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pocketbook ultra

The Pocketbook Ultra e-reader has just been released and its the first device out there that has a built in camera. Its mainly used to snap profile pics or to scan books. It uses the exact same e-Ink Carta technology employed on the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Kobo Aura H20, which will give you faster page turns and higher resolution. How exactly does this e-reader perform in real world conditions and is it a viable investment?

Hardware

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The Pocketbook Ultra features a six inch e-ink Carta display screen with a resolution of 1024×758. This device uses Neonode IR technology, so you won’t be able to pinch and zoom. Instead, users will have to employ single or double taps in order to access the menus or settings.

Underneath the hood is a 1GHZ processor and 512 MB of RAM. Users will have 4 GB of internal memory and the ability to enhance it further via a MicroSD Card.

pocketbook ultra camera

This e-reader has a few things going for it, that make it stand out in a crowded marketplace. It has a 5 MP rear facing camera, that is ironically placed on the bottom right hand corner. There is a small LED light that assists in snapping photos, but the entire process is a bit convoluted.

Lets say you are outside and want to take a picture of a flower. You need to open the photo app on the home screen and wait around five seconds to get a sketch outline. You can think of this is a state that is not fully rendered. Once you take the picture, it will take another five seconds for the full image to give you full resolution. Photos are viewed in the gallery, and can be used for your boot up logo or can be exported to your PC.

One of the weird things about the camera is the photos you take are not taken in e-ink. When you snap a picture or scan a page out of a book and export it to your PC, they are actually in full color. Normally, this would not be a problem, but five megapixels is not enough to get a great rendering. Things tend to look really grainy as an end result, which might not be the best call for high quality book, magazine or comic OCR scanning.

The Ultra has a front-lit display that allows you to read in the dark. Unlike smartphones and tablets, the light does not emit from behind the screen. Instead, it has five LED lights on the bottom of the bezel that evenly distribute light across the screen. This lighting system is one of the drawbacks, it does not really illuminate the screen properly even at maximum brightness. In a side by side comparison against the Kobo Aura H20 or the Kindle Paperwhite 2, the Ultra gave a really lackluster experience.

The vast majority of e-readers these days have abandoned audio. Companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo are in a race to offer the most affordable hardware possible, and audio increases the overall cost. The Pocketbook Ultra does have built in audio, but the only way to listen to text to speech or MP3 files is via the 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Design wise the Pocketbook Ultra has 2 physical page turn keys, but they are on the back of the unit. Most e-readers have the keys right on the front, on the left and right hand side. Pocketbook went the non-conventional route and has them on the back. At first, I thought this was a weird design change, but when you naturally hold the reader in portrait mode, I found it actually worked. There are also 4 physical buttons on the front, that access the settings, home button and forward/backward.

In the end, the Pocketbook Ultra is a very sexy e-reader. The hardware and overall design principles makes it really stand out. Sadly, the 512 MB of RAM is really noticeable. It many cases you have to wait a few seconds for a new app to open and over the course of our review we had to reboot it. Still, an e-ink camera is very compelling and it really does take great photos.

Software

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Pocketbook has been focusing their efforts on developing proprietary in-house apps that make the Ultra extremely viable, right out of the box. The company has heavily invested in features such as Pocketbook Sync and Send to Pocketbook. These two apps allow you to send and receive audiobooks, eBooks and documents from your cloud storage. Pocketbook also wrote their own custom Dropbox app, using the public API. So if you don’t feel like using the Pocketbook cloud system, you can use Dropbox, which is more commonly used. The most interesting aspect about the entire Dropbox system is that you can create custom shelves in your library that house all of your cloud based content.

The Home screen comprises of your Library, Store and Camera, in addition to the eBooks you have recently added or purchased. There are two tabs on the bottom of the screen and top. The bottom ones access app such as your browser, calculator, chess dictionary, documents, gallery, Klondike, MP3 Player, Notes, Scribble and Sudoku. I especially liked the drawing app that has a bunch of different pen sizes and font options.

The top menu allows you to easily access the brightness levels of the font-lit display, task manager and deep settings options. I thought including a task manager was a really positive step forward for Pocketbook. Hitting this button allows you to view all of the tabs you have opened, with options to keep them open or to close them completely. If a certain aspect becomes irresponsible, you can close it and reopen it. This prevents the need to always reboot it. Over the course of the review, a big PDF file seemed to really slow down the Ultra, so we simply closed it and everything went back to working fine.

All the time, we are stuck with the stock button configurations of an e-reader. You might hold the e-reader in such a way, that it is always automatically switches from portrait mode to landscape. Other times you may inadvertently hit the wrong button, breaking immersion when reading a good eBook. To remedy this problem Pocketbook developed a key mapping tool that allows you to disable a specific button when reading or change it to a completely different function globally.

e-Reading Experience

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One of Pocketbooks strengths when competing in the global e-reader market is their inherent ability to support many languages. When Amazon or Kobo sell their readers in France, Italy or Denmark they sell localized versions to them, with custom firmware. All Pocketbook models support a ton of dictionaries and can change the entire menu system to Korean on the fly.

The new e-reader supports more than 20 popular text and image formats and also has a set of preinstalled ABBYY Lingvo dictionaries. It even has the official Websters 1913 dictionary.

Your virtual library is going to be the most commonly accessed area of the e-reader. Pocketbook is focusing on customization with the ability to filter by authors, genres, bookshelves, folders, formats or series. You can also change the visual prospective from showing cover art to a list view. Pocketbook sells the Ultra with over 60 preinstalled eBooks, you so will likely want to likely prune them quickly via Windows Explorer or an eBook manager program like Adobe Digital Editions.

The overall e-Book experience is solid with EPUB type files, it is stable and the process tend not to crash. You can either load in your own books or do business with the Pocketbook run Bookland bookstore. It does not have a ton of bestsellers, but they constantly add new content, such as new Don Brown. The majority seem to be royalty free type books, you would find on websites such as Project Gutenberg. Unfortunately, PDF books are severely hampered.

The Ultra does not have a capacitive touch screen and employs older Neonode IR touch technology. This prevents the ability to pinch and zoom, so when reading PDF files you have to hit various settings menu to manually find your optimal zoom level. This is very tedious because every time you turn a page, your options are not preserved. The Ultra is also prone to crash when reading PDF files over 80 MB in size, they cannot fully render properly.

When someone is looking for an e-reader, often they just want to occasionally read an eBook and not have to worry about anything else. I may fixate on the inner workings of the Ultra and let you know exactly how it performs in real life, but its all about just reading. It does a tremendous job with the e-Ink carta display. Page turns occur super quickly, and there is little to no ghosting.

Wrap Up

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I have been reviewing Pocketbook e-readers since their very first model. They tend to release three or four different models and Good e-Reader has really seen them grow over time. The Pocketbook Ultra is the best model they have ever released with a six inch screen. It perfectly blends hardware with unique software elements and has a camera.

This e-reader would come heavily recommended for people with disabilities and have a hard time reading. You can plug in a set of headphones and use the text to speech system. It is available only in English, German and French, but this is a big selling point. If you are looking for a cutting edge e-reader that will stand out in a crowd, the Ultra is for you.

PROS

Audio
Text to Speech
5 MP Camera
All buttons can be key mapped
e-Ink Carta Display

CONS

512 MB of RAM hampers a perfect score
Front-lit display is not on par with the Kobo Aura H20 or Kindle Paperwhite
Comes with too many eBooks in different languages
Large PDF files do not work properly

Rating: 8/10


Comments (1)

Kobo H20

Kobo has an obsession on what constitutes the perfect e-reading experience and they have been feverishly working towards this ideal. They have slowly been evolving their product line to fall in line with the quintessential five B’s of bookselling; Bath, Backyard, Bedroom, Bus and Beach.

The brand new Kobo Aura H2O e-Reader is the most complete device the Toronto based company has ever released. It was designed to be able be completely submerged in five meters of water, for up to fifty minutes, which finally allows users to safely read in the bath and beach.

We spoke to Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn in prelude to the formal unveiling and he mentioned that “The H2O follows the same design principles of the Kobo Aura. When the Aura first came out we expected that the premium 6.8 inch screen would only account for 2% of our companies sales, and within a few months it captured 25%. We are hoping to replicate the success of the Aura with the H2O, which is slimmer, lighter and can be used on vacations.”

Hardware

hardware

The Kobo Aura H2O features a 6.8 inch e-ink Carta touchscreen display with a resolution of 1430×1080. Carta Imaging Film offers a 50% improvement in contrast ratio over previous generation of e-Paper displays. This allows for faster page turns and the ability to turn pages in a digital book, without the need of constant screen refreshes.

The Aura HD and Aura H2O e-readers are not using a capacitive touchscreen display, which means it does not have pinching and zooming capabilities. Instead, it is employing Infrared technology from Neonode.

One of the main benefits of the H2O e-Reader is the ability to enjoy eBooks, graphic novels or newspapers in lowlight conditions or complete darkness. Unlike a smartphone or tablet that has an LCD screen that emits light from behind a layer of film, the H2O has five LED lights on the bottom of the bezel. It shines upwards, insuring even light distribution and makes it easier to devour books without eye strain.

Kobo has managed to attain the prestigious IP67 certification for their first waterproof device. It will basically allow users to have the e-Reader completely submerged in five meters of water for an hour, with the MicroUSB and MiscroSD ports closed. This makes the H2O the most complete, well-rounded device the market and eliminates the need to send off your reader to a third party and pay over $60 for them to waterproof it for you. During underwater tests I found that even completely submerged in water, you can still turn pages and access the core functionality.

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Underneath the hood is a Freescale i.MX507 1GHZ processor and 512MB of RAM. It ships with 4GB of internal storage and can be expanded further via a MicroSD for up to 32GB of additional memory. Basically, if you max your storage, you can store over 30,000 books on your e-Reader and not have to charge it for up to two months.
Prior models of the Kobo Aura and Kobo Aura HD has the MicroSD, MicroUSB and status indicator light on the bottom. This model still has the slots in the same place, but has a new waterproof flap that snuggly closes in order to truly make it waterproof.

On a hardware level my only complaint is that the screen is not flush with the bezel like it is on the Kobo Aura or the Tolino Vision. In a world of tablets and smartphones, it could be a weird adjustment for people go from that to a sunken screen.

Software

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The Kobo Aura H2O features a home screen that is heavily dynamic in nature. If you create a new bookshelf, buy an eBook or start reading a newspaper an entry will be automatically created right on the home screen. This enables users to be able to quickly jump into reading digital content, without the need of jumping through a lot of hoops. Underneath the book title on your home screen a percentage rating is generated, depending on how far you are in the book.

Kobo has added a sync button right on the home screen and this button accomplishes a few things. If you purchase an eBook on your smartphone or tablet via the Kobo App, all of the content will automatically be downloaded to your H2O if you hit the sync button. Additionally, it is also used to query the Kobo servers for any potential firmware updates and prompt you for an upgrade.

