Ask HN: Has any progress been made on large format E-ink displays?


If you’re interesting in building your own you can get a 12″ one from waveshare:…

This is the black/white one, they do a black/white/red one too. But beware, they take really long to refresh (the red color takes several refreshes to appear). And the one with red is on backorder till June.

It can be powered by a raspberry pi (or ESP32 or Arduino) and is (much) cheaper than the ereader options of the same size: Only about $170.

PS Beware: You can’t simply start up a user interface like X-Windows on it. You have to write software to display on it. The display is addressed in 4 separate sections so it’s not super easy.

I did some experiment with the bare version of this display, both with the b/w and the b/w/r displays. The black and white one can be partially updated (window mode) and is a bit faster. The four sections mentioned above don’t have exactly the same size: two sections have slightly fewer pixels in width.
I used a STM32 controller which came with the display; it had just enough memory to fit a whole image. It was interesting to write some ‘generative’ code for it…

The technology is there, but E Ink (the company) is steadfastly refusing to lower prices because they believe there’s a market for this. Now go to Alibaba and find that you can get a flexible, full-color OLED sheet for the same price as a given size E Ink panel.

Go on eBay and buy an older NOOK device (they all ran Android) for $20, tape it to your wall, and point at your web page of choice.

A great example of patents strangling innovation. If anyone has more concrete details on the way this company is holding back this technology I’d love to read details. Thanks!

The irony is that they are probably limiting their profit too. With lower prices the number of applications would skyrocket and they would get much bigger income.

The only reason I can think of is that scaling the production would be difficult for some reason?

Last I checked there were over a dozen patents from the 1990s to the 2010s that cover everything from manufacturing to software. IIRC the most important patents actually cover some algorithms on the display controller that won’t be public domain until the mid to late 2020s.

There is insufficient demand for high priced e-ink screens. Which probably comes down to supply, which probably comes down to patents

I am responding to a parent comment that suggested there was more demand but the company was holding it back. If that is true the only way one company could hold it back is patents.

I’ve long wondered why electrophoretic displays (the generic term for E Ink, which is a proprietary name) continue to be exponentially more expensive at sizes larger than a Kindle while other technologies like OLED have become vastly more affordable in larger formats over a similar timeframe.

The best I can tell is that there just hasn’t been an investment in scaling up fabrication anywhere near what the likes of LG (mostly LG, actually) has done with >40″ OLED panels. Presumably the demand isn’t there yet, and so larger-format electrophoretics remain the product of low-volume, high-cost manufacturing processes.

But e-ink technology isn’t ready to go out of the gate – the refresh rate is still a significant issue that makes it virtually purposeless for much beyond reading. If it is at this point, it just didn’t happen quickly enough.

I’d like a very large e-ink display for artwork, signage, and metrics. It doesn’t have to refresh more than once every several seconds.

Some of the eink displays linked here have 12s refresh, and it does a super annoying flash black/white process while refreshing.

Then you are a niche case. In order to forward a new technology, the masses need to adapt it. Apple, for instance, had to upscale the manufacture of Retina displays by starting with a proven successful product – then moving it to the iPad, then moving it to MacBooks.

We had e-book readers for e-ink, but they stayed at a super slow refresh rate. There was no reason to create a tablet sized e-ink display until the ReMarkable removed the issue of the delay.

Now we will have clones of that, and after that we will see a push to larger displays.

Mass manufacturing is hugely about cost balance vs. demand.

I think digital whiteboards in offices would be a great market for this. Again, though, if you’re going to draw on it at all there needs to be zero latency.

>There was no reason to create a tablet sized e-ink display

Of course there was; large-format publications like newspapers, magazines and technical documents. All requiring large display area and not needing fast refresh. But yet, all ignored by the manufacturers and so LCD tablets became the default for those despite their drawbacks.

I would buy the reMarkable in a heartbeat if it was indeed a 12″ display. Alas, the screen is only 10.3″.

Looks like I can get the Dasung for $1200 used…

It’s a pity because I’d love that thing to read the web on actually.

They might be out due to COVID-related supply issues, I remember seeing them in stock a few months ago. You might have better luck ordering from the company directly.

Can anyone comment on the difficulty (for a hacker) of using Remarkable with Kindle books? I have a Kindle already, if that makes a difference in generating DRM-free files of content I already purchased reading rights to.

has something changed? it used to be easy but looks like there’s a per-device encryption support in new kindles.

