The idea of watching YouTube videos on a monochrome, e-paper type display is a strange one. Most people are looking for a crisp, high-resolution screen with high dynamic range (HDR) to keep everything on their computer looking as sharp and vibrant as possible. But using a paper-like screen for reading, writing and working, however, may be a more appealing proposition.
The Books Mira 13.3-inch E Ink Monitor is one way to have the best of both worlds—a monochrome screen with a vibrant display that’s easy on the eyes. It’s a portable, external display that can be connected to a laptop, desktop, or tablet using a USB-C or HDMI cable.
This product intrigued me on a different level than what I tried. As someone who does a lot of typing and reading for work, I thought the 13.3-inch Mira would be a product that would be perfect for offloading those creating and consuming tasks. It’s a screen that just might be more comfortable for my eyes to stare at all day long, without completely sacrificing my MacBook Air’s color retina display.
In practice, the Mira Monitor probably isn’t the right device for all of my writing and reading needs. The product is great, but it also seems to be pushing the boundaries of the screen technology it relies on. But despite its many flaws, it continues to leave me with an uncharacteristically favorable impression that’s hard to shake. Being able to type and see, a screen that relieves eye strain is closer than ever, even if it hasn’t reached its final form yet.
- Portable design makes it easy to move around
- Too many settings to change the appearance
- A dedicated, handy screen refresh button
- Multitasking and moving around can be challenging
- Some app interfaces are hard to use
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Books Mira Display Features
The 13.3-inch monitor has one HDMI port and two USB-C ports. It can connect to multiple devices, including Windows or Mac computers. My unit came with a magnetic cover stand from the company to prop it up on a table. It can also be mounted on a VESA-compatible stand for a more permanent solution.
On the right side of the monitor are the connection ports. There’s also a jog-wheel on the right to adjust appearance settings. On the front of the screen, in the lower right corner, there’s a button dedicated to refresh the display to remove any ghosting effects. A menu button is on the left to bring up the settings.
The monitor has a resolution of 2200 x 1650 with 207 pixels per inch. Apart from everything else, it also has a capacitive touchscreen. The effectiveness of using touch will probably depend on the type of device it’s plugged into. I had no problem using the Touch on my MacBook and throughout the system, but the Touch didn’t work when using the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Using Mira Monitor to Work
Devices such as the Kindle and other e-readers, including the Box Note Air 2, use E Ink screens because the technology closely mimics printed paper. Those displays, in terms of reading, are much easier on the eyes than LCD screens with bright backlighting. Technology like paper also virtually eliminates glare and other compromises from more traditional computer monitors.
It should be noted that there is also an accessibility component to using a monochromatic display with 16 shades of gray. Some people cannot use an LCD monitor for various vision reasons, and a monitor like this can meet those needs.
I was excited to use this monitor because of my line of work. In fact, I typed most of this story into Google Docs using this Books Mira monitor. To get this and other things working, I connected it to my computer using a USB-C cable (included in the box), giving power and data to the monitor. I mostly used it to extend my built-in computer monitor to give me two screens’ worth of space. I tried mirroring my screen as well to display the same thing on both, but I would have liked a gray-scale work area and a traditional screen.
Using Mira Monitor is a novelty at first. It asks you to try all kinds of computing tasks, just to see how they look. Reading news sites, watching YouTube videos, using Apple Music, or adding calendar events, for example, everything works as you’d expect—they just look a little different. It’s amazing how normal watching a video actually feels.
However, not all computing tasks are created equal. To handle a variety of applications, the monitor has four visual presets built in: Speed Mode, Text Mode, Image Mode, and Video Mode. Each of these configurations will instantly make certain things more enjoyable by increasing the refresh speed or changing the contrast. Each of these modes can be further tweaked, with dark color enhancement, light color filter, and refresh speed.
All, or most, settings can be changed on the screen itself, but there is also Windows, Linux, and Mac software available that may allow keyboard shortcuts to be set. I found the Mira software to be a bit rudimentary, especially in design, but it was still handy for dialing up the screen more quickly than using the physical buttons. I often use a mix of text mode and speed mode.
Multiple modes are helpful because even closely related tasks like writing and editing can vary in how easy it is to accomplish using a monitor. It is very easy to read and write, but that writing is very hard to edit.
Constantly moving the cursor around the screen and using pinpoint accuracy to remove typos and add punctuation felt tedious. It was a challenge for me to constantly jump around in different parts of a document and move the text at the same speed as I could using my laptop’s monitor.
Depending on how fast the screen is refreshing, you may sometimes experience more ghosting than others. Ghosting is when traces of text or images on the screen appear faded after you move on to other things. This is related to the way E Ink technology works. This downside of technology has gotten a lot better over the years, but it can be a bit of a shock to experience if you’re not expecting it. I didn’t find it disturbing knowing it would exist, but it’s worth being aware of.
Having a dedicated refresh button on the front bezel is handy and useful for clearing up those shadowy artifacts.
Surprise and Miscellaneous Notes
The monitor itself is thin and light. It’s very easy to transport, and since it only requires a single cable for power and data, it’s practical to actually leave the house or move from room to room.
The magnetic cover that came with it was fine as a makeshift stand, but it only made for one angle. I think you’ll want to have something more permanent if you plan on using it regularly at the desk. There are probably plenty of tablet stands that could work for this.
Because the screen is devoid of color, it took me a while to get to my mind that it was a touchscreen. Once that information stuck, I really liked being able to touch on-screen elements. It was also possible to hold the screen on your lap for extended reading due to touch input.
Should you buy Box Mira Display?
You can use Mira Monitor like any other external monitor: it will do just about anything, but results can vary wildly with respect to what makes your job easier or harder. Browsing the web to read articles, reading and sending emails and other productivity tasks were all better experiences than I could have imagined.
But there are many other things in general use, like quick multitasking, that feel too slow, like trying to run through mud up to your knees. Monitors, as a general novelty, probably aren’t the best way to spend $800. If, however, you have specific needs that can be addressed with a monochrome, paper-like screen, it’s the least expensive. It also performs well with the technology it is using.
For the more adventurous, the 25.3-inch Mira Pro monitor is about to become more widely available in the near future.
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