One of the things I liked about the new sync system is the visual cues it provides. Prior models of Kobo would just have a loading animation, with no indications on what it was doing behind the scenes. Now, when it syncs it gives text based updates on the top. By default, it will say it is syncing reading life, awards and firmware updates.

h20 settings-wet

I noticed a number of small bugs that are easily solved by tweaking some options in the setting menu. By default, the H2O will prompt you to wipe off the screen if it becomes wet. This notification appears when you load up a PDF file and does not disappear. Likely, this is occurring because of the oil in your hands, but you  can turn it off by going into “Reading Settings” and deselecting the Water Notification flag. Also, on the main screen you see curated content by Kobo, recommended reads and eBooks they recommend. There is an option to turn this off, but once it is disabled it is impossible to re-enable it.

Finally, Kobo has maintained their Reading Statistics system on the home screen. This gives you a sense of progression and monitors your reading habits. There are plenty of metrics to keep track of, such as how long it takes you to read a specific page of text or the average amount of time it takes to read a book.

e-Reading Experience

Reading 1

Kobo does an amazing job in making their e-readers appealing to both casual and hardcore users. They have plenty of advanced options that the competition simply cannot match, such as the ability to load in your own fonts. They also have a bunch of sliders that allow unparalleled flexibility in determining how much weight you want your fonts to have and configure the margins and line spaces.

The Aura H2O was designed to excel at reading the two most popular electronic book formats, PDF and EPUB. They also have support for manga, graphic novels and comic books with CBR and CBZ, so users will be able to download them from the internet and easily load them on their reader. When it comes right down to it, it reads: EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RFT, CBZ, and CBR.

When you are reading a book, you have a number of options you can employ. Aside from font and customization options you can long-press on a word and get an instant definition of it. If you speak another language, you can look the word up in Japanese, Italian, German, Dutch, and many more. When long-pressing a word, you get an anchor that will allow you to select a single word, sentence, or entire paragraph. You can then highlight it or add a note. When you add a note, a virtual keyboard appears that allows you to manually add one.

Have you ever wanted to know more about a particular character, or learn more about the world they live in? “Beyond the Book” is a program Kobo unveiled in late 2013 and is quite similar to Amazon’s X-Ray feature, Beyond the Book allows a user to find more information about part of the book, providing similar topics, books, and authors. Not all titles have the Beyond the Book, so if your specific eBook is missing it, please do not fret.

PDF

The Kobo Aura allows you to pinch and zoom to isolate specific bodies of text, but this model does not have this feature, primarily due to the fact is not using a capacitive touchscreen. Instead, you have to double tap the center of a specific document to enable zoom. A small bar is on the bottom of the screen, which you can think of your magnification settings, this allows you to manually configure the zoom level. While you are zoomed in there is a preview pane in the top left hand corner. You can think of this pane as a snapshot of the specific page you are on, which helps orientate on the exact position in the PDF. If you have zoomed in and want to maintain your settings, you can flip to the next page and your exact zoom level is still preserved.

Many PDF files are massive in size and eclipse 150MB, such as eTextbooks, role playing games and medical journals. The Kindle Paperwhite e-reader really buckles under the weight and but the H2O handles them like a boss. We normally load in a 50 MB science journal and a 189 MB D&D Monsters Manual, both of them handled them fairly well.

When you start amassing a large library of eBooks, collection management becomes a big issue. Kobo has a system that allows you to create custom bookshelves, where you can select the eBooks you want to include. For example, you can create a bookshelf to house all of your Fantasy and Science Fiction titles and another for Literary Fiction.

When it comes to buying books, Kobo simply has the most massive ecosystem in the world. They have over 4 million digital titles, which not includes eBooks but also kids’ books, graphic novels, newspapers, magazines, manga and comics. They officially sell this content in over 84 countries and if you don’t live in a supported country, you are automatically sent over to the one closest to where you reside. I found the Kobo Store used to not load all of the cover art and text based assets quickly in prior models, the H2O loads everything very quickly.

Wrap up

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The Kobo Aura H2O is the byproduct of multiple generations of e-readers, and the constant refinement of software and hardware. The H2O is considered to be the most complete e-Reader Kobo has ever produced.

When it comes to freedom, the H2O provides it in spades. Not having to fret over spilled coffee or getting sand stuck under the screen is liberating. You can read it just as easily in direct sunlight as you can in complete darkness, e-reading technology just took a giant leap forward.

Kobo sometimes receives a lot of flak for their abysmal customer service when it comes to hardware repairs or errors in purchasing books. We have seen thousands of comments on our news site about most people experiencing the same type of errors, with no resolution in sight. The company has tried very hard over the years to simplify the process, and are closer than ever with their live chat and 1-800 numbers, but they still have a long way to go.

In the end, if you have a Kobo Glo, Kobo Touch or even a Kobo Aura, I would recommend you upgrade to the H2O. There isn’t any new e-ink technology on the horizon that you should be saving yourself for, and the only new thing that will be out next year is a Kobo e-Reader that will likely have Wacom support and be bundled with a stylus for note taking.

The Kobo Aura H2O comes out October 1st in Canada and the United States for $179. It comes out at the same time in the Uk costing £139.99 and in Europe for €179.00.

PROS

Reads many popular eBook formats
Waterproof
e-Ink Carta screen
You can bring it anywhere and read anytime
Global eBook system that appeals to a worldwide audience

CONS

Beyond the Book not available in most modern best sellers
The lack of pinch and zoom may turn some people off
Constant water droplet notifications are annoying.

Rating: 8/10


Aug
19

Icarus Illumina E653 Review

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icarys-3653

Icarus has redefined what an e-reader is capable of with the advent of the Illumina E653. It comes bundled with Android 4.2, which gives users the flexibility to install their own eBook, magazine, newspaper or manga apps. How does this reader compare to the Kindle Paperwhite, Nook Glowlight or Kobo Auras of the world? Today, we give  you a comprehensive  hands on review of what this new e-reader is all about.

