This post is the (somewhat delayed) second part of my Kyobo Mirasol eReader Review. I wanted to cover the screen tech separately because I thought the device it was built into deserved its own pummeling.
I’ve been following this screen tech for a couple years now. I first heard of it just after CES 2010, and I saw it for the first time a couple months later. Ever since I saw it, I’ve lusted after Mirasol (for the obvious reasons). It’s a low-power color alternative to E-ink which was supposed to offer video abilities and can be read in sunlight.
But the screen is not there yet. As I showed in the other post, it’s not all that much more energy efficient when compared to LCDs (at least the Kyobo eReader isn’t). And while this screen is daylight visible, the color quality is disappointing.
Have you seen the old demo videos posted to Youtube or possibly glimpses one of the demo units on display at a trade show? The production model looks very little like the prototypes. I wonder if the reason for the difference is how the screens were made, or possibly the fact that I can finally interact with the screen rather than just watch a demo video.
On a related note, guess who made the demo screens? Prime View International, that’s who. Yes, back before they bought E-ink, PVI was E-ink’s main manufacturing partner but they also did small production runs for just about everyone, including LiquaVista, E-ink, Sipix, and Mirasol.
The dominant color of the screen is silver, not white like an E-ink screen. The color quality of the screen is best described as washed out when the frontlight is on, and when it’s off the screen resembles the monochrome screen from an old PalmPilot (with a few hints of color added). Yes, it’s visible outside, and that does improve the color quality. But it still looks washed out.
In fact, I’m not sure that this screen really offers better color than a color E-ink screen. I’m going to have to put it side by side at CES to confirm, but I have the feeling that the color E-ink screen will only be marginally worse than Mirasol.
And then there’s the viewing angle. It’s difficult to catch this on camera, but the Mirasol screen has a narrow viewing angle (unlike E-ink screens or good quality LCD screens). I know it’s not fair to compare Mirasol and E-ink viewing angles, but the Mirasol screen is narrow even when compared to even LCD screens.
One of the Kyobo commercial for this device shows a family clustered around the small screen. Unfortunately, that scene is just not possible. If you turn the screen more than about 10 degrees in any direction, the colors shift drastically. It’s still readable, but most subtle details are lost. I would go so far as to say that the viewing angle on this screen is actually narrower than some cheap LCD screens in my collection.
I’m really disappointed, and TBH that’s why I held off this part of the review for several days. I wanted to take time to really think about the screen and confirm my impressions. I had been unhappy with the Kyobo eReader’s performance as an ebook reader, and I didn’t want my dissatisfaction with one to bleed over into the other.