Staring at a backlit computer screen all day really isn’t good for your eyes. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association, just two or more continuous hours at a computer every day is enough to increase your risk of developing computer vision syndrome, a blanket term for a host of ailments which include blurred vision, sensitivity to bright light, eye fatigue, and burning and itchy eyes. If your day job involves prolonged computer use, that’s obviously a perennial worry, but a new Kickstarter campaign by Chinese manufacturer Dasung may have the solution: the Paperlike, a backlight-free e-ink monitor for your desktop.
The 13.3-inch Paperlike — the largest display of its kind, according to Dasung — is the world’s “first and only” e-ink monitor meant to serve as a secondary screen for your workstation computer, laptop, or desktop. It packs a pixel count of 1,600 x 1,200p or 800 x 600p, depending on configuration, and doesn’t need a power cord, batteries, or even a DVI or HDMI connection.
Instead, it draws power and data from a microUSB cord plugged into your computer, and allows you to configure the display in two ways: as either an extension of your monitor, or as a mirror of your current screen. Regardless of which option you choose, the Paperlike’s drivers automatically adjust to match the resolution settings of your primary laptop or desktop.
The Paperlike, which made its debut at CES 2015, became quietly available in retail and had two limited production runs earlier this year, but Dasung is now launching an Indiegogo campaign to ramp up shipments. It isn’t cheap — the monitor is available for the early-bird prices of $899 and $799 as of publication time, and will retail for $995 when the Paperlike hits digital store shelves in August — but it seems to deliver on most of its promises.
The Digital Reader, which received a unit in June of last year, notes that the monitor handles basic tasks like web browsing, word processing, e-mail, and even video with surprising ease. It’s particularly well suited to environments prone to producing glare, and is an excellent option for working outdoors.
The Paperlike isn’t without its disadvantages, though. It, like most e-ink screens on the market, suffers from much lower refresh rates than its LCD counterparts, and has an incredibly limited monochrome color pallet — a mere 16 levels of grayscale, to be exact. Dasung has attempted to mitigate the refresh rate problem by including modes with a reduced number of colors (bringing five shades of gray down to as few as two, depending on your configuration), but the Paperlike’s perceptible, if minimal, sluggishness may disappoint folks who’ve become accustomed to the high refresh rates associated with LCD and AMOLED panels.