One of the most important parts of any netbook (or any computer for that matter), is the display. But there hasn’t been much progress in netbook display technology over the last 12 months or so. Virtually every netbook on the market today has a 1024 x 600 or 1024 x 576 pixel screen. Some are 8.9 inches while others are 10.1 or 10.2 inches. And some are matte while others are glossy. But for the most part they function exactly the same. But that could all change soon.
Next week at least two companies plan to show off new technologies that could change the way we interact with netbook displays. Pixel Qi will be showing off the first prototypes of its new screen at SID Display Week (and again at Computex the following week). The Pixel Qi screens will have several modes, including a high-contrast, low power e-Paper mode that will let you read outdoors with minimal fuss. For other situations, the screens will be capable of displaying millions of colors at high screen resolutions. Pixel Qi’s Mary Lou Jepsen (one of the designers of the original OLPC XO Laptop) says she’s already playing with one of the screens which has been crammed into an Acer Aspire One laptop.
Ocular Incorporated is also expected to show off a new screen at SID Display Week. Ocular’s product will be a capacitive touchscreen designed for netbooks. Most netbook touchscreens today use the cheaper resistive touch technology which gives screens a slightly washed out look. Resistive touch screens can also only register a single touch at a time, while capacitive displays can support multi-touch gestures. Oculuar will be making screens with sizes ranging from 3.5 inches to 10.4 inches, with prices as low as $22. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you need to place a bulk order to get that price though, so don’t go expecting to pick up a dirt cheap touchscreen to place in your Dell Mini just yet.
My hope is that these screens can get away from the widescreen infatuation. The reason almost all laptops (and digital photo-frames) now have widescreens is because of benefits of mass-production when the same units can be used in all kinds of media devices, where widescreen is (on average) desirable (if not always optimal). These new screens are probably only any use for laptops, so let’s hope sanity returns. Given the sizes being talked about, which do not quite correspond with widescreen TFT sizes (though there are many reasons this could be), there does seem a small hope, though the downside would be that laptop manufacturers may need to rethink their chassis designs to accommodate, unless we want even more ugly bezels.
I’ve been following the company blog. I do hope that not all the Computex showings are private, I’d like to see *something* of this screen before I start putting my hopes into like we all have IONs and non-Intel CPUs…
I’ve been hearing about the Pixel Qi screen for what seems like an eternity. I want to read a real “hands on” review already! I hope the technology lives up to the hype.
It’s a slightly improved OLPC screen that has an e-paper mode. It’s a good screen that consumes a lot less power than “normal” screens. Check the OLPC reviews to learn more about it.
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