No-Nixie Nixie Clock

Over on [Techmoan]’s YouTube channel he’s excited about a new gadget that finally arrived after months of waiting — the EleksTube IPS fake Nixie tube clock. This is a re-imagining of a Nixie tube clock using six 135×240 pixel IPS display panels. They are mounted like tiny billboards, each one inside glass bulbs to mimic that retro look. Based on [Techmoan]’s measurement of these displays, it appears they are the same 16:9 IPS displays used in the TTGO ESP32 modules. The effect is quite impressive, and the fact that each digit is a complete display leads to quite a bit of flexibility. For example, if you don’t like the Nixie look, you can select from a suite of styles or make your own set of custom digits.

Additional digit styles are provided

Custom Digits

While this is a finished product put out by EleksMaker, the concept is clearly adaptable to DIY projects as well. One beneficial side effect of having all these display is that changing the settings of your clock is no longer a cryptic experience — the displays are used to show and select options in clear text. This is a selling point for many people, as this device doesn’t require a phone app for control. We wish more products would follow this trend. Thanks to [IanS] for the tip.

Menu settings and options made easy

This isn’t EleksMaker’s first attempt at a Nixie tube replacement. This earlier plywood-based clock uses edge illuminated acrylic digit panels to mimic the Nixie tube effect. Back in 2019 we covered the FIXIE (faux-Nixie) project which used OLED screens in a similar manner, but wasn’t quite as compact as this IPS panel approach.

27 thoughts on “No-Nixie Nixie Clock

  1. This uses an ESP32, I’m sure the smart people on here could get this working with wifi support. Time sync, display control, etc.

    The end caps can be swapped and it has two usb-c ports so you can plug the usb c into the right side if that works better for you. Rear exit would have made more sense…..

  2. I don’t care about the nixie emulation- I think the ability to enter your own images opens a lot of cool possibilities. I want one of these- hopefully supply catches up with demand.
    (And a v2 with the power on the back!)

    1. I see this exactly the same. I don’t really understand, why so many people seem to like that retro nixie look. I have been really happy, when blue LEDs emerged and made blue 7 seg. LED displays possible. But with this clock you can have very nice digits.

      1. For that price, people who like nixie might as well get the real thing and not an imitation.

        Thankfully they use a IPS as it has better vewing angle. I tried character display with custom character but it was unreadable unless I was right in front. I ended up going back to good old 7 segments LED frm my junk box.

  3. $169.00 + $5.00 = $174.00 unreliably shipped from China on a slow boat. Plus it has zero connectivity, so no hope of it accurately auto-setting via the NTP pool. I think I’ll pass on this one.

    1. True, for that kind of money (and considering it’s just software) not having NTP is really not acceptable. Once you build a clock with it you’ll wonder why you would NOT have it. And, properly executed, you can make a clock with zero setup buttons.

      On the negative side, there are a lot of regulatory (and now including security) hurdles. Answer: Open-source it and let users add the feature.

    2. @Chris said: “It runs an ESP32 if you look at the pictures.” Ah, didn’t notice that. “…because nice hardware and hackable for fun :-D” Yes hackable for fun does add value, it’s just at $174 the climb is too steep for me right now.

      @Steve L said: “True, for that kind of money (and considering it’s just software) not having NTP is really not acceptable… On the negative side, there are a lot of regulatory (and now including security) hurdles. Answer: Open-source it and let users add the feature.”

      I don’t understand the “regulatory (and now including security) hurdles”. I have an ESP8266 clock with a (real) DS3231 RTC that sets itself using the NTP pool once per day. It’s on a VLAN except for the peek-a-boo instance when it’s allowed to set itself which literally takes less than a second (fixed IP of course).

      Yeah, the problem with open-sourcing something in China is cannibalism. The next very next day there might be a bunch of clock clones on Ebay for $20 each instead of $174. Even if they don’t open-source it, it’s going to happen anyway. There really isn’t anything magic going on with this clock other than the mechanical design, which is excellent. I’ve got a couple of those 1.14″ TFT/IPS displays in my box of lonely parts. The flexible connectors are the problem in my opinion. They did a good job of sorting this out in their clock design with the TFT displays plugging in securely. As someone else mentioned, the only things missing are the colons.

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