can I buy low resolution, black-and-white, text-only LCD monitor to save money and power?

preferably with USB connection :-). My point is, people who sell monitors always advertise how their gadgets are high resolution, lotsa colors etc, and presumably all that quality costs money to make. Even outfits like the $100 laptop are jumping through hoops to make a decent quality monitor at a low price.

Now, suppose all I want to use the monitor for is reading text and writing text (user interface can be purely text too, as in command line Unix), and I want it to be cheap and require minimal power. So I have zero need for the colors and the resolution and the brightness etc. I don’t even need much size (which requires more power in LCD) - the size of laptop screen IMHO is too much, but the size of iPhone screen is too little, there has to be some nice golden middle.

Well, so does anybody sell cheap, text oriented, small/medium size monitors, whether as standalone computer peripheral or as component to other gadget that could be hacked/adapted as standalone peripheral? And, on purely general/theoretic considerations, how much power and cost savings would we expect from such a monitor compared to a regular high quality LCD monitor of the same size?

You can buy a hi-res, full color 18" flat screen monitor for less than $100; how much cheaper were you thinking?

… I haven’t even seen monochrome monitors at Goodwill in over a decade.

nowadays, cost of electronics is a lot more driven by volume than capability.

If they could only sell 1% as many of your hypothetical cheap monitors vs ordinary ones, they’d cost ~10x as much apeice to make. Al the same design, all the same setup & distribution costs, almost all the raw materials & factory occupancy time. But amortized over 1/100th the production run.

You’re basically looking at e-ink - based monitors, like eReaders use.

No it is a relatively silly request. You are a market of one. You are asking for a small, stand alone ebook screen to run off your PC. This is not something any other human being wants (so far).

A two line (2 x 16) characters LCD display, plus an Arduino, including USB to port text from comp, will cost you about $55.
That’s about as low res as you can get and still call something a monitor.

Manufactured items get cheap not because they are simple but because the economy of scaling up. I can find you a shit specialist monitor that is made by one factory and thus costs a lot or a popular monitor with lots of bells and whistles that costs a lot less.

I also dont see how something can be “text only.” Drawing pixels on a LCD is drawing pixels on a LCD. There’s no magic “draw letters” option. Something needs to drive all of this and if its drawing letters (which are graphics too) then there really is no difference.

If you want deals visit or

Never bought an 80 column card for your Apple II, did you?
The LCD I linked to above, expects ASCII input, and has a separate 8X14 (or whatever) LCD array for each of the 16 characters in a line. It doesn’t do graphics.

Well, a typical 17" lcd monitor seems to use somewhere in the range of 25W. This comes out to about half a kilowatt a day. That’s if you actually used it for the full 24 hours – in standby I believe they use something like 1W. So you can probably find a smaller monitor and still use it for a solid 8 hours a day, every single day, and it’d probably get you to about 40-50 kilowatts a year.

Assuming my arithmetic is correct, I don’t know how much power you would realistically be able to save by using a monochrome monitor.

I gotta say tho, this is the sort of GQ answer a thread like this needs.


I am not a Green loon out to save the world by not showering and turning off the clock to avoid waste of energy all the while showing solidarity with the Khoisan of the Kalahari desert. I am, however, interested in technological solutions for situations where electricity is in very short supply, e.g. when running laptop on batteries.

In terms of cost reduction, I would have thought that a text only monitor would work with much lower resolution than regular one, hence making it inherently cheaper. Yes, I am aware of the e-ink e.g. in Kindle, but AFAIK these are ridiculously overpriced technologies right now due to patents, newness etc. And yes, it would have been very nice to get a monitor for $5 or $10. I mean hey, some cellphones with a very small LCD screen sell for about that much…

About the economies of scale, got it. Good point. Nevertheless, let’s suppose, hypothetically, that we have a choice between manufacturing a million modern good LCD monitors and a million primitive devices which I have just described, with the same screen size. At some point of volume, I would expect, the cost inherent in making a gadget of particular quality/complexity will start to kick in. So how much production savings could be expected with this sort of quality downgrade?

Sorry, yes. Every time I said kilowatt in my post i meant kilowatt-hour.

Any cell phones selling for $5 or $10 are either used on eBay or the cost is subsidized by your subscription to the carrier.

As for the small screens, you might be interested in

You may notice how the prices there back up what others have said - a 7"or 9" screen costs more than a typical 17" LCD. It really is all about volume when it comes to electronics. However, they do fit the bill in terms of being small, USB-powered and energy efficient. They are not black and white, though.

Nobody wants a text-only device of that size. So, the market for such a thing is essentially zero, and your price will be enormous. Think inside the box - how do you make a more efficient LCD display? (you don’t, you move to OLED, which will eventually have better price and energy efficiency than LCD).

You mean, ‘3600 joules’. :slight_smile:

Well, most consumers don’t want a display that size. I did just see a monitor similar to what the OP wants, and it was at the checkout line of a store. I do recall it was made by IBM, so I googled IBM POS display and found this page.

So I suggest that the OP contact a vendor for point-of-sale systems and see if they have any old obsolete displays that could be adapted to his needs.

Those character displays are only 2x20.
Here are some better choices.

Still, it’s a bad idea. The world has moved away from character displays. If you are concerned about cost and power, look at getting one of these.

>The LCD I linked to above, expects ASCII input, and has a separate 8X14 (or whatever) LCD array for each of the 16 characters in a line. It doesn’t do graphics.

Youve got to be kidding. I read linux logs all the time and I need at least 10-15 lines and 80 characters long to be productive. 2 lines? Yeah, good luck with that.

With modern power saving or just getting off your ass and hitting the off button, a lot of this discussion is academic. Pick up the cheapest 15 incher and be done with it.

Is the whole world not using embedded systems anymore? I think I’ll get a Coke from a vending machine and get back to you. :wink: