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Finding a Display You Can Read in the Sun?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the an-spf-100-glare-screen dept.

Displays 63

max3000 asks: "I'm currently building an embedded device that will be used outdoors, and the technology is pretty much nailed down at this point, except the display. Quite honestly, I'm confused and lost in all the display technologies out there: LCD (TFT, passive/active, and so forth), ChLCD, OLED, FED, AMLCD, EL, electrophoretic, ePaper like eInk, and more (some of which may overlap). Can you help a confused, fellow reader? What I need is (apparently) fairly complicated: an outdoor, sunlight-readable (at-a-glance readable, not squint-your-eyes readable), VGA/SVGA display. The display should have a 4-6 inch diagonal, capable of displaying at least 16 color grayscale, and it should be based on a technology with a roadmap to color in 2-3 years time. If not driveable directly from a PC, the display should come with a development kit that is." What small displays are out there that can meet these specifications?

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Have you looked? (-1, Flamebait)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730373)

I haven't read all the links, but 10 seconds with Google [google.com] turned up quite a bit.

Re:Have you looked? (2, Informative)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730413)

I think that was his problem, he looked and got overwhelmed. There really is a large number of competing display technologies out right now, and without having display samples to look at I can understand his confusion. I'm not sure about the color option, or development kit, but if you're looking for something that dosn't need to be viewable in the dark e-Ink is very promising. Only major problem with e-Ink is the refresh rate is pathetic, so not really viable for any sort of video. Other than that, OLED is the hot new thing, but those are still hard to come by in larger display sizes, and even then pricey unless you're looking to buy in bulk and have some clout to throw around. Also coming over the horizon be looking for SED displays.

Re:Have you looked? (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730451)

Sure, but spending a couple of hours or so doing reasearch and due dilligence would probably be more productive than asking Slashdot. Just my opinion...his milage may vary. Then again it never hurts to get the opinions of geeks on technical matters and emerging technology.

Re:Have you looked? (4, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730479)

heh, buying a few bananas and heading off to ask the monkeys at the zoo would be more productive than asking Slashdot.

MOD PARENT UP (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18730645)

Hilarious and so true.

Re:Have you looked? (2, Informative)

djbckr (673156) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730497)

Look into Aircraft Avionics Displays - contact some of those manufacturers (there are quite a few).

Re:Have you looked? (1)

mtrope (325651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18777483)

Specifically, check with the manufacturers of avionics for the experimental or light sport market. Any certified avionics will be significantly more expensive. There are a number of companies that make EFIS displays for the experimental/LSA market. This avionics shop [steinair.com] seems to have a pretty good list. "Glass" cockpit displays must be readable in direct sunlight - you don't want to be flying an approach with the sun behind you and not be able to see important stuff like airspeed.

Re:Have you looked? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18730501)

Who the fuck modded this as "informative?" This is typical /. assholery. Hey fucknuts, the guy asked the question because he needed some help because he had was confused about the plethora of options. It is called "ask slashdot" after all.

I hope the next time you ask for help with something someone gives you an equally useless and glib reply. Now, unless you have something constructive to contribute, why don't you go back to jerking off to pictures of your sister?

Re:Have you looked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18732299)

Who the fuck modded this as "Insightful?" This is typical /. assholery. Hey fucknuts, the guy pointed to Google and pretended that was an answer because it's incredibly easy to do and works in any situation. Cut him some slack.

ATTN: SWITCHEURS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18730665)

If you don't know what Cmd-Shift-1 and Cmd-Shift-2 are for, GTFO.
If you think Firefox is a decent Mac application, GTFO.
If you're still looking for the "maximize" button, GTFO.
If the name "Clarus" means nothing to you, GTFO.

Bandwagon jumpers are not welcome among real Mac users [atspace.com] . Keep your filthy PC fingers to yourself.

OLPC's XO (3, Informative)

Adhemar (679794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730721)

I googled in my memory.

