E Ink is probably best known for making the black and white displays that you find on Kindle and Kobo eReaders. But the company has been dipping its toes in the color display waters for the past few years, and now E Ink says its best color display to date has entered mass production.

Devices with E Ink Gallery 3 color displays should begin arriving in 2023. We’ve already seen one – the Bigme Gally tablet that hit Kickstarter recently has an 8 inch Gallery 3 display. But now PocketBook has announced its first eReader with a Gallery 3 display is coming, and E Ink says we can also expect models from other companies including Onyx BOOX, iFlyTek, iReader, Readmoo, and AOC.

The PocketBook Viva, for example, should be available from Amazon and Newegg in late March or early April for around $599. It has an 8 inch E Ink Gallery 3, built-in page turn buttons as well as touchscreen support, an IPX8 rating for water resistance, a built-in speaker and support for Bluetooth audio, and text-to-speech technology, among other features.

It’s the display that really helps set the Viva apart from existing E Ink Color devices though.

Like most E Ink displays, the new Gallery 3 displays offer a high-contrast, low-power viewing experience that’s easily visible in direct sunlight. What’s new with this technology is that you also get support for thousands of colors at high pixel density.

Earlier E Ink color displays applied a color filter layer in a way that meant that a screen which was capable of showing 300 pixels per inch of black and white content could only display 100 pixels per inch in color.

E Ink Gallery 3 technology uses four different color particles per pixel: cyan, magenta, yellow, and white. This has two benefits: First, you get the same 300 pixels per inch whether you’re viewing black and white or color content. Second, while earlier screens topped out at 4,096 colors, E Ink Gallery offers what E Ink calls “full color gamut.”

What counts as “full” might be up for debate. E Ink doesn’t say exactly how many colors the screens support, but PocketBook says it’s “about 15k.” That’s far short of the millions of colors you’d get from a typical LCD or AMOLED screen, but it’s still a big step up from 4,096.

E Ink says it’s also improved the screen refresh time, although speeds will vary depending on the modes you choose:

  • 350 milliseconds for black and white
  • 500 ms for fast color mode
  • 750 – 1,000 ms for standard color mode
  • 1,500 ms for best color mode

The speedier color modes will likely leave some artifacts from the previous image on the screen, so they may be appropriate for web browsing or playing some simple games, while you’ll probably want the best color mode for viewing documents, comics, or other detailed content.

Clearly these screens aren’t meant for high-motion graphics, so you might want to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a device for watching videos or playing mobile games. But devices like the Bigme Galy and PocketBook Viva could come in handy for reading textbooks, comics, picture books, websites, or other content where you may want to add color to a paper-like display.

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  1. Without built in support for Kobo, Nook and Amazon apps, this ereader is very limited as it can only read DRM-free ebooks.

  2. Looks intriguing. However I think if color e-ink wants to gain some traction they need to let people use these devices in more ways than just an e-reader. I would put a Miracast receiver in these so you’d be able to share your screen and use it as a thin-client to your other devices. Or just a mini-HDMI / USB-C video input would go a long way. If you drop $6-7-800 on a fancy e-ink screen you’d probably want to use it as much as you can.

  3. For me all these devices have the exact same problem, software support. I like to see more options come to the market but I don’t like the idea of buying something that will be a brick in a year or two when some new format gets popular or some vulnerability gets outed and there’s no alternative software source to maintain the device alive.

    Devices like this and phones, tablets, etc. need to start providing a level of support equivalent to a regular PC: i have a 10 year old laptop scrapped away that I still can install windows 11 or anything else with no problems.

    ARM doesn’t make this any more difficult, it’s just a matter of will, upstream stuff and adopt standard device trees, it’s not that hard

    1. The obstacle to providing a level of support equivalent to a regular PC on ARM is really the combination of custom kernels and vendor drivers and unique memory maps for every device, and the actual difficulty of upstreaming stuff. Because upstream doesn’t want to accept blobs of machine language into kernels; microsoft might put up with that if you work out some kind of deal, open source projects won’t. Additionally, having to have device trees does introduce greater complications and more things that have to be changed whenever someone wants to change something, which takes a larger organization to handle with equivalent speed to a smaller organization handling a much smaller tree.
      SoC designers could (supposedly) clear all this up by conforming to the Systemready standard, but really everyone wants to keep planned obsolescence going and getting worse if possible. Extending support for 10 years means lower sales for them and their suppliers, and they’d have to fire, and if they find they can’t, they’d go deeper into debt. Once you start on that business model, you’re stuck on it, and you might not have the option of getting unstuck. You’ve got to move enough to meet your vendors MOQs and they have to set those so they can move enough to meet THEIR vendors MOQs, so they set MOQ per customer and raise it if they can get away with it, and chip designers drop support after a few years to make sure the fab is willing to keep making chips for them.
      In the long run, it’s not making society nicer, but in the short run it’s keeping the employees alive for the next two weeks and the shareholders appeased for the next quarter.