Pixel Qi to Offer DIY Screen Kit for Netbooks

Want to stretch the battery life of your netbook and not worried about voiding your warranty in the process? Low-power display startup Pixel Qi is readying a do-it-yourself kit that will allow you to swap out your netbook's existing LCD screen for one of theirs.

"The DIY kits from our distributor will be available towards the end of Q2. We will be announcing with them prior to distribution," Pixel Qi founder and CEO Mary Lou Jepsen wrote in a blog post on Sunday.

Jepsen's post didn't offer technical details of the kits or pricing, but the company has said its first product will be a 10.1-inch display.

Pixel Qi claims its LCD (liquid crystal display) screens consume between one-quarter and one-half as much power as traditional LCD screens. Since displays are the biggest power draw on a laptop, that could mean significantly longer battery life for users.

Netbook users interested in the Pixel Qi DIY kit won't have to wait too long. The second quarter ends June 30, suggesting that the kits will be made available over the next couple of months.

While many laptops and netbooks offer the ability to swap out and replace batteries, hard disks or memory modules, screens weren't meant to be changed. To do so requires prying open a netbook's case and playing around with components that users weren't meant to touch -- likely invalidating the machine's warranty in the process. But Jepsen said replacing an existing LCD screen with one of Pixel Qi's low-power screens will be easy.

"It's only slightly more difficult than changing a lightbulb: it's basically 6 screws, pulling off a bezel, unconnecting the old screen and plugging this one in," Jepsen wrote. "That's it. It's a 5 minute operation."

She said the idea of offering a DIY screen kit was inspired by her work with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project in Nigeria, where young girls took the initiative to repair damaged OLPC laptops on their own.

"Sometimes they'd change out a screen, or a speaker. They learned about the hardware of their laptops. They got to see what was inside. They got better and better at fixing things by learning as they went," Jepsen wrote.

During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January, Pixel Qi used Lenovo Ideapad S10-2 netbooks to show off their new screens because the LED backlight on the Ideapad can be turned off easily, a feature few other netbooks offer. By turning off the backlight, the screen works more like an e-reader screen. E-readers do not include backlights because they are thought to cause people's eyes to become tired when reading.

[Video: IDG News Service via Network World's YouTube channel]

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