Hardware

The Illumina E653 features a six inch e-Ink touch screen display with a resolution of 1024×758 pixels. This reader does trumpet the fact it has a capacitive touch screen, but it honestly feels like it is employing older Neonode IR technology. None of the stock apps have any sort of  support for pinching and zooming.

Icarus has maintained a front-lit display, that allows you to customize the brightness of the screen and read it in the dark. There are five LED lights at the very bottom of the screen and splash upwards. We noticed from the nighttime reading tests that you actually see a bit of light spillage at the very bottom of the screen. It does not totally break immersion, but the light on the Kindle Paperwhite 2 is far superior.

There has been some design changes from the Illumina HD and the new E653. The current model has done away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, so listening to music and audiobooks are obviously out of the question. They also removed the D-Pad on the bottom and the screen and also the physical  home, refresh, and settings buttons. The only buttons present on the Illumina are physical page turn keys on the left/right hand side of the screen, back button and the physical button that turns on the front-lit display.

There is 4GB of internal storage to house of all of your apps and eBooks. If this is not enough for your literary needs, there is support for a 32GB MicroSD card. You should get some solid battery life with the 2000 mAh, which is good for 4,000 page turns, or about 1 month of constant use.

I feel like Icarus has done a fairly good job with the intuitive design of the second generation Illumina. It feels more modern, although I would have liked to see the screen flush with the bezel like the quintessential smartphone or tablet.

Software

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The main selling point behind the E653 is the open nature of Android 4.2. Many e-readers by Sony or Barnes and Noble use Android, but they use a very locked down version and are both heavily skinned. They certainly don’t allow  you to install your own apps or give you an interface that is similar to anything that LG or Samsung provide.

The Icarus home screen is  one of the only things on this e-reader that is modified from the stock experience. It shows you the books you have recently read or have added to it via the Microusb port. There is no built in ecosystem to purchase content, so you will not be inundated by book discovery or anyone trying to shill you new content.

When you hit the Settings or Apps buttons things tend to look more like a your atypical vanilla Android smartphone. There are a number of preinstalled apps for you to use right out of the box such as Aldiko, Dropbox, gReader, Kobo, Opera Mini and Amazon Kindle. Sadly though, there is no built in App Store for you to install new content. This will put  a reliance on Icarus owners being savvy enough to load in the Good e-Reader App Store or APK files from the internet.  It is important to note that due to the home screen being modified to be more e-reader centric you cannot set up widgets or wallpapers.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that you can’t drag down your finger downwards from the upper top menu to see your clock and notifications. Instead, its on the bottom right hand corner and you have to click on the clock to see the notifications.  You will see apps you downloaded, incoming emails and other critical updates like a WIFI hotspot.

The one thing I really like is the stock keyboard, and its not too often that you hear about it during a review.  It uses the stock Android one and it is actually possible to change it with alternative apps, for further customization. You get a full QWERTY keyboard by default and the keys are placed perfectly apart. The Kobo Aura e-Reader has keys that are placed on top of each other, whereas the Icarus has a true Android keyboard. I dig when you are searching the internet or entering forms and the .com button appears under the enter key, which cuts down on the time entering your email address.

In the end, the Android experience on the Icarus feels more tighter than the Onyx Boox T68. It also is more robust than the only other e-reader currently available that allows you to install apps. Overall, this reader will appeal to anyone looking for more control over their favorite ecosystem, without being locked into anyone in particular.

e-reading experience

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Icarus has an e-reading app that is integrated into the home screen and allows you to read PDF, FB2, EPUB, RTF, MOBI, TXT, HTM files. I have to say ePub books look really great, but the drawback is with PDF files.

When you read a traditional ePub book, such as one of the 37 that come preloaded on the reader, you get a solid experience. The first thing you notice is there is no page turn refresh issues plaguing you every single page you turn. Instead it only occurs every six pages, so it does not constantly break immersion.

If you want to change the font size, line space, margins or font type, you simply have to hold your finger in the middle of the screen. You get 4 icons that appear on the very bottom and it is not immediately clear on what they do. It is important to explore them all to find out what they do.

Advanced users will like the fact there is 56 preloaded fonts to select from, which is the highest number I have ever seen on a reader. I found the fact it as an Android Emoji option, and thought the book would be the equivalent of Wingdings, except for thousands of different smiling faces, but this was sadly not the case, the text basically just looked like a series of text messages.

The one drawback on the Icarus is with reading PDF files. There is no way to pinch and zoom to isolate a particular part of the document.  Instead there are two viewing panes to choose from, the default or extreme zoomed. Once its zoomed you can drag your finger around the screen to find the ideal body of text, but you can’t turn pages in this manner.

GREYSCALE

The one thing that was very unique about looking at PDFS was the ability to actually alter the e-ink display. There is an option exclusive to PDF files that allow  you to physically change the amount of greyscale and black levels. For example, we were looking at the Dungeons and Dragons Monsters Manual and one character looked very clean, I adjusted the blackness levels and suddenly you saw many different shades on his legs, chest and arms. Very cool!

In addition with PDF files, you get the same type of reflow options of text that is much akin to the way the Sony rendering engine performed. You can strip away all of the custom styling sheets and extract pure text.

When it comes right down to it, the Illumina gives you freedom. The Kindle locks you into Amazon,  Nook makes it difficult to access anything but the Barnes and Noble bookstore and Kobo is the same. It is possible to load in your OWN books, but it is difficult for your average user. Icarus gives you the option to do business with whatever ecosystem you want or the ability to download 3rd party indie readers such as Moon+ Reader, Aldiko or Manga Plyus.

Should you buy this?

wrapup

Is the Icarus Illumina E653 worth the 139 euro cover price? It does a better job than Onyx T68,  in handling Android app.  The default e-reading app is also superior and you can easily get by with this, whereas the Onyx one was utterly deplorable.

