thumb_230_1The LCD vs e-ink eyestrain debates have been going on for some time, but one factor in the difference is the refresh rate. E-ink sits still like paper once it’s set. It doesn’t refresh until you turn the page. LCD, on the other hand, refreshes dozens of times per second, whether it’s on a TV, a monitor, or a tablet. But that could be about to change.

Nikkei Electronics’s “Tech-On!” reports on a new LCD display panel technology under development that will reduce the necessary refresh rate from 60 per second to 1 per second or less when showing still images. That could include photos—but it could also include web or e-book pages. (Found via Gizmodo.)

"Because the same image can be viewed for as long time as possible like a natural object or paper, it is possible to reduce eye strain," [its developer Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. Ltd.] said. "The new panel refreshes an image in every five seconds."

It also features a backlight provided by red, green, and blue LEDs, and the blue LEDs will not emit light whose wavelength is 420nm or less, which is supposedly harmful to human eyes.

The one thing that puzzles me a bit about the article is that it seems to assume that the refresh rate does cause eyestrain. However, in a NY Times article I covered in 2010, experts said that the refresh rates of modern LCDs don’t actually cause undue strain:

“The new LCDs don’t affect your eyes,” [HP Information Surfaces Lab director Carl] Taussig said. “Today’s screens update every eight milliseconds, whereas the human eye is moving at a speed between 10 and 30 milliseconds.”

So it could be there’s less that’s actually revolutionary about this display than people might think.

Still, the idea of an LCD display that causes less eyestrain is very appealing. I’ve been doing a lot more e-ink reading myself, and the only thing I don’t like about it is that I can’t do it in the dark. On the other hand, if I could do it on a low-refresh glowy LCD screen, that could be the best of both worlds.