Hands-On With Fujitsu's FLEPia Color eReader

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flepiaAlmost since the day the first eReaders were introduced both fans and detractors have asked: what about color? The main manufacturing focus was and continues to be on black and white/grayscale displays just as the main focus on the publisher side has been on adult fiction and mainstream non-fiction titles. Now that magazines, newspapers, and even comic books are coming to the digital publishing space the question of color keeps coming up.

Full color eReaders do exist and have for quite some time, but are mainly sold overseas. The high cost is one reason, but the biggie is that the displays aren't usually all that great. The color often looks washed out or pastel, meaning consumers get a degraded reading experience while playing far more for it. Not exactly a recipe for success.

Fujitsu's FLEPia seeks to address the issue of color depth with an eReader that can display up to 260,000 colors when in high-def mode while still rendering black and white text fairly fast in Quick Mode. To get to this depth the reader takes three passes at rendering a page. The result looks great but does take some time -- possibly more than most consumers are willing to wait. When reading magazine content this wouldn't be a big problem as text looks fine on the first pass. However, the market for a device like this more likely lies in image-heavy eBooks, like graphic novels. There the long render time could be a bigger problem.

The FLEPia isn't available in the US currently and may never be. The technology is impressive but still expensive, and tablets are elbowing in on the eReader market. Take a look at the video hands-on below and tell us what you think -- is color e-paper still a viable technology or already surpassed before getting a good foot in the door?

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