At last FOSDEM, Jim Gettys gave a presentation [fosdem.org] of the technical specs of OLPC's [laptop.org] XO-1 machine. I remember I found the part about the low-voltage sunlight readable display [wikipedia.org] particularly impressive for a $135 device.

OLPC XO-1 manifacturer Quanta announced [slashdot.org] selling a XO-like device on the open market later this year, at a price around $200. Presumably it will have a display of the same technology.

Re:Have you looked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18862377)

Wow more mods on crack...how is that shit flamebait? Because the person posing the question was too fucking lazy to do a google search himself? LOL...slashbots at work again.

Ask Sharp (3, Informative)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730387)

They made the Game Boy Advance LCD.

Re:Ask Sharp (3, Informative)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730467)

The GBA (SP) had a transflective TFT, and was perfectly readable in the brightest sunlight, but only when tilted towards the sun. Tilt it so the screen is in shadow, and you can't see anything, because the front-light is way too weak to compete with daytime ambient light. That's the real problem: either you turn your screen towards the sun all the time, or you put in a powerful enough light that can rival the ambient lighting, and speedily drain the batteries at the same time.

Re:Ask Sharp (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730945)

Transflective TFT is what handheld GPS use, too, and with exactly the result you describe - direct sunlight = good, darkness = good (using the backlight), bright ambient sunlight and especially glare = bad.

Re:Ask Sharp (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731017)

I think the only possible solution besides huge backlights is a transparent screen, with some kind of exotic built-in lighting for dark situations.

No, Ask QuallComm (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18748943)

There is a display under development which I consider practically ideal.
Unfortunately, it's still under development!
But here's a link that explains it: http://www.qualcomm.com/technology/imod/index.html [qualcomm.com]

Re:Ask Sharp (1)

fat man with a monke (869132) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730515)

He asked for a display you COULD read in sunlight, not that you HAVE to read in sunlight. Seriously, have you ever tried to use one of those? [penny-arcade.com]

Re:Ask Sharp (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730709)

The newer GBAs have a different screen that's nowhere near as bad as the original. If that doesn't help, there's also a contrast control hidden under the back label.

Re:Ask Sharp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18737641)

The first GBA screen was only visible in bright light and only if the light was glaring in your eyes from one side of the screen. Then you could see the otherside. To play a game you had to move the glare around so you could see things. If you moved the glare off screen, you could seen nothing. I've bought every gameboy since the first and never purchased another since that lemon. I'm most pissed off they pretended like we were a bunch of whiners, instead of admiting they'd mess up, big time. Got to hell Nintendo!

Re:Ask Sharp (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18744257)

Sharp's reflective LCD screens work beautifully on their Zaurus models too. I can read the screen of my lovely SL-5600 in the sun with no problems (so long as I tilt it at the right angle :) .

Gas stations (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18730469)

"What small displays are out there that can meet these specifications?"

Simple. LCD with a backlight that turns off and on. Look at what gas station pumps use.

OLPC (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18730487)

you might want to look at the OLPC http://laptop.org/ [laptop.org]

        * Liquid-crystal display: 7.5" Dual-mode TFT display
        * Viewing area: 152.4 mm × 114.3 mm
        * Resolution: 1200 (H) × 900 (V) resolution (200 DPI)
        * Mono display: High-resolution, reflective monochrome mode
        * Color display: Standard-resolution, quincunx-sampled, transmissive color mode
        * Special "DCON" chip, that enables deswizzling and anti-aliasing in color mode, while enabling the display to remain live with the processor suspended.

http://laptop.org/en/laptop/hardware/specs.shtml [laptop.org]

ebay (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18730565)

i got my sun monitor off of ebay for $30. its a 22" monitor but hey it plugs into my solaris box.

eInk (1, Offtopic)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730653)

The Sony Reader [learningcenter.sony.us] has the type of screen you want, which is an eInk technology. I don't know when color will be generally available, but they do have prototype color displays now.

Re:eInk (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18731453)

Actually they Sony reader only does 2-bit grayscale, he wants 4-bit.

