Update (26 October 2014): Here’s the latest on the Earl.
When the Earl tablet was announced earlier this year it got a lot of attention for its rugged design and for its focus on a unique market niche. It has a 6″ flexible epaper screen, long battery life, and runs Android, making it a rare device indeed at the time.
Today I have learned that this back country tablet is getting even more rugged. There’son the Earl website with new details about the tablet, and it says that the Earl is losing a few sensors and gaining a better screen.
This tablet is going to be the first to use a 6″ flexible E-ink screen based on E-ink’s recently announced Mobius screen tech. It uses a flexible plastic backplane just like the one found on Sony’s 13.3″ writing slate.
Now, if you’ve been following the news about the Earl then you probably know that it already had a flexible screen (made by LG Display, in fact); this one is better. The Earl developers are reporting that it is more rugged, and they have also mentioned that this panel also integrates the latest Regal waveform refresh tech. That should reduce the number of full page screen refreshes somewhat, although at the expense of a slightly grayer screen.
And that’s not the only change the Earl has gone through since it was announced in May. The developers tell me that they have swapped out the touchscreen, modified the design to remove components, worked to reduce cost.
This tablet now has a capacitive touchscreen, not IR. The developers made this change because they weren’t sure that the IR sensors could be made rugged enough to meet the IP67 standard. Sure, an IR touchscreen is glove friendly (an important detail), but so is the replacement capacitive touchscreen (or so the developers report).
The Earl has also lost a few sensors. The infrared blaster is gone, a victim of its general uselessness in the outdoors. The developers have also dropped the d-pad found on the Earl prototype; with a larger touch area due to the new capacitive system used in Earl, along with the additional buttons built into Earl’s shell, they thought the d-pad was unnecessary.
The anennometer (wind speed sensor) was removed from the design because it was unreliable and a little power hungry. And finally, the eye-catching kickstand has been droped from the design; the developers decided it wasn’t sturdy enough.
You can find more details on the Earl website.