a decent-sized, reasonably priced, colour ereader with a built-in light, so that I can read magazines, journals and comic books on it.

    1. Imhotep Silver badge

      At one time you'd hear about people working on it, but it's been a couple of years. This is what I'd like to see too, only in color for the USA market.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Pocketbook has them now: https://pocketbook.de/de_de/color-moon-silver

        1. Imhotep Silver badge

          Thank you for the link.

        2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Thanks also for that. I shall have to investigate further; my German us still not as good as I would like but I see no mention of useful information such as battery life, any requirements to register to use it, and compatibility with Calibre. All of my books (except one, bought to see how it worked) are already unencrypted epubs and I have no intention of changing that.

          But it does definitely look worth further investigation.

  9. Loud Speaker

    400 page "Data sheets" and maintenance manuals

    A use that is absolutely crying out for an A3 folding "Ebook" - ie two A4 facing pages.

    You can go on site with the data sheets for every possible product you can imagine, and all the components its made from, and have pages for two devices visible at once. Schematics large enough to read, etc.

    One per field service engineer on the planet sounds like a reasonable market, and a

    fair number will get lost/stole/broken every year.

    Probably the only folding device that makes any sense at all.

    Never mind thinness - what about gorilla glass and a pull out keyboard with a tracker ball in case you need to do actual engineering?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: 400 page "Data sheets" and maintenance manuals

      Sony has an A4 device precisely for this kind of use but I think volumes are still considered to be to low.

  10. Whitter
    Meh

    Nice but...

    Refresh rate isn't the real problem with EInk from my useage.

    Its poor contrast ratios, poor black level, poor white level (all pretty much the same thing) and previous-image ghosting (when using a low-power refresh).

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Nice but...

      My Kobos have all are great to read in virtually any kind of lighting condition: ghosting hasn't been a problem for years. Full refresh is now generally one a chapter and some of these can be pretty long and never a problem. Full control of text size, margins, etc. and indirect lighting are a win, win, win.

      1. Whitter

        Re: Nice but...

        That's very much use-as-a-e-book case senario. And I completely agree.

        But for more general usage, images and so on, contrast ratio / dynamic range is more significant.

        On the rear screen of my YotaPhone2, reading text is easy and great.

        Browsing websites? Not so good. All the pastels tend to a grey mush.

  11. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Stop

    Other devices are available

    Electronic paper displays, like those on the Amazon Kindle…

    It's not as if Amazon needs its products promoting, but in terms of software it really is an also ran for e-readers (Kobo, PocketBook and even Sony for PDFs), not helped by insisting on its own propietary format. It really is better journalistic practice to mention the type of device first – here e-readers – and name examples afterwards.

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    not particularly useful at night.

    Ooooh, what a shame. People might have to go old school and, you know, turn on a light.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: not particularly useful at night.

      Turn on a light? That effete modern rubbish? We had to make do with an oil lamp, burning fat rendered down from our food, and we had to light it with a flint and steel...

    2. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: not particularly useful at night.

      Does not _require_ a back light does not mean it can't have one. Potentially a system that is thinner than an lcd display.

      Some use cases might not want a back light and prefer to be thin.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020