But otherwise, yeah it meets his requirements.

Re:eInk (2, Informative)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 7 years ago | (#18733375)

There's a store nearby that has one of those on a demo stand. I wouldn't use that particular type of screen, the refresh rate is abysmal. Switching between pages has a noticeable and aggravating delay.

Refresh rate (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18766715)

eInk is great if you don't need to refresh the display much.
It is useless for any type of scrolling display or animation.
For an Ebook, clock, or watch it isn't bad.

Evident in the Palm and phones (3, Interesting)

jbarr (2233) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730697)

"Back in the day" my Pilot 1000, Palm iii, and Palm Vx PDA's all had monochrome, backlit displays that were very viewable in the dark, in normal office lighting, and in bright sunlight. No, they weren't color, but I NEVER had to worry about being able to read the screens. Now, over a decade later we have PDA's that rival small laptops, have amazing storage capacities, execute applications unheard of in the past,but are COMPLETELY USELESS in bright sunlight. Despite all of the advances, I sometimes long for the days of simpler designs. I would personally love to see the Palm Vx resurrected with some of today's features but a high resolution monochrome screen.

And the same holds true for cell phones. I have a typical LG phone from Verizon (provided by work, do I have no choice in the model) and it has a great battery life, the features are decent, and the voice quality is better than most, but in the sinlight, the internal screen is completely unusable. The monochrome external screen is amazingly clear in sunlight, but it is useless in that it doesn't match the internal screen. Thank, God for speed dials.

A good cell phone (1)

246o1 (914193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731109)

I know everything is better in Japan blah blah blah, but I do have a cell phone (the V603SH by Sharp) that I got from Vodaphone here in Japan, and it looks great in any light.

This might be what the writer is looking for, in general. The screen's great, anyhow, and small.

Priorities! (2, Funny)

dour power (764750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730751)

I'm pretty sure you would have other things [wikipedia.org] to worry about if you were in the sun.

Transreflective LCD (2)

stlthVector (468932) | more than 7 years ago | (#18730849)

Look for a Trans-reflective LCD. These don't wash out in the sun light. I'm pretty sure all LCD's are active matrix now so you shouldn't need to worry about that.

The display is the least of your concerns! (1)

Nezer (92629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731027)

The problem is finding a laptop capable of withstanding the enormous heat and pressure found in the sun! ;-)

Same Question Here (1)

ChaoticCoyote (195677) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731125)

I've had the same question...

I don;t like the current trend toward "shiny" displays on laptops.

What I'd really like to have is a filter I can put over a TFT display for times when I need to use a laptop outside. By saying "I've Googled and can't find anything" (which I have), I hope some wise-arse Slashdotian will inflate their ego and show me where such a device can be found.

Re:Same Question Here (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731257)

I don't think it's possible; I've found the sun will overpower the backlight of any notebook out there. The only solution is to throw your jacket over your head and look at the laptop like it was one of those old LF cameras.

Nonsense (1)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734879)

GE-FANUC has recently acquired Computer Dynamics who makes a ruggedized product that they call a "Wolverine" which uses a laptop motherboard and has a sunlight-readable display and is encased in an explosion proof case for use in industrial and petroleum situations.

http://www.cdynamics.com/ [cdynamics.com]

http://www.cdynamics.com/sunlight-readable-display s.html [cdynamics.com]

So technically, it's a laptop that you don't have to throw your jacket over your head to see. Although it's not nearly as portable as my HP, and I can't see my HP in direct sunlight, so, yeah, I guess you're right. But if you want a stationary computer that's sunlight readable, the above's your best bet.

