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Qualcomm+Sharp’s Low Power Screen Tech to Give Liquavista a Run for Its Money in 2015

Sharp put out a press release this morning announcing that the cutting edge screen tech which they have been co-developing for the past few years is finally going to hit the market.

Or at least that is what they hope to accomplish; as with any new tech the final step of getting it into production is often the trickiest.

For the past number of years, Sharp has been working with Pixtronix, a small Boston-based subsidiary of Qualcomm, to integrate that company’s MEMs type screen with Sharp’s low-power IGZO backplane.

The quality of Pixtronix’s screen is higher than competing low-power screen tech, including screens from Amazon’s Liquavista, Japan Display, Pixel Qi, and even Qualcomm’s own Mirasol. On the other hand, it’s not quite as pretty as Samsung’s "low-power" screens, which reduced power consumption by squeezing the pixels into a smaller area and letting more backlight leak around each pixel.

If and when the Pixtronix tech hits the market it is hoped that it will offer a low-power and high-quality alternative to existing LCD and OLED screens, many of which are power-hungry.

Or at least that is what every one hopes will happen; while I have seen the screen and can attest to its quality, I don’t know of any real world tests that show a tablet built around this screen will gain anything in terms of battery life.

Pixtronix, which was acquired by Qualcomm in late 2011, has been showing off this screen tech since at least 2010 (every year, like clockwork). They were working with a number of screen tech manufacturers, including Hitachi, Samsung, and Chimei Innolux, and there was even a report in 2012 that Samsung would release a screen based on Pixtronix’s tech in 2013.

And now it seems that Sharp is the only manufacturing partner. Not so coincidentally, Qualcomm became the third largest investor in Sharp last June.

The first screen size scheduled to come off the production line next year will measure 7″ and have a resolution of 1,280 x 800. It is due out in the first half of 2015. Sharp plans to ship the screen on a tablet running Android 4.4.

To be honest, I’m not sure we’re going to see it. But if we are really lucky we might see this new screen and a new screen from Liquavista. That is what I am hoping for, anyway.

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Javi October 6, 2014 um 11:17 am

But this screen is for ereader? tablet? it’s reflective?

Nate Hoffelder October 6, 2014 um 11:43 am

It would be a screen for a tablet.

Certain iPad models use a similar IGZO backplane with a different screen on top.

fjtorres October 6, 2014 um 12:37 pm

It could lead to current-sized tablets with 20 hour battery life or thinner lighter tablets with current battery lives.

fjtorres October 6, 2014 um 12:38 pm

Or neither.

Jmirko October 6, 2014 um 12:32 pm

When I first started reading TDR a couple of years ago, I didn’t really understand your deep interest in screen tech. Now that my kids are starting to read on tablets (for lack of a color reflective alternative) those low-power, reflective color screens can’t come soon enough 🙂

Nate Hoffelder October 6, 2014 um 1:15 pm

To be honest I really thought we would have that new screen tech by now. I thought it would all launch in 2011, giving E-ink multiple competitors.

What I Did (and Didn't) Find at CES 2015 ⋆ The Digital Reader January 11, 2015 um 10:38 pm

[…] also have no new information on Sharp's plan to release an Android tablet with a low-power Pixtronix Mems display. I made 3 trips to the booth, spoke to three people, and left 3 business cards. All I can report is […]

Brad May 11, 2015 um 2:22 am

Like most people I’ve spoken with, battery life improvement isn’t as compelling a reason for a new display technology as improved readability in broad daylight. How does the Pixtronix technology compare with Liquavista or a color magazine in broad daylight? If it doesn’t provide a paper-like reading experience then I’ll just stick with oled and e-paper.

Nate Hoffelder May 11, 2015 um 6:54 am

They’ve never demoed the screen tech outside, so we don’t know for sure how it will work. But from what I read on the Pixtronix website, this tech was intended to reduce power usage. Sunlight readable wasn’t a goal.

Brad May 11, 2015 um 9:38 am

Thanks for the response Nate.

Javi May 11, 2015 um 11:11 am

We are in 2015… may… any new?

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