This e-reader is viable for anyone that wants a true Android experience on their e-reader and does not want to go through the technical rigamarole of rooting a mainstream one. It is completely viable to install your favorite reading apps, whether its a RSS Reader or comic book reader. One important note, any app that requires page turn animations often provide a lackluster experience. This is prompting Good e-Reader to test as many apps as possible and make a dedicated e-ink section on our app store.

PROS

Android 4.2
Great keyboard
The ability to install your own apps
Solid stock e-reading app with innovative features

CONS

Front-light has a bit of light spillage on the bottom of the screen
No ability to customize zoom levels on PDF files
Does not have an app store loaded on it (but we heard it will soon)

Rating: 8.5/10


Comments (5)
Aug
07

Sony Digital Paper Review

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digital paper

Sony is getting out of the consumer e-reader sector and focusing their efforts on devices aimed at businesses. The first commercially viable product is the new Digital Paper (DPT-S1) which is a super advanced PDF Reader. How viable is this new product for the corporate audience or end users? Today, Good e-Reader is proud to bring you the first true hands on review.

Hardware

hardware

The Sony Digital Paper features a 13.3 inch e-Ink Mobius e-paper screen with a resolution of 1200 by 1600. It was designed to give you a true A4 experience, displaying PDF files as they were originally intended. The lightweight nature of Mobius gives you amazing clarity in the fonts and pictures. It also one of the most lightweight products in its class, clocking in at .08 pounds. To give you some comparison, The Kindle DX has a 9.7 inch screen and weighs 0.91 pounds and the iPad Air is 1.3 pounds.

The Digital Paper features a capacitive touchscreen display panel, which allows you to navigate menus, browse the internet or flip pages with your hands. The device really shines with the accompanied Stylus, which has advanced options for left and right handed people. The touchscreen panel is so amazing, that you can hold your wrist down on a document and it does not register as an interaction, provided the pen is actively touching the screen. This allows you to organically write on the Digital Paper, the same way you would write in your notebook. There is also a highlight button the stylus to allow you to quickly edit a document on the fly.

Underneath the hood is a ARM Cortex A8 1GHZ single core processor and 4GB of internal memory. There is support for a MicroSD card to enhance the memory up to an additional 32GB. Battery life is superb with a 1270 mAh lithium ion, which should garner you over a month of constant use.

The design of the Digital Paper is entirely unique and no e-reader has ever managed to pull off the practical sensibilities. It has a home, back and settings button that are not softkeys, but they have a bit of torque. By firmly pressing down, and hearing a small click, you know you interacted with a specific function. The settings menu does different things, depending on if you are reading a document or using the internet browser. There is a small power button on the right hand corner of the unit, on a small curved part of the bezel.

The Sony DPT-S1 is beguiling to behold. Its lightweight nature allows you to hold it in one hand for long reading sessions. The clarity of the screen makes image heavy PDF documents really shine. Sony has really refined the role a stylus plays in their consumer side of e-readers, since their first touchscreen PRS-700 back in 2007. If you are heavily invested in PDF documents at work or in the home, this is a must purchase.

Software

software

The Digital Paper reader was designed with the express purpose of reading PDF documents. It is the first e-reader ever to show a document as it was intended to be read in glorious A4. There is no need to employ pinching or zooming to find that sweet spot, like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Aura does. That is not to say you can’t pinch and zoom, you can, its just mostly unnecessary.

There are times when you are browsing the web or want to show off how pretty an image looks by making it full screen. Due to its capacitive nature you can easily pinch and zoom using two fingers to make take up the entire screen. During this process the rendering engine kicks in, limiting the amount of e-ink refreshing that occurs. This is where the 1GHZ processor really shines because its all done with the ease of use of doing the same thing on a smartphone or tablet.

The home screen comprises of your Last Read, Recently Added or Saved Workspaces. On the navigation bar are entries for Home, Documents, Notes, Workspace, Browser and Settings.

Workspaces is the bread and butter of this device and bears a resemblance of the way browser tabs work on Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. You can have many documents opened at once and jump between them by clicking on the tab. Lets say you are a lawyer working on a class action suit, likely you will have a pile of PDF documents that constantly need to be referenced. You can have 10 tabs opened at once for the interview phase and seamlessly jump between each one, taking notes and making highlights for key points. Workspaces can be saved and loaded, so you can jump between them with ease right from the menu.

Editing a PDF document allows you to write with the stylus anywhere you want. You can make notes, highlights or annotations and quickly go back to reference any changes you made on the fly. Once you made a bunch of changes you can save the PDF, preserving all of your augments, so you can export it to your e-Reader, smartphone, tablet or work PC.

sylus

When editing a PDF file, there are four different pen styles to select, from the very fine line to one that bears a resemblance to a marker. If you elect to take a note there are two main processes. One allows you to use the touchscreen keyboard to type in changes and the other incorporates the stylus to hand draw.

I really dig the dedicated note taking app. It gives you a lined sheet of paper, similar to the ones we all used in grade school, complete with margin edges. You can doodle, draw or just write in text with the stylus and save these are independent files.

The internet browser is your gateway to access PDF files via the internet or just kill some time on Twitter. It has options to disable pictures, Javascript and to disallow the saving of cookies. Most websites that have gifs or animations tend to load slow, due to the refresh issues that permeate all e-readers.

e-Reading Experience

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The Digital Paper was designed to be a true PDF Reader with most of the RND efforts focusing on minimizing screen refreshing and advanced editing options. It does not have support for EPUB, MOBI, TEXT or DOC files, so it is quite limiting to read eBooks.

