E-ink promised us a future free from eye strain a few years ago. That hasn’t quite come to pass — outside of the portable e-reader niche and maybe one new Lenovo laptop a year, easy-to-read e-ink screens are still pretty thin on the ground. Philips is making a case for their utility with the Business Monitor Dual Screen Display. That rather dull name hides an intriguing design: conventional 24-inch IPS monitor on one side, 13.3-inch black-and-white ePaper on the other.
Fans of e-ink will recognize this as essentially an expansion of an existing Philips design, the recently-revealed Business Monitor e-Paper Display (really killing it with these names, guys). It’s a 13.3-inch panel in a vertical “paper” layout, with a relatively tame 1600×1200 resolution. The matte, 4-bit grayscale screen is ideal for reading long documents without the usual eye strain, and like most Amazon Kindles, it can work in low-light situations thanks to a front light. The stand-alone version of the screen includes DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB-C connections, and it goes for $800 — fairly standard for this small market segment.
The more bombastic dual-screen option, as revealed by GoodEReader, slaps that ePaper display onto the side of a fairly normal 23.8-inch, 1440p IPS monitor. The whole thing is one solid unit, not two displays packed in the same box. They’re connected with a hinge and the rear monitor mount is centered, giving the combined screens an odd off-center look, but making sense in both practical and ergonomic terms. (You can VESA mount the big, unwieldy thing if you like.) The combined unit has the same input options, plus Ethernet and four USB-A ports for handy connections and USB-C power delivery at up to 90 watts. Some fancy software allows you to view windows or documents from remote machines on the ePaper half.
I can see the appeal of this design for someone whose job includes hours of meticulous text scanning every day. And I can see the appeal if this is the only monitor (monitors?) on your desk — even with those chunky bezels, there’s a nice unity of design thanks to the integrated hinge and the vertical alignment. But remember that the ePaper version of this display is $800…and the $1599.99 price for the dual monitor version becomes far less appealing. Philips is basically asking $800 for a 24-inch IPS monitor with some nice connection chops, which would be worth $300 or so on its own on a good day.
Even so, e-ink fans are a unique bunch, and often willing to pay a premium for hardware. Check out GoodEReader’s hands-on video to see how excited they get to see this combination of hardware. The Business Monitor Dual Screen Display is shipping now if you’re just as excited.