Pixel Qi, maker of low-power, sunlight readable displays has closed up shop.

In late 2014 we learned that the company’s founder, Mary Lou Jepsen, was now working on a new display technology project for Google X.

Today GoodEReader reported that Pixel Qi has pretty much gone out of business. But that doesn’t mean there’s no future for the displays the company developed.

pixel qi

Nate at The Digital Reader did a little digging and found out that the intellectual property is under new ownership, and that a startup called Tripuso Display Solutions has the rights to manufacture Pixel Qi technology and is continuing to sell 10 inch screens and produce 7 inch screens.

The smaller screens “should remain in production for a few more years.”

Pixel Qi displays are a special type of LCD which can be used with or without a backlight. Turn on the backlight and you’ve got a somewhat normal looking full color display for a laptop, tablet, or other device. Turn off the illumination and you’ve got what looks like a high-contrast, black and white (or black and grey) screen which you can view using nothing but ambient light.

pixel qi2

Unlike a traditional LCD, you can view these screens in direct sunlight. And when used with no backlight, the screens use significantly less power. Since displays can be some of the most power-hungry components of laptops and tablets, this can lead to a big boost in battery life… at least theoretically.

pixel qi3

In practice, Pixel Qi never produced massive quantities of the displays, they were relatively expensive, there aren’t that many devices available for purchase with a Pixel Qi (or Tripuso) screen, and the colors in full-color mode aren’t especially vibrant.

Pixel Qi’s first screens hit the streets in 2010 and showed a wider range of products at CES the following year and again in 2012, as shown in the video below.

While it looks like they might stick around for a little longer, it’s not clear if Tripuso or anyone else will continue to refine the technology for future use.

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10 replies on “Pixel Qi is dead (but its low-power displays are not)”

  1. I use my Pixel Qi screen every day. If I didn’t have it, I would have had to give up using computers altogether about 4 years ago because of photo sensitivity.

  2. How are MLJ’s hired commentards going to spin *that* one, then?

  3. I only have experience with the “alpha” version of the Pixel Qi display in the form of the original OLPC XO but that was not very usable in no-backlight mode. The viewable angles were very narrow and you could only use it realistically with a high amount of ambient lighting. In practice, it was unusable indoors and you had to have the backlight on all the time and the colour mode was VERY unimpressive (washed out).

    Now, the Pixel Qi may be a seriously improved version but I hardly think that I would swap it with the high-quality IPS panel of my current laptop.

    1. Sola i would say there is a definite market for a smartphone utilising transflective screen technology right now. I like a lot of other people are now replacing dedicated Garmin GPS units with smartphones running open source apps like OSMand that have free downloadable vector maps stored onto a SD card and the phone stealthed down into airplane mode and connected to dedicated external GPS transceiver via bluetooth. This arrangement greatly conserves battery life as you switch off all the power hogging packet radio with this method. The last great major stumbling block is the backlight on the screen itself? As things currently stand you have to turn the display backlight right up to full powe to overwhelm and defeat strong ambient sunlight. This is where transflective tech could really score as you could leave it permanently on instead of being constantly distracted by having to turn it on and off to conserve the battery life. I use mine for cycling around Europe with pre configured and downloaded .gpx route overlays in the OSMand app.

  4. Whatever happened to transflective LCDs in general? Plenty of old Windows Mobile phones had them; now they’re pretty much only found in a few smartwatches.

  5. Ah, Pixel Qi. Back in 2011 I was absolutely convinced that Very Soon Now we would all be using $200 fanless ARM laptops with Pixel Qi screens and Ubuntu preloaded. Not 180 degrees from a Chromebook, I guess, but not really the same thing. Oh well.

    1. Could have been possible, unfortunately companies don’t care what people want.

  6. I liked the idea of these, but they were never financially worthwhile for me when the prices for the display were more than the tablet or netbook I wanted to buy if these were cheaper I’d snap once up in a heartbeat but until then I will stick with good old IPS displays. Hopefully the company that acquired them can make them cheaper

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