Review: Inkplate 2 Shrinks Down, Adds Color

Regular Hackaday readers could remember the Inkplate family of gadgets: open up supply all-in-1 advancement boards that combine the electric power and flexibility of the ESP32 with digital paper displays salvaged from business e-readers. By getting the sharp, higher-pace, displays supposed for readers these kinds of as Amazon’s Kindle and bundling it collectively with all the components and application you will need to make it get the job done, the Inkplate furnished a turn-vital platform for everyone hunting to get serious with e-paper.

Provided the fact that their screens were pulled from recycled viewers, it’s no shock the earlier Inkplate entries arrived in familiar 6 and 10 inch variants. There was even an upgraded 6 inch model that benefited from more recent reader engineering by adopting a touch-sensitive backlit panel, which we took a near search at very last year. Their big displays make them great for wall mounted applications, this sort of as a household notification heart or regularly-switching artwork display. Plus, as you may well be expecting, the Inkplate is an perfect option for any individual seeking to roll their personal customized e-reader.

But of training course, not every software demands so much display screen actual estate. In actuality, for some tasks, this kind of a massive display screen could be regarded as a liability. Viewing a void in their current products lineup, the people at Soldered Electronics (earlier e-radionica) have a short while ago unveiled the diminutive Inkplate 2. This new miniature Inkplate works by using the similar software program library as its larger predecessors, but thanks to its 2.13 inch a few-colour screen, lends alone to a wider array of potential assignments. Additionally it’s substantially much less expensive than the more substantial Inkplate types, at just $35 USD.

Thinking of the crowd sourced funding marketing campaign for the Inkplate 2 blew earlier its purpose in just 72 several hours, it appears to be clear there is lots of curiosity in this new smaller design. But if you’re still not positive if it is the e-paper answer you have been waiting for, perhaps we can enable — the individuals at Soldered sent together a pre-generation version of the Inkplate 2 for us to play all-around with, so let us take it for a take a look at drive and see what all the fuss is about.

A Lean, Signify, E-Ink Equipment

Many thanks to their considerably larger screens, previously Inkplate products experienced plenty of no cost house on the PCB for additional components such as a true-time clock, temperature sensor, and MCP23017 I/O expander chip. But Soldered experienced to forgo these luxuries on the Inkplate 2, as the lesser PCB is now packed limited with just the ESP32 WROVER-E, CH340C UART chip, MCP73831 cost controller, and the several passives necessary to hold all people satisfied.

But even without the need of the IO growth components of the prior styles, the Inkplate 2 even now has a honest number of GPIO pins available which are broken out together the major aspect of the board, and there’s a Qwiic-compatible easyC connector on the back. You’ll be ready to connect up to exterior sensors over I2C, and of training course if you really needed more pins, including your very own I/O expander chip is often an option.

That reported, I do overlook the interactivity provided on the former Inkplate designs. The 6 and 10 inch highlighted touch-delicate pads on the entrance of the PCB, and the 6Moreover had the luxury of a total contact screen. Whilst the board is admittedly tight, I even now believe they could have tucked in a side-mounted SMD momentary button. As it stands, you will will need to acquire up a GPIO pin by wiring in your have button if you want a way to interact with your managing system.

One more causality of the confined PCB house is the ESP32’s onboard antenna — ideal practice is to hold it off the edge of the PCB, or route out a notch guiding it. Regretably neither solution would have truly worked in this case, that means a probable reduction in the MCU’s radio reception. This may possibly or may well not have been a big offer for several programs, but even so, Soldered extra a provision for an external antenna on the Inkplate 2. When the prototype pictured right here just has a little bit of wire soldered on, the last production hardware has a suitable IPX connector onboard.

Color, At a Cost

Considering the fact that there are not any old two inch e-visitors from which to salvage the shows, Soldered just cannot boast that they’re preserving components out of landfills with each unit marketed this time. But when the freshly manufactured digital-paper employed in the Inkplate 2 may possibly not be as environmentally friendly as the types utilized in the Inkplate 6 and Inkplate 10, it is able of doing a pretty pleasant crimson.

The 2.13″ panel has a resolution of 212 x 104, which offers it a PPI of 111. Put together with the extensive viewing angles, and excellent daylight readability, it looks fantastic in person. Refresh fee is respectable in the B&W mode, but it need to be famous that partaking the 3rd coloration does appreciably hold off the process — hope to wait around 20 to 30 seconds prior to the screen completely settles down soon after demonstrating a a few-shade graphic.

But in follow, this isn’t truly much of a worry. As Soldered exhibits in the demos on the marketing campaign page, and as you immediately learn even though actively playing with the components in particular person, the Inkplate 2 functions ideal as secondary display screen that shows slowly transforming facts. Toss the day’s climate forecast on it, or your timetable for the up coming few of hrs. As very long as you really do not demand the facts to be updated extra than just about every 15 minutes or so, it would in all probability be a good in good shape for the Inkplate 2.

The Inkplate Working experience

Whilst the components is reliable more than enough, the true star of the present is the phenomenal program, documentation, and practical experience that is element of the Inkplate line of units. For the increased-stop styles, which could established you back as much as $169 USD in the situation of the Inkplate 10, this stage of assistance was one thing of a presented. Soon after all, if you’re shelling out a premium cost you’d count on a premium working experience. But the actuality that the $35 sticker cost of the Inkplate 2 grants you accessibility to this finish ecosystem is a pleasurable surprise, and is perhaps a single of the most interesting matters about the product.

Like the past designs, the Inkplate 2 can be programmed both with the Arduino IDE or MicroPython, and also characteristics the unique “Peripheral Mode” where the system can be controlled straight via commands despatched about UART. Soldered also gives an on-line graphic converter (which has by now been up-to-date for a few-shade displays), as properly as a GUI creator, though it’s not right away distinct if the latter will be current for the Inkplate 2 specified its absence of touch monitor.

Receiving up and jogging with the Inkplate 2 is unbelievably easy. It took just minutes to incorporate the board definitions and library to the Arduino IDE and edit the HTTP illustration to place to my server. From there, the unit would periodically update its screen with no matter what graphic I offered it. Blended with some Python on the computer facet, it manufactured for a rapid desktop display screen that will demonstrate what ever I throw at it.

Bang For Your Buck

Now let’s get true for a minute below. If you’re looking through Hackaday, you are extra than able of hooking up an ESP32 to a small e-paper screen without having someone holding your hand. You probably also know that the heading rate of those people two equipment on eBay is a lot less than the $35 Soldered is asking for the Inkplate 2. Certain they won’t be on a handy small PCB, and you will not get the unifying electrical power of USB-C, but individuals are hardly present stoppers.

That becoming explained, I continue to assume the documentation, resources, libraries, and close-person experience presented by the Inkplate 2 is far more than worthy of the excess price tag of this unified answer. It is arguably the most straight-forward and painless way of having info on a tiny e-paper screen, which frees you up to tackle additional essential (and actually, more exciting) jobs this sort of as figuring out how to generate the facts you want to force out to it.

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