Still, the advanced user will be able to easily download comics, manga, eBooks, magazines or newspapers in PDF form. If you have a collection of DRM-Free eBooks, from Project Gutenberg Pottermore or TOR you can easily use Calibre to convert your standard digital book from one format to another. We tested this during the review and comic books tend to look a bit dark, but eBooks actually worked amazing. Sony is clearly not hyping the fact this is an e-reader, but the functionality does exist to convert your existing collection and port it over.

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When you are reading an EPUB book converted to a PDF the large screen is a pure joy. There isn’t any options to make the text bigger or adjust the line spaces or margins like there are on the Nook, Kindle or Kobo, but there is no real need. By default, the text is readable by the naked eye, and you can employ zooming to make the fonts appear better. You can also highlight, take notes, or look words up on Google.

The internet browser is your gateway to access your preexisting eBook collection on Dropbox, Evernote or Pocket. Most of the Read it Later services all allow you to even save your favorite blog in a PDF file, allowing you to reference it later. In addition, corporate clients are a big focus for Sony and there are advanced networking options to configure direct access to dedicated server or VPN. Once connected, new options appear when editing a document to automatically push your revised document to the central server. If many people have access to the same PDF File, it perseveres versioning, to make sure the newest document is always accessible.

Wrap Up

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The Sony Digital Paper is simply the best e-reader made for editing PDF files. We did a head to head comparison against the iPad, Kindle DX, Icarus Excel and most other large screen e-readers and tablets on the market. This model blew them all away with response time and ease of use. No app for iOS or Android can really compare with the entire file editing process.

I spoke with the team leads of the DPT-S1 earlier last week and they told me thousands of hours of development were made to make this reader a reality. They literally had full days of internal meetings where they would figure out how to shave off a millisecond of load time.

The price on this model is quite high when compared to other consumer e-readers out there. The DPT-S1 is not positioned in a race to the bottom, to be the cheapest device out there and appeal to the largest demographic. Instead its solely aimed at entertainment, law firms, medical, transportation and other verticals. I was told “it is meant to be a replacement of paper and your second screen to your PC.”

If you are heavily invested in PDF documents, this e-reader is the best one ever made. It is worthy the price of being both a large screen eBook reader and excels at its sole task, replacing paper.

PROS

Light as a feather
Most Advanced PDF Reader ever made
Long Battery Life
Note taking has no latency
Virtual Keyboard is responsive

CONS

No support for EPUB, MOBI, DOC or TXT
$1100
Sony does not sell these to everyone, you need to be interviewed

Rating: 10/10


Comments (29)

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The Amazon Fire TV has been out for a few months and there are not very many solid Zombie style games. Into the Dead is likely the best of the bunch and today Peter of Good e-Reader takes a look on how the experience plays out and using the Amazon Gamepad.

Into the Dead throws you into the gruesome world of the zombie apocalypse where there are no second chances. Do what you have to in order to stay alive, keep moving as fast as you can, and protect yourself by any means necessary. When the Dead are rising, run!

The whole point of this game is to run into an ever increasing horde of zombies. You can either dodge them or kill them to get by, but you never stop running and never run away from them.

You can find weapons in supply crates. Or you can start with a gun, but it’s gonna cost you. You can buy a head start that starts you at 1500 meters. You can have a dog with you, he will kill zombies for you, and cries when you die. You can buy extra ammunition, and more supply crates. There are 3 modes,, Classic, Hardcore, massacre. In classic you run for your life, in hardcore it’s hardcore. In massacre you kill as many zombies as you can. You can compare your score with friends, overall a great game, with temple run aspects, and you change your weapons and zombie looks!


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Onyx has released the first single screen smartphone that uses the same type of e-Ink technology found on your Kindle or Kobo. This would allow for a glare free experience while using it in direct sunlight and provides longer battery life than the iPhone.

The overall design of the phone is small and lightweight, primarily due to the Mobius screen technology that both Sony and e-Ink co-developed. This gives you higher resolution and a thinner display panel.  Is the Onyx InkPhone merely a gimmick or does it offer us a glimpse of the future of smartphones?

Hardware

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The Onyx InkPhone features a 4.3 inch screen that uses e-Ink instead of the standard LCD, LED or AMOLED found in most mainstream devices.  The core display technology is e-Ink Mobius, which was co-developed by Sony. The essence of this screen is to provide a more lightweight panel, higher resolution and faster page turns.

Unlike most e-readers the InkPhone has a capacitive touchscreen and the display panel is flush with the bezel. If you have ever used a Tolino Vision or Kobo Aura you would know it is much easier to interact with the screen in this manner.

This phone allows you to read in the dark via the front-lit display. The main difference between this and your iPhone is the light emits from the bottom of the bezel and splashes evenly across the screen.  The iPhone and all other phones on the market have light that is emitting from behind the screen, into your eyes.

The hardware specs are fairly woeful which provide an abysmally slow experience in navigation, menus and anything that involves typing. It has a single core Mediatek MT6515M Cortex A9 1.0 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and 512MB of storage space.  I installed Google Maps, Kindle, Viz Manga, Digg, Facebook and Twitter and already maxed out on available memory. This resulted in the unit being placed in a standby mode and would not boot up until I pulled the battery and put it back in.

There is a built in mono speaker and a 3.55 headphone jack built into the phone. The audio is fairly woeful and does not give you a wide array of peaks. When you plug in a set of headphones the sound is equally terrible. I think it comes down to the built in audio system being very dated.

People who dig taking selfies will be irked by the fact there is no camera. This will obviously prevent most apps that take advantage of camera being unable to work.  One of the redeeming factors is that you should garner 2 weeks of battery life with ultra light use.

An e-Ink phone on paper sounds like the natural evolution of the technology that originated from dedicated e-readers. In execution however the 512 MB of RAM and 512MB of storage is not enough to give users a robust experience. However, you can put a MicroSD card to enhance it, but most apps do not give the option to install to the SD.

