Color ereaders aren't new, we've had a fair few come through from smaller players in the ereader market, particularly from Chinese company Onyx and European brand PocketBook. We've even tested a few here at TechRadar – such as the Onyx Boox Nova 3 Color and the PocketBook InkPad Color – but we've never really enjoyed how the colors looked on screen.
They look very washed out and unsaturated – and that's because of limitations in the screen tech that's been used so far. Most of the current color ereaders use E Ink Kaleido screens, which have the capability of displaying 4,096 colors at no more than 100ppi resolution. And the reason colors look faded is because of filters layered on the screen.
Those washed-out colors on an ereader should soon be a thing of the past, however, with E Ink letting loose its Gallery 3 screen tech (announced earlier in 2022) to be mass produced, and this promises to make reading digitally in color a far more pleasing experience – great news for fans of comics and graphic novels.
The E Ink Gallery 3 screen tech can display over 50,000 colors – putting the Kaleido displays to shame – and at the usual 300ppi to match the monochrome screen. Importantly, the colors should look nice and bright thanks to a four-particle ink system for each pixel. The cyan, magenta, yellow and white pigments should allow for a much fuller color gamut.
And this screen is being mass produced for mainstream use, with PocketBook already announcing that its next ereader – the PocketBook Viva expected to hit shelves in March 2023 – will carry this new screen tech.
Viva la color
When the PocketBook Viva becomes available in March 2023, it will likely be the first E Ink Gallery 3-toting color ereader in the market; it's definitely the first to be announced.
The Viva is going to be an 8-inch tablet, with a design identical to the rather good-looking PocketBook Era. And, like the Era, it will sport a built-in speaker as well. That's not what's got us excited about trying out the Viva; we're really keen to see how the colors pop on screen.
Typically, most ereader makers have their own proprietary frontlight tech being used on their devices. The Gallery 3 screen, however, comes with E Ink's own ComfortGaze frontlight technology built in, which promises to reduce the effects of blue light. According to E Ink, the new screen is capable of reducing blue light by up to 60% – this is important, as color ereaders don't sport adjustable light temperatures to avoid images and text appearing... well, jaundiced.
Kindle the color-ereading future
PocketBook isn't the only brand to partner with E Ink on adopting the Gallery 3 screen. Onyx has also done so, but we're yet to hear about a color e-ink tablet using this new screen tech from the Chinese manufacturer. Other companies have also signed up – iFlyTek, Sharp and iReader just to name a few. When alternatives to the PocketBook Viva will be available, however, is anyone's guess.
Smaller ereader makers aside, we're yet to see the big players give customers a color option – so far, there's not a single color Kindle or Kobo. It's somewhat understandable that neither Amazon nor Kobo wanted to adopt the E Ink Kaleido screens and their predecessors, given the compromises.
With the availability of the E Ink Gallery 3 screen, though, we're hoping this will change and that the next e-ink device to join our best ereader round-up would be a color Kindle or Kobo. Here's hoping.
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Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing camera kits or the latest in e-paper tablets, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She's also the Australian Managing Editor of Digital Camera World and, if that wasn't enough, she contributes to T3 and Tom's Guide, while also working on two of Future's photography print magazines Down Under.