Hanvon Intros E-Reader With Color E Ink Display

The color version of the digital paper display will debut in the Chinese market.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

November 9, 2010

4 Min Read

Hanvon E-Reader With Color E Ink Display

Hanvon E-Reader With Color E Ink Display

(click image for larger view)
Hanvon E-Reader With Color E Ink Display

Chinese manufacturer Hanvon Technology introduced on Tuesday the first e-reader to use the color version of E Ink Holdings' black-and-white digital paper display used in the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Hanvon unveiled the new product at the FPD International 2010 trade show in Tokyo. The e-reader is scheduled to be available in China in March. There are no plans to offer it in the U.S., where Hanvon has little presence in the e-reader market. In China, however, the company is a major manufacturer of e-readers and graphics tablets.

The device is the first to use the color version of the E Ink screen. The black-and-white model is used by all the major e-reader makers in the United States. The Hanvon product will have a 9.68-inch diagonal touchscreen, 2 GB of iNAND Flash storage, 128 MB of mobile DDR memory, and a 800-MHz Freescale ARM Cortex A8 processor. The e-reader will run Microsoft's WinCE 6.0 operating system and include a USB 2.0 port and a slot for a MicroSD card for up to 32 GB of external storage.

The device supports most major document formats, including TXT, PDF, DOC, and ePUB, along with graphics formats JPG, BMP, TIF, and GIF. It also supports MP3, WAV, and WMA audio files. The e-reader, which has 3G and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, is expected to sell for about $440 in China, which is about $150 less than the Apple iPad.

E Ink has said that it would release a color version of its widely used display in the fourth quarter of this year. But while analysts say the new model is a step in the right direction, it doesn't come close to the color quality of LCD screens used in the iPad and other tablet-style computers. The Hanvon e-reader, for example, can display 4,096 colors, while an LCD screen can show 6 million.

"It just can't compete with LCDs," Vinita Jakhanwal, an analyst for iSuppli, said of the E Ink color display.

That's because E Ink delivers color through a filter that goes over its black and white screen. As a result the colors are muted, not vibrant as on the iPad and other tablets. In addition, none of the E Ink displays support video, a major advantage of tablets.

Nevertheless, there are advantages of E Ink-based devices, which are targeted at avid readers. The screens are easy to read, even in sunlight, and because they don't use a backlight, they don't cause eyestrain. The devices also have weeks' worth of battery life, versus hours in tablets, and are less expensive, starting at less than $150 in the United States. The iPad, for example, starts at $499.

Amazon has said it's going to stick with the black-and-white E Ink display, saying the color version isn't ready for the U.S. market. Rival Barnes & Noble has released a color version of the Nook, but that model uses an LCD screen.

While tablet computers are expected to become a much larger market, sales of e-readers dedicated primarily to reading is expected to also continue growing. "It's not a niche market, but it's much smaller and of limited volume than (media) consumption tablets, like the iPad," Jakhanwal told InformationWeek.

The worldwide e-reader market is expected to increase from 11 million units this year to 15 million to 17 million units next year, according to iSuppli. E Ink has said that it expects to sell from 20 million to 25 million displays.

However, because of the higher price and relatively poor quality of the E Ink color screens, the black and white model is expected to account for most of the market for some time. "The black and white version is already established and it will be a while before color e-readers reach 50% of the market," Jakhanwal says.

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