Software

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The InkPhone is running Android 2.3 and has a customized homescreen aimed at readers. It shows the last few books you have opened up or loaded on the device via the Mini USB cable. When you hit the home button you hit the vanilla Android experience with all of the preinstalled icons and all the apps you install.

An older version of the Google Play store is loaded on the phone, giving users the option to install content that is compatible with an older version of Android. Sadly, many of the apps we installed simply won’t work.

There seems to be a problem with GPS which makes turn by turn apps unviable. Even things like Google Maps or Street View fail to work. Also, any apps that rely on animations will not work effectively either.

Most apps are designed for smartphones and tablets that have solid specs. Developers often add in animated page turns, peaking what’s on the next page or use visual enhancements to flair up the overall design.  They are also designed to show off color, since modern tablets can easily handle millions of them.

By default the InkPhone does not allow you to move icons from the apps category to  your home page. You cannot hold your finger down on an app and have any options to make a shortcut or move it around. Everything is mostly locked into position. You can install a 3rd party Launcher, but most of them do not support an older version of Android because of integration of Google Now and cameras.

Scrolling to your various menus, accessing settings or opening apps is an exercise in patience. It took me over 30 seconds to type in your standard 10 digit phone number, because you cannot quickly type. You have to enter a digit, pause, enter it again and so on. This makes text messaging via Whatsapp or entering a WIFI password as a tedious endeavor. Primary any kind of data entry is hindered by the e-Ink screen, which simply isn’t as responsive as any smartphone made in the last ten years.

You can increase the speed in which you can enter data, open apps or access your menu by a feature called A2. By default it is turned on and gives you high resolution. If you turn it off, all of the graphics are scaled down by 90% which makes everything pixelated and off-putting. Things tend to be more responsive in this manner, but it is a absolutely huge trade off.

Reading Experience

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The Onyx phone simply does not really allow you to run any type of apps that take advantage of GPS or involved in animations. Kindle, Kobo, Digg, Wattpad, Marvel Comics, Manga Box and all others provide a lackluster experience. Once you turn a page you have wait over seven seconds for it to occur. During this time it the page slowly turns, each frame being visible and severely discombobulating.

If you are buying this phone to act as an e-reader you can install certain apps that allow you disable animations or do not have any to begin with. Aldiko, Moon+ Reader and Cool-er are three examples of apps that work really well.

The InkPhone has a stock reader app that allows you to turn  pages by hitting the volume up and down button and also swipe via the touchscreen. It gives you many cool options to change the font type, line spacing , margins and font size. This app is really responsive and recommended to read PDF files and EPUBS.

The one drawback of the built in e-reading app is the Text to Speech function. It simply does not work and is in a broken state. When you initialize it it highlights random bodies of text from page to page, not going in any particular order. It might scan the 1st and last paragraph of page one and do something completely different in subsequent ones.  It also goes without saying that despite the fact it looks like it is working there is no audio.

Finally, there are dictionaries and translations you can download, but most of them are 150 to 240MB in size which almost takes up the 512MB of internal storage it has.

Wrap Up

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Onyx first  unveiled this phone at SID Display Week 2013 in Vancouver BC. The first demo model had a very touch friendly UI and everything was super quick and responsive. I absolutely could not wait until they had a commcerially viable model and when news broke that it was to have Google Play, I  was going to abandon by Blackberry and iPhone and just go with e-Ink.

Sadly, this phone is woefully inept in its current form and provides too many barriers for wide customer adoption. People want a responsive phone with lots of customization options and very high hardware specs. People want to shoot video, take  pictures, install apps and have good audio. The Onyx provides none of this and should be avoided at all costs, unless you are an early adopter or have a penichet for pain.

PROS

Two week Battery Life
Great Front-Lit Display
Excellent stock e-reading app
Google Play for everything you need

CONS

Will not play Video or Games
GPS is Broken
Text to Speech Broken
Abysmal one-dimensional Sound
Responsive and Slow
Most apps simply do not work
No Camera
WIFI automatically shuts off when it goes in standby mode
512MB of internal storage, kill me now.
512 MB of RAM, who thought this was a good idea


Comments (6)

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The Amazon Fire TV was developed to compete with Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and a myriad of other media services. The Seattle based company is trying to leverage their movie, television and apps services to appeal to customers that might not have a Fire Tablet or Amazon phone. Today, we give you a hands on review of Fire TV and if its worth it to purchase if you live outside of the USA.

Hardware

The Fire TV box is running on a heavily customized version of Google Android OS and features a very solid 1.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU with 2GB RAM, Bluetooth, 8GB internal storage. It has the same dual-antenna wireless internet that the latest generation Kindle Fire tablets have. It connects to your television via HDMI to give you full 1080p video and Dolby digital surround sound.

I have the Apple TV as my goto streaming video device and the Fire TV blows it out of the water in terms of speed and overall robustness. Navigation, menus and loading up content takes only a few seconds.

The remove control of the Fire TV is fairly standard. The only really unique aspect of it is the voice control system. You can mention an actor or directors name and it will open up all of the movies Amazon sells or rents that they have produced or performed in. This is useful to find out movies you might not have seen.

Gaming is one aspect of the Fire TV that works internationally. If you purchase the $59 game controller you can use it to play all of the games that have been optimized for the Fire TV. It is important to note that not all apps listed in the Amazon app store have Fire TV certification and there is barely a few hundred titles available to download or install. If you have Amazon Coins in your account, you can use them to pay for apps.

In the end, on a hardware level the remote, box and game controller are very elegant and solid. Amazon preety well as the best media box in terms of performance.