I have never been able to get EPUBs to reliably work on remarkable. My solution is to convert them to PDFs.

I also use reMarkable as a (pretty good) EPUB reader, but it is really slow when opening the book for the first time or changing the rendering settings (font size, margins, etc.).

It can sometimes take a minute or two and sometimes it just hangs completely and you have to close the book and re-open it. I assume it’s because it has to somehow render the whole book, to support the handwritten annotations and put them in correct places.

I love reading on my remarkable but using it with Kindle books has been a pain. You can break the Kindle DRM but it’s cumbersome.

Though my main pain point is that you lose the book position syncing you get with the Kindle hardware/apps.

In Shanghai they are used as timetables at bus stops.
Almost A2 size in some stops and smaller ones, about A4 (vertical) at others… The small ones had a clock which updated every minute (windowed mode) while the passenger data updated in longer intervals, probably hourly.

Yes. That’s the bigger one!

It’s strange that the list of buses is sorted by bus number and not by time…

Also: finally a display where advertisement is probably not so attractive.

> It’s strange that the list of buses is sorted by bus number and not by time…

You don’t randomly hop on the first bus that arrives at your bus stop. You need the bus that brings you to your desired destination. The bus number is important to know you’re on the right bus. Sorting by bus number makes it easier to scan for arrival time of the bus you actually need.

Also, every route can be displayed on the board, even if the next ten buses are all on a different route with better service. Better to have the next bus for every route than just the next expected buses

I thought that might be an awesome splurge someday, then I saw the refresh rate of 750ms. Nearly an entire second to see a screen repaint every time I move a cursor.

A Canvas Made of Pixels (

The most interesting problem to tackle was “the blue glowing screen problem”.

One of the many ways that screens give themselves away as screens is by emitting light that is “out of character” with the surrounding environment. They can be too bright or too dark relative to the things around them, and indoors, displays often seem too blue.

I solved these problems with what I call “luminance matching”. The basic idea is to sample the light falling on the frame several times a second, and then adjust the display and image parameters so that what’s displayed is “correct” given the surrounding environment.

There is a need gap for ‘Affordable E-Ink large external displays'[1].

Dasung, Onyx have been market leaders in this category and they are expensive. There are E-ink tablets from several other manufacturers as mentioned in other comments, but they rarely are external displays.

Then there are reliability issues with cheap DIY E-Ink displays, they don’t last long and especially when displaying low refresh rate data like Weather, todo list; there will be ghosting issues quite soon.

I’m not exactly sure on whether manufacturing large E-ink external displays is just an unit-economics problem which will get resolved with improvement in technology or there is some underlying Intellectual Property issues from the likes of Amazon,Dasung,Onyx etc.


Not only are Onyx expensive; they’re basically unusable. A rooted Kobo H2O with koreader in landscape mode is vastly better.

Sony is apparently still selling the DPT-RP1, and it still doesn’t connect to Linux or read DjVu. I guess at least it has an OSX client.

What do you mean? I have an Onyx BOOX MAX 2 PRO 13.3″ and it works quite well. As a large-screen (close to A4) hi-res (2220×1650) e-reader it is very good, especially for scientific/technical papers. In addition to two-finger touch it has a very good Wacom digitizer with stylus. On the software side it has Android with Google Play and a lot of third-party apps work OK. Sideloading APKs is possible if e.g. you want to deploy your own apps. Where Onyx botched it is the external monitor feature: The device has an HDMI input port but the interface HW doesn’t support the full physical resolution of the e-ink screen which is really annoying. But otherwise not a bad device at all – and most of what it leaves to be desired on the SW side can be corrected by installing suitable apps.

>A rooted Kobo H2O with koreader in landscape mode is vastly better

What would be the interface for using it as external display? or are you telling about using it just as a document reader?; in that case it might not even serve OP’s needs.

I’m using the Dasung Paperlike HD and I really like it for writing code. 13 inches, but it’s real nice.

I imagine in 5-10 years or so, we’ll see what you’re imagining.

Maybe. I feel like e-ink could have an iPhone moment. It just needs more attention. Remarkable and similar products are analogous to pre-iphone palm pilots.

Could you write a review on it? I’ve been contemplating getting one for the same purposes but I’d really like to hear some pros and cons before committing

Pros: it’s super light, works outside, runs off of USB power, feels good on the eyes, has a high resolution and a very decent refresh rate. Convenient contrast buttons on the front and a quick clear button. It’s VEGA mountable. But I got a lead weight so it’s heavy enough for my adjustable monitor stand.

