Pixel Qi Screen vs. XO-1.5: Hands-On Sunlight Readable Review

My six-year-old daughter Cici and I compared our two Pixel Qi screens at high noon

Like many, I've been tantalized by the videos produced by Charbax of the Pixel Qi dual-mode display - originally invented for the OLPC XO-1 - that is headed for integration into some consumer laptops and tablets. Pixel Qi's founder, Mary Lou Jepsen (hardware designer of the original XO), announced months ago that they would partner with a distributor to offer some of the screens as a part to swap into some common netbooks.

While I was on vacation last week, the announcement came suddenly that Maker Shed had put the screens up for sale on its online store, and I placed my order immediately. Good thing, because they sold out in a few hours.

I had coincidentally picked up an Acer Aspire One D250 netbook last month when Woot.com had them on sale for one day at $199.  This happens to be one of the netbooks that can accommodate the screen. The new Pixel Qi screen slipped in easily. The Acer booted fine and I immediately noticed that the backlit mode was not quite as contrasty as the Optronics OEM screen, but not so much so that anyone would notice. The screen-swap procedure took about 30 minutes. Read the full step-by-step here.

Hands-on Sunlight Comparison

Cici and I went out to our front yard at high noon the next day (more photos here) to compare the Pixel Qi-enhanced Acer with the OLPC XO-1.5, which still has the original four-year-old technology. As you can see in the photo and video, the new Pixel Qi screen has better contrast, darker blacks, and a cooler tone than the beige tinted XO screen.

The XO's dual mode screen still rules in terms of pixel resolution at 1200 x 900 vs. the Acer's 1024 x 600. It was amazing to see Windows 7, Amazon Kindle software, the New York Times web site and a QuickTime video in direct sunlight. Shades of gray and some color tints are visible. Besides the XOs and e-ink based Kindle ereaders, no other color screen device I own can be seen as clearly in sunlight. Not even the famed iPad. In the video, you can see that at a certain angle where line of sight and sun are aligned, the new Pixel Qi screen glows as if backlit!

See the Screen in Person

I'll be bringing the modded Pixel Qi/Acer One to our upcoming OLPC News Meetup on Tuesday, July 13th at the Looking Glass Lounge, and to our meeting at the Arlington Career Center the following Saturday at 1pm.


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Were you fascinated by Mike Lee's hacking of a Pixel Qi screen? Would you want to get up close and personal with it in a Acer Aspire One? Or compare it to an XO-1.5 yourself? [more]


"I immediately noticed that the backlit mode was not quite as contrasty as the Optronics OEM screen, but not so much so that anyone would notice."

Cause you're not just _anyone_. Lol.

It would be helpful to show a screen from another laptop/ipad to show the difference - not just between the two good displays...

I ran out of time that day to lay out some other devices for comparison, but will shoot some this week. Comparison of Pixel Qi transreflective screens with regular transmissive LCD has been documented extensively by Charbax:



Too bad you can't take the guts out of the OLPC XO-1.5, powersaving tech and all (including mesh networking), add more RAM, a nice fast SSD, and put it into a 10.1 inch netbook "case"... Lubuntu maybe (boots at around 100MB of RAM)... and best of all add AA battery to it (like the Edubook has). I would like to see someone sell that! Or a hack/mod to get it done...?

Who is going to get to the 12-18 hours per battery charge first (using AA battery would make it even better).

The Pixel Qi screen costs ~$80 on Amazon while the Acer netbook screen can be had for $50. Also, if you do some searching you can buy most mainstream laptop screens for about $80. This brings up the issue of repairs, since a broken screen is the most common laptop accident (especially in kids' hands). So a netbook screen would be less to replace than an OLPC screen.