Re:Nonsense (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18737717)

It's actually quite simple to explain the hardware. In essence there's two kinds of screens, one that fight the ambient light and ones that rely on it. Some screens act as filters to a backlight -- this backlight has to fight the ambient light if you want to see anything. Others reflect the ambient light -- without light they're hosed. Reflective screens block the light behind them. Engineering a solution that works in both cases is tricky, but doable for small screens. The GBA SP had a reflective screen, a very bright led and a "light guide" placed above the reflective screen. For small screens the light guide works, but larger screens this would fail to evenly light the screen. And note, trying to outcompete the sun is never going to work for laptops. As it is, the biggest draw on the battery is the backlight. The sun is something like a thousand times brighter, though our eyes adjust well to it. The big downsides to this stuff is glare and probably color gamut. You'd have a hard time reflecting wavelengths the sun isn't producing.

Re:Nonsense (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18742049)

Is it really necessary to fight the sun though, or can fiber optics leads from other parts of the notebook redirect additional light behind the screen?

Re:Nonsense (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18742579)

No need to go that far, the reflective ones fare just fine in the sun.

Watch out for polarized filters (1)

jhsiao (525216) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731561)

I know that some mobile phones have polarized filters on the display glass to improve outdoor viewing. So if you're going to be outside with polarized sunglasses, double check that they don't mess up your carefully selected display.

Otherwise you might see a very dim or black display.

Re:Watch out for polarized filters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18740883)

Hmm, maybe I'm wrong, but I could have sworn that LCDs REQUIRE polarized filters to work

epaper (1)

Mike1024 (184871) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731661)

Motorola are making a phone designed for outdoor use, using an eink/epaper display, according to some articles [eink.com] .

You could buy some eink stuff for test purposes, and see if it's as good as they make out.

Re:epaper (1)

emj (15659) | more than 7 years ago | (#18732079)

Why would you want to use a mobilephone outside? Trust Motorola to come up with useless concepts, I don't see SonyEricsson or Nokia doing stuff like outdoor phones.. Phew!

Motofone F3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18736697)

The Motofone F3 it's avaible on some developing countries, it's a very simple and cheap phone, it can only make calls and sms, but has a battery that last 2 weeks.

Solarism (2, Informative)

Xerotope (777662) | more than 7 years ago | (#18731891)

We work outdoors a lot with our robots, and we found the best solution to be monitors made by Solarism [solarism.com] . They're kinda pricey, but they put out nearly four times the brightness of a standard LCD.

Cannot do (2, Interesting)

thsths (31372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18732305)

I think the main problem is that you want both colour and readability in direct sunlight. While transflective displays work very well in bright light, they do not usually come in colour (of if they do, they are very dark). Colour displays usually need a back light, and it is very likely that it cannot compete with direct sunlight.

The math is simple: direct sun light is about 1000 watts per square meter, or 13 watts on your display size. The back light has to be stronger, say twice as bright, but you loose about 50% of the light in the light bulb, in the light distribution, in the polariser and again in the colour filter. So you would need 400 watt of electrical energy to drive the back light!

Short version of the story: colour, good contrast and direct sunlight don't mix. Maybe some day with e-ink, but not right now.

Re:Cannot do (2, Interesting)

cpaglee (665238) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734507)

Gosh your math is wrong. The 1000 watts of light per square meter is based on the amount of light from a 1000 watt incandescent light bulb. The light from a CCFL fluorescent light bulb would use MUCH less energy. Of course it is possible! See the comments above.

Re:Cannot do (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18743503)

The 1000 watts of light per square meter is based on the amount of light from a 1000 watt incandescent light bulb.

I'd like to clarify that the 'solar constant' isn't really tied to the way light is produced in bulbs. The point is that the 1000 W/m2 is total power over all frequencies of sunlight from IR to UV. Visible light is a rather small fraction of that.

300? (3, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18732619)

Emissary: The thousand nations of the Slashdot Empire descend upon you! Our moderation points will blot out the sun!
Stelios: [grins] Then we will post comments in the shade.