Quirks: Expect ghosting. You’ll have to press the “clear” button if the only thing moving on the screen is the mouse. This is oddly satisfying and not nearly as annoying as it sounds. Like “time for a fresh slate!” Getting the right contrast is also something you’ll have to get used to. Dark themes are basically unusable because of ghosting. The monitor’s very high DPI isn’t handled well by gnome, so stuff is smaller on the eink display than on my main monitor. It’s got different needs than an LCD in terms of software configuration of themes, color management, etc. I don’t think any OS was made with this thing in mind, so there are quirks. I wish there were some better “per-display” settings in gnome. But oh well.

In spite of the quirks, I don’t regret getting this thing at all. It was expensive but now I’ll be able to work outside. It’s way easier on my eyes.

Right now I pretty much just use it for reading and writing code or doing stuff in the shell. And it’s great for that. Vim is like the perfect text editor for this. I also got vs code setup alright for it too now, but it’s really great with vim, and has been motivating me to use vim more.

Btw, I also got the Dasung “not e-reader” tablet which is also awesome.

These devices are quirky but really well made and designed.

They exist. They still cost more than color displays. Larger sizes are still “call for quotation”. The current sales pitch seems to be “you don’t have to wire AC power to the sign”, for bus stops and such.

Kinda look sold out… nudge nudge hint hint at all the super fancy Business People of HN…

Since the demise of Pixel Qi, does anyone else have a credible laptop screen based on e-ink, that has a high enough refresh rate to be usable, and/or the ability to switch from transflective/zero-power e-ink mode to a normal screen?

E Ink proper seems to require high voltage and current to refresh. It makes sense because power will be “amortized” but refreshing it often makes it just a high power high contrast device.

Other “e-ink” displays has way too low visual quality and markets don’t like that. Brighter backlight LCD and huge battery usually solves the same problem better. IOW/IMO if such technology is to hit the market it would need to be closely comparable to LCD.

I forgot to reply to the previous post on topic but is there someone looking for a single purpose typewriter laptop?

One that I know is Kingjim Pomera line. They have a few reflexive LCD models based on some rare Toshiba uC, an E Ink model that runs on good old ARM926EJ-S, IIRC, and a color backlit LCD model that just runs Android Linux stripped bare(no Android GUI at all). Some people are running X on the last one.

Those are only available in Japan with JP106 keyboard(think of ANSI with ISO return, ISO symbols and two extra keys next to spacebar) and I can’t assure hackability, but as an input…

Also interested in reflective (non backlit) LCDs. The only ones I’ve seen are very small.

Like the sharp memory LCDs?

They’re pretty cool but I think the limiting factor is demand rather than technology (although they do have a pretty niche construction in that the control sillicon is AFAIK actually fabricated inside/along the LCD panel)

I’m actually more interested in a high refresh rate, non backlit monitor. Power isn’t really an issue for desktops, so that part of eink doesn’t appeal to me. I’m trying to limit my time looking at illuminated sources.

Something like [1] with no front light.


Would greyscale be ok? If so, you should be able to delaminate a panel and replace the backlight with a reflector. If you’d do that with a color LCD, you’d have a very dark image, however.

> It doesn’t necessarily have to be E-ink proper, but I like the idea of having something that doesn’t emit its own light.

Such as an older LCD panel without a backlight? It doesn’t sound like you’re looking for anything special here.

Was thinking something similar – rather than an old panel you could take a newer large high res panel, chosen carefully so it’s easy to separate from the back-light.

I wonder what it would look like with just paper behind it instead? (or a slightly more reflective white material). I wouldn’t expect color to “transflect” very well, but it might work ok as a simple 1-bit screen, fully transmissible as possible reflecting off the paper, or fully opaque.

The LCD still needs continuous power, but far far less than the backlight.

That might end up being a superior balance… a small amount of continuous power, with the benefit of up to 60hz refresh rate if you want it.

This sounds pretty similar to the display on the Pebble Time. It was a color LCD, sometimes marketed as a low power LCD or reflective LCD. For the majority of the time the display didn’t use the backlight. They don’t seem to be widely manufactured in my attempts to look for them… I should check again!

