Laptop screens have come a long way ever since the first LCD-equipped portables hit the market back in the 1980s. But even today’s high-resolution, full-color screens are not ideal for use in direct sunlight: limited contrast and annoying reflections can make reading awkward and working nearly impossible. Electronic-paper displays don’t suffer from those problems, but their low update speed and lack of color limit their use for general computing.
For some people however, the limitations of e-ink are not a deal-breaker. One of them is [Alleycat], who built a portable computer specifically for use in direct sunlight and equipped it with a 10.3″, 1872×1404 resolution e-ink display. It’s powered by a LattePanda Alpha 800s that runs Windows 10, and is mainly used for text-based tasks.
The LattePanda and the display are mounted inside a beautiful hand-made wooden case with a brass cover and leather straps, which makes it look like a kind of steampunk attaché case. A beefy power bank makes it a truly mobile machine, even though it doesn’t come with a built-in keyboard: [Alleycat] is too much of an ErgoDox fan to include anything inferior with the Steampunk Cyberdeck.
With an update rate of 15 Hz the display is nowhere near as fast as a modern TFT screen, but it looks entirely usable when [Alleycat] demonstrates scrolling in a web browser and even the classic DOS game Alley Cat. In fact, it reminds us of those first-generation LCD screens that were fitted on 286-class laptops back in the day, although with a vastly higher resolution.
We’ve seen a few e-ink based computer designs before, such as this Macintosh Classic II and this e-ink laptop project. The steampunk theme would go well with a hand-crafted metal mouse or this tiny display.