Troubleshooting & How-Tos 📡 🔍

Notes on E-Paper Display Computers

For More Than Just Reading

This one’s not a tip, it’s my notes on something I’d be interested in that I can’t seem to find:

A low-powered Linux laptop with an e-ink display, that I could use for long-form writing or coding.

Why?

  • Sunlight. OLED screens look great until you try to read them in bright sunlight. Especially if they’re glossy.
  • Battery life. Active displays are a huge battery drain. E-ink displays only use power when they change.
  • General-purpose. Not just an e-reader. Not just a word processor. Something I could use for writing, for programming, as a terminal to SSH into a remote computer. Something I can install third-party software on, maybe even an IDE. Linux would be ideal. Android might do for some of it.
  • OK, almost general. I wouldn’t expect to run games or videos on it, so the low refresh rates wouldn’t be so bad. Black and white / grayscale would be fine too. I’d figure on mostly text, some drawing.

What I’ve Found So Far

  • Tablets intended for hand-written note taking (like the reMarkable or BOOX’s various lines)
  • Higher-end laptops where the e-ink display is an extra (like Lenovo’s swivel designs where you rotate the display to use either an OLED or e-ink).
  • Prototypes like the Modos Paper Laptop.

Some of the tablets do have keyboard cases, which would be better than just hooking up a random Bluetooth keyboard, but it doesn’t look like I can just install programs on them, except for the Android ones, which aren’t going to be ideal for things like coding or running build scripts or anything like that.

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Tablets

reMarkable is an e-ink note-taking tablet with stylus and optional keyboard. It’s got a dedicated OS and can sync with various cloud services and corresponding desktop/mobile apps. But you can’t install other software on it.

Boox has a whole line of Android-based eInk tablets, some meant for reading (I’m quite happy with the Poke3 as a multiplatform e-reader), some for note-taking (my son saved his allowance and bought one!). They run a customized version of Android, but you can install apps and hook it up to Google Play, Aurora or F-Droid and install just about anything, even a custom launcher. The Tab Ultra C Pro has a corresponding keyboard cover with a built-in trackpad, making it the closest thing I’ve found that’s actually in production.

Daylight Computer is an Android tablet with a “LivePaper” display, which is LCD-based but targets the same use cases as eInk. It has a Wacom stylus and Bluetooth support. (via)

Pine64 is working on the PineNote, which will be a Linux-based eInk tablet with stylus.

eWriteable is a news and reviews site on eInk tablets and readers.

Engadget: Best E Ink tablets for 2024 will probably get renamed and updated next year.

Laptops

Modos is an Open Hardware company prototyping an e-ink laptop. They have a stand-alone e-ink monitor ready for pre-launch as of May 2024.

Lenovo ThinkBook Twist and similar devices are expensive laptops with a primary OLED screen that swivels and has an eInk display on the back. Aside from being more expensive, it sounds like a durability problem waiting to happen.

A very sparse E-paper laptops category at E-Ink Info.

Other

Freewrite makes dedicated word processors with e-ink displays. They call them “smart typewriters.”

ZeroWriter is a DIY project using a Raspberry Pi 0 (via)

E Ink is the trademarked name for the specific brand that’s also the most commonly used. It looks like e-paper, electronic paper, and e-ink are generic. Not clear about epaper, ePaper, or eInk.