Software

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If you live outside of the US, you won’t have access to 80% of all the content available on the Fire TV. You would figure that Netflix would work, because in Canada we can signup, pay and view the service on our computers, or alternative streaming boxes such as Apple TV. The Fire TV runs the US version of Netflix, so you can login, but can’t actually watch anything.

Most of the apps listed in the Amazon Store for Fire TV simply won’t work. WWE Network, iHeartradio, HULU+ and many other free apps are incompatible outside the US. Normally people would say, you can simply install a VPN or DNS Service, but there is no way to sideload in your own apps or configure it to read a different DNS.

The only way you will be able to stream content or use apps, such as Netflix on the Fire TV is if you use the Second Screen feature on your Amazon Kindle HDX. The current generation of Kindle tablets allow you to load in your own apps and this would allow you to sideload in VPN or DNS services from websites other than Amazon. This would allow you to use Netflix or WWE network, but still won’t allow you to buy or rent movies from Amazon. In the past, we have tried to get this to work, but B&N and Amazon both use geolocation in their products for their core-services.

The Fire TV has a fairly intuitive menu system to find your apps, games, videos, movies and pictures. They are really putting a priority on app discovery with bright and bubbly icons and featured images. This is one of the few media boxes that allow you to install apps, something their competitors don’t.

Wrap Up

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The Average user will simply find the Fire TV totally unviable outside the US. Even if you purchased content from Amazon in the past, they won’t even allow you to stream stuff you own. It is a shame that even Netflix, which works with everything, won’t work.

A streaming box with only Watch ESPN, Flixor and TuneIN radio working is a kick in the pants. I would avoid this at all costs, unless you simply want an Android gaming console with a great controller.

One of the saddest things about Fire TV is the inability to tap into any of the reading content that has made Kindle so popular. There are no newspaper, magazine or eBook apps available for you to read to entertain your kids with.

To be honest, we normally write super comprehensive reviews on any e-reader, phone or tablet we do. What can I possibly say about the Fire TV from a Canadian point of view? The UI looks really nice, its responsive as hell but the only thing you can do is play games. DUDD.


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The Onyx Boox Lynx is part of a new breed of open Android e-readers that allow you to install your own apps and not lock you into any one specific ecosystem. Google Play is showcased on this device, and taps into an extensive wellspring of eBook reading and comic book apps. How does this e-reader compare against the Kobo Aura or the Kindle Paperwhite 2? Today, we take an extensive look.

Hardware

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The Lynx e-reader is very much akin to the Kobo Aura HD, in terms of specs. It features a 6.8 e-Ink capacitive Ultra HD EPD display screen and a resolution of 1440×1080 pixels. Underneath the hood is a Freescale i.MX Cortex A9 1.0GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. Books are stored on the device and has 4GB of internal storage with the option to increase it via the Micro SD Card up to 64GB.

This e-reader has a front-lit display that gives the Kobo Aura and Kindle Paperwhite 2 a run for their money. Most e-readers that allow you to read in the dark end up having a blue hue that detracts away from reading. Instead, this is a brilliant white, even at full brightness.

I was honestly hoping for a capacitive touchscreen display, similar to the Tolino Vision or the Kobo Aura. Instead, it is akin to the Paperwhite line of e-readers with a sunken screen and raised edges.

There are manual page turn keys on the left and right side, appealing towards users who are lefties or righties. There is a simple button on the center of the screen that many people will confuse with HOME. Every single device I have ever used that had a button on the bottom functioned as the home key, instead Onyx has made it the glowlight setting. You can hold it down for 2 seconds and it will turn the front-light on or off.

One of the more compelling features of the Lynx is the inclusion of a 3.55 mm headphone jack. E-Readers in the last four years have all done away with audio, in a bid to offer the hardware has cheap as they can and see audio capabilities as a way to cut costs. Onyx has a text to speech engine that allows the books to be read aloud. It also sets the stage of being able to download the Overdrive Media Console app and listen to audiobooks from your local library. Additionally, there are thousands of music apps such as Beats, Spotify or Pandora that are fully compatible.

Software

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The Onyx Lynx is running Google Android 4.04 and has the Google Play store loaded on it. The open Android concept is a really new thing in the world of e-readers and really hasn’t been done before.

In the past, all e-readers either ran on Linux or took the Sony/Nook route and just used Android as a framework and skinned their own UI on-top of it. Onyx does have a customized Android UI as well, but they don’t let that get in the way of the traditional settings menu or the ability to sideload in your own apps or get them directly from Google Play.

The Settings menu is really simplified, although the more traditional Android menu is accessible when you try and install an app from an Unknown Source and need to enable that feature. So by default, you can customize your WIFI network, access a Bluetooth device or change the refresh rate. There is even a setting to ping the Onyx servers to see if a firmware update is available.

You can think of this has a fairly basic e-reader that is 100% reliant on the software you can load on it. Keep in mind, this is an e-Ink reader. You certainly won’t be able to play Angry Birds or any type of complex game. The e-paper refresh rate is is simply not indicative to do something dynamic. You should stick with reading, comic, RSS, news apps or things that are more static in nature.

E-Reading

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The Onyx Boox Lynx has a default reading app that will scan your Micro SD card or any books you download from 3rd party apps. I really like the default reading app, it is responsive and snappy.

The Lynx may have good hardware, but it suffers a bit when it comes to installing your favorite comic, communication, or e-reading app. Most are optimized for tablets and have lots of animations and slick enhancements that make it stand out. Sadly, on the Lynx most apps are simply unusable due to long loading times and the e-Ink refresh rate.

Kindle, Kobo, Marvel Comics, Nook, and WattPad are examples of mainstream apps that become too unwieldy to use effectively. WattPad and Marvel take at least four seconds to turn a page and fall victim to frame by frame refreshing. Most of the other reading apps all have their own idiosyncrasies. Take the Kindle