Qualcomm mirasol color ereader hands-on

Jan 8, 2010
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Qualcomm's mirasol display technology grabbed attention back in November 2009 when it graduated from tiny PMP status displays to a legitimate, video-capable and full-color e-ink alternative.  Back then, the company had a working display but a mock-up ereader, a real mirasol panel frozen with a single image.  They've brought along a new prototype to CES 2010, and this time it's capable of playing full video.  Check out our demo video after the cut.

The mirasol display measures 5.7-inches and runs at 1024 x 768 resolution.  Based on the same properties that make a butterfly's wings shimmer iridescently, the panel requires no backlighting and in fact performs better in stronger ambient light.  It's that fact which gives mirasol its potential: compared to LCD it's incredible power-frugal.  Last month Qualcomm told us that a Kindle could last 20-percent longer if Amazon replaced the regular E Ink screen with a mirasol version, assuming the same sort of content was displayed.  Ask it to display video, meanwhile, and the regular Kindle battery could last about a week with mirasol.

Qualcomm themselves don't intend to manufacturer ereaders or other hardware; instead they're shopping the mirasol panels around to OEMs and ODMs as an alternative to e-ink and LCD displays.  Unlike e-ink it's capable of video playback and the sort of smooth updates you want for video browsing, and indeed Qualcomm are already planning production of larger versions that could fit into a roughly 10-inch slate PC or netbook.

As you can see in the demo footage below, video playback is smooth and generally impressive, and mirasol remains one technology we're really excited about.  Qualcomm have been in talks with manufacturers for a while now, and expect the first commercial products using mirasol displays to begin shipping this Fall.

Qualcomm mirasol ereader prototype:


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