Sharp’s Memory LCD, I think. Combination of SRAM cells to hold state in each pixel and improved reflexive backing, otherwise normal LCD, so data input can be stopped without losing contents.

Also to parent comment: backlit LCD without backlight looks like brownish tinted frosted glass. Transreflexives look like calculators and never like a paper. There were high contrast monochrome variant in those Memory LCD products and it looked like half silvered mirror, respectively.

Or the GameBoy Advance and Advance SP. The Advance SP had a toggle-able front light, but was very usable without it.

(A later version of the Advance SP had a regular back-lit LCD screen.)

There has been a great deal of improvement in color sub 12“ displays in the CPG space. Start watching for them at Walmart and Target.

So that’s the current state of available stuff – The ESP32 stuff is quite interesting because it’s all you need for an IoT module and in the right version it even has enough RAM for full screen updates.

I don’t know specifics about the voltage conversion yet (these screens need about -20V – 20V), but I reckon that if you’re really frugal you could make a battery powered wall display for under 60€ with this stuff – and that’s part 1 of what I’m thinking of doing.

Part 2 would be to stick in a Pine64 SOPINE System On a Module [6], put on a capacitive touch layer [7] and run a mainline Linux with KOReader and maybe even a Wayland compositor to be able to run any Linux app (the high contrast GTK theme seems perfect for this application).

All hopefully for under 200€, which is a lot less expensive than other e-readers if that size and a whole lot cooler.

Any tips?




They have these but the contrast is so poor that it’s hard to read for the resolution it claims to have. Try the mobile reader forums. There’s large Chinese ebook readers.

These things do exist (Sony DPT, Onyx Boox, ReMarkable) – they’re just more expensive than you’d expect them to be considering what they can do.

Remarkable has a premium for the ability to write on the display with tactile feel and response time near identical to ordinary pen/pencil.

The Eink Carta generation (300dpi, 4-bit greyscale) has about 15Hz refresh rate when driven in 1bpp mode (black/white only). Combined with efficient partial refresh, this sounds like it’d not be more than a stylus sensor behind the display (as usual), and some software to properly translate this into partial refreshes.

The premium is not really high just from them having to spend particularly much. Either they make very nice margins on it, or it’s really that expensive to get a screen that size.

> this sounds like it’d not be more than a stylus sensor behind the display (as usual)

And that would be a wrong guess. Eink readers with wacom styluses are not particularly new (e.g. Hanvon, onyx etc.). The remarkable 1’s “claim to fame” was a greatly improved latency compared to these, i.e. to be much better than what you describe.

Hah, this question is a blast from the past! I guess I kind of gave up at some point.

Soooo surely someone here knows something about this… at the fancy Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, they have “living paintings” as part of the ambiance, which are very clearly digital. They are large and in color, TV-sized. But they look like they are not emitting their own light. My best guess is carefully controlled brightness and some special coating (they have a paint-like finish), but that’s just a guess. Anyone know more details?

> Besides why it’s not been stolen yet?

Because it’s not really useful to anyone.

Anything worth stealing in China does get stolen, like their attempted solar cell bicycle paths.

If you don’t need refresh, a drawing board can be suitable. You can use this.…
OLED can work very well and I have used it for night reading over the eink display Kindle use. You may be interested in reflective LCDs like epaper too. A window outside is better for weather and writing a todo list is a better reminder.
If you change your goal from remembering to do things and knowing how the outdoors is, you’ll see that a large eink screen is not at all a productive use of money nor will it be the most optimal for knowing the weather or reminding you to do things. Writing notes in class helps you remember more than typing it, which in turn is better than taking a picture of the whiteboard.
Famous tech enterprisers such as bill Gates and Steve jobs did not allow electronics to be used as learning tools for their children because they deemed them too distracting.

In fairness their children haven’t done anything in the tech space or much of anything near tech/science. Of the 7 children: Jobs kid’s one is a writer, celebrity son, goes to school. All Standford grads or attending. Of Bill gate’s kids one goes to art school, the rest not much.

I would not copy them unless you have the billions for them to fall back on.

In higher level education they also use the familiar chalkboard rather than electronics. I use this not to say the merits of their children’s occupations (regression to the mean is common in families of great achievements) but as a warning of what people in tech see as a threat to their own children’s well being. Electronics are wonderful but not for everything. If screens work better for you, perfect! They have been a hindrance to me, addiction to screens is very common today and I am weak enough to fall into they category.

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