First look at Pixel Qi’s 7 inch display, new netbooks, tablets

Pixel Qi has begun showing off its new 7 inch display based on the same technology used in the company’s low power 10.1 inch screen. Pixel Qi’s displays can function both as full color LCD screens and as high contrast, grayscale displays which are viewable without a backlight by relying on ambient lighting — much like an E Ink display. The difference is that while E Ink screens have slow refresh rates, a Pixel Qi display can handle full motion video whether the screen is in color or grayscale mode. The only difference is whether the backlight is on or off.

Turning off the backlight not only makes a netbook, tablet, or other device with a Pixel Qi screen readable in direct sunlight — it also drastically reduces the amount of power used by the display — which is often one of the most power-hungry components of a computer.

The new, smaller display has the same 1024 x 600 pixel resolution as the 10 inch model. Pixel Qi has also improved the viewing angles — although they’re still not great. With the backlight off, you can view the screen from pretty wide angles. But in full color mode, the colors start to wash out pretty quickly when you view the screen from the side, which is a bigger problem with tablets than netbooks.

Pixel Qi is also showing a new reference design for a controller that can automatically adjust the screen brightness to improve the battery life of devices with the company’s displays with little to no user intervention.

The first consumer product expected to ship with Pixel Qi’s 10 inch display is the Notion Ink Adam tablet, which is set to start shipping to customers next week. But Pixel Qi is finally starting to show some of the other products that will soon ship with its displays, including another tablet and two netbooks — all of which are set to launch in the first quarter of 2010.

Two of the most interesting products are a netbook from Genesi with an ARM-based processor and Linux-based operating system, which should get excellent battery life with the backlight turned off, and a Windows netbook from Clover Systems called the SunBook.

Pixel Qi has been showing off netbooks retrofitted with its screens for well over a year. But unlike those Lenovo computers, the SunBook is actually designed for the Pixel QI screen and even included a special Fn key for turning off the backlight with a keystroke.

The netbook has an Intel Atom N450 CPU, and Clover Systems says it gets between 8 and 12 hours of battery life and runs Windows 7 Starter. 3G and 4G wireless options will also be available.

Unfortunately, while the SunBook will be one of the first Windows 7 netbooks to ship with a Pixel Qi screen, it will come at a premium price. The company will charge $865 for the netbook.

That’s likely because the company is buying low volumes of the displays. Pixel Qi founder Mary Lou Jepsen told me that Clover Systems actually started the SunBook project by purchasing some of the $275 DIY screen kits from the Maker Shed and Pixel Qi didn’t even find out about the netbook until later. Companies like Notion Ink which purchase larger quantities will be able to negotiate much better pricing.

Jepsen says the company hasn’t decided whether to offer its new 7 inch displays through the Maker Shed or not, but she’d like to make it possible for DIY enthusiasts to buy the new screens.

Pixel Qi has also confirmed that the company is working on several new screen sizes and resolutions, including an upcoming 9.7 inch display for one client (which Jepsen wouldn’t name), and a new 10.1 inch screen with a higher resolution 1280 x 800 pixel display.

  • strat

    Asides to the partly improved viewing angles, have you seen other improvements as better colours or for the reflective mode, higher whiteness/eink like and indoors readability?

    • Anonymous

      They have made a number of improvements since their showing from last year’s CES but present specs are still showing some limitations, like “Color Saturation T 40% NTSC”…

      http://www.pixelqi.com/products

    • Fakeer

      With the DIY version the viewing angles etc. seem not quite upto the mark. Here is a comparison to Kindle – http://ivywood.org/?q=node/21

  • NS

    Right now it is only NI adam using it. Pixel qi should partner with android tablet makers and have a products on the market. Marvell and Pixel qi are just waiting for the manufacturers to adapt their products. It is old models of doing business. Right now, if you have a technology produces a consumer products, lcd and cpu are no longer a commodity products. You have to have a tablet or netbooks with your own brand to sell.

  • Anonymous

    I’d like this in a 12′ screen please.

  • Anon

    Need 1366×768 Pixel Qi screen – for business applicatoins in the field.

    Oh – Brad – have you been to Norhtec and seen if they plan to try Pixel Qi in their 10.1 inch edubook, and what new CPU that they might be using in this new netbook?

    • http://liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      They’re working on a 10 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display. I just updated the post with that info. I got the sense they didn’t want us to mention it, but a number of other sites are running with that news.

      As for Norhtec, I haven’t seen them yet — and I might not be able to make it today. Came down with a minor case of the plague last night and if I make it to the Convention Center floor today, it might be for a slow, leisurely stroll. But honestly, I highly doubt they’d do this. The screens are currently far too expensive to meet their needs.

      • Anon

        Would be great if they would do two (and/or three) things:
        1) Engineer power savings that Mary Lou did for OLPC into Edubook 10.1 inch device and test the new Pixel Qi screen.
        2- Offer an option (like Notion Ink Adam) to choose to have Pixel Qi screen (or) regular LCD screen (at different prices).
        3- Or, if neither 1 or 2, then would test the screens so that we could get the Pixel Qi kit screen and know it would work with their 10.1 device – and MAYBE then, let us buy their unit at a cheaper price with no screen, so that we could add our own Pixel Qi Screen.

        I love the AA battery concept that they had with their other Edubook. Just want it now with Pixel Qi screen and power savings.

      • http://ivywood.org/?q=node/21 Fakeer

        The availability of an assortment of sizes alone does not guarantee that your laptop screen is replaceable. The the connector type and the panel thickness are huge variables that get in the way. For example there are countless netbooks with a 10.1 inch screen but barely a handful are compatible with Pixel Qi’s first production model. I think the DIY thing is not really taking this thing anywhere. Check out the results with the Samsung NB30 here http://ivywood.org/?q=node/21

  • Anonymous

    Looks like Charbox got an interview with Pixel Qi’s Mary-Lou Jepsen…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2hXFOyf9pE