Modify an LCD (1)

nerd65536 (692353) | more than 7 years ago | (#18733601)

Take any modern LCD, and remove the case. The panel itself is clear with a stack of filters behind it to even out the backlight (look for panels that won't have wires obscuring the back. Ask for advice at the Lumenlab forums.). All you need to do is remove any opaque layers. Hold up the panel toward the sun so that the sun shines through the filters, acting as the backlight. You needn't remove the original backlight, so the display can still be used in darker environments.
In short, use the sun as the backlight for an LCD panel.

Re:Modify an LCD (1)

cpaglee (665238) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734467)

This will not work. The back light in an LCD is actually not a backlight at all. It is a 'side light'. The light is a long CCFL lamp which looks like a very bright miniature fluorescent lamp. They shine through the entire LCD through a prism effect. Puting a light bulb behind the LCD or holding the LCD up to the sunlight will not work, at least not for my LCD. One thing you COULD try is replacing the CCFL in your LCD with a more powerful bulb. You would also have to change the Inverter used to power the CCFL. I am not sure if this would help a lot, but it would probably help some. And it would be cheap. About $50 for the parts. You can buy CCFL lamps here: http://www.ccfldirect.com/ [ccfldirect.com]

Re:Modify an LCD (1)

nerd65536 (692353) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734607)

The LCD panel itself is a (mostly) transparent piece of glass. Put a diffusion filter over one side and hold it up to a light source. See also: LCD projection panels. Putting a LCD projection panel, with a diffusion filter, on top of a sufficiently bright overhead projector (we won't be projecting, just using it as a light source (backlight)) would also suffice for sunlight viewing.

Garmin GPS (1)

bruckie (217355) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734153)

The Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx [garmin.com] is built to be used in the sun, and its LCD is easily visible in bright light--the brighter, the better, in fact.


ePaper (2, Informative)

Meneth (872868) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734629)

I recommend e-paper. The device I've tried, the iRex iLiad [irextechnologies.com] , works in all well-lit environments. It even runs Linux.

Well duhh.... (1)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734851)

A LiteBrite!

Re:Well duhh.... (1)

dranga (520457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18754793)

No, if he uses that, the authorities in Boston will get in a huff.

Simple: Transreflective (3, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18735637)

The only existing screen technology that likely suits your needs is transreflective LCDs. They're widely available, so you shouldn't have an problems.

Display tech with potential, like e-Ink, just isn't there yet, and likely won't be for several years.

Of course, if you want to go crazy, you could always grab an old LCD, and mount it in an enclosure with a massively powerful backlight, and lots of airflow directed at the screen to keep the LCD from burning up.

replace backlight with mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18745717)

before buying a fujitsu tablet with reflective display (i disabled the lights completely and use it outside in direct sun) i experimented with a standard lcd.

take it apart, remove the backlight, get a white diffuser for even light and sandwhich it on a mirror. it works.

Etch-A-Sketch? (1)

ztynzo (798194) | more than 7 years ago | (#18749555)

As I recall, it was really easy to see in the sunlight..

Treo 650 (1)

ploppowaffles (977289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18754385)

My Treo 650 has a transreflective type LCD, full color, very brightly lit indoors, and completely readable from all angles outdoors. Figuring out who makes the screens for recent Treo smartphones would be a good place to start.

E-Ink (1)

Castar (67188) | more than 7 years ago | (#18756203)

I have a Sony Reader with the e-ink screen, and it's more readable the brighter it gets. They have a roadmap towards color (and some working prototypes) although I'm not sure when it's scheduled to arrive. The upsides are low power usage, sunlight readability, and crisp, paper-like images. The downsides are probably expense (I don't know how much the components cost, but my Reader was $350 retail, which suggests the screens are expensive), low refresh rate (on the order of .5 seconds per refresh at best - no video applications, obviously), and a "gray" look to your screens.

zaurus SL-5600 display (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18759021)

The Sharp Zaurus SL-5600 display is totally reflective, and is frontlit - and therefore it actually works well in sunlight. In fact, I can run the machine with the backlight off in bright sunlight (and save power), unfortunately there's a bug in openzaurus that mucks with the backlight controls that no longer let me do this...
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