This is the second article in a three-part series on products that take monitors in new directions. You can read part one here.
The idea of an e-ink monitor was once laughable. While the technology has always been known for its power efficiency and excellent visibility in bright light, its lack of support for color is a throwback to the early days of the Macintosh. Even the Mac’s original CRT monitor, though, had no problem displaying animations (QuickTime, which brought video support to the platform, didn’t appear until 1991.)
In contrast, e-ink displays exhibited ghosting, keeping a faint image of what was on screen even when a new image appeared. While that wasn’t a major obstacle for the e-reader, it made the technology a non-starter for monitors.
After many years of hollow promises, e-ink is finally overcoming its limitations by using modes that make tradeoffs for better motion support. Following a few revisions of Dasung’s Paperlike e-ink monitor, Onyx released its own version this year. The Mira series is Onyx’s first foray into the e-ink monitor realm, but the company is already known for its large e-ink tablets that support Android.
Mira monitors are available in two sizes, 13 inches and 25 inches , the larger of which is named the Mira Pro. The smaller Mira is a backlit touchscreen that resembles the company’s e-ink tablets. It features a taller aspect ratio than most portable external displays and includes HDMI and USB-C connectors to accept display input or a power source (it has no internal battery). Mira’s permanently attached cover folds over the back of the product to become a stand.
A jog dial on its side allows you to quickly flip through its four modes, which offer tradeoffs between elements like contrast and responsiveness. The result is a device that’s far simpler to use than the often bewildering controls for LCD options. That said, it can be difficult to locate the cursor in some modes, although having the touch capabilities compensate for that.
Of course, the Mira is a great choice if you need to work outside; Onyx also markets it as being easier on your eyes over long computer sessions. Similar to what I wrote about the FreeWrite Traveler last year, I found the Mira useful for working on text or taking notes while I turned to a laptop’s color LCD to scroll through web pages and watch videos for research.
With the proliferation of inexpensive portable LCD monitors, however, most users will find those a better choice because Mira monitors don’t support color and can’t match LCDs’ refresh rates. But the race could become more interesting next year when color e-paper displays — using technologies such as DES (digital electronic slurry) and color e-ink — are released.
There’s a final interesting quirk that could be a benefit or a liability. As an e-ink device, the Mira will retain the last image on its display if you disconnect it without first putting the video source into sleep mode or clear the screen. This could be handy for quickly setting up a speaker’s notes or a static digital sign, but it could also leave sensitive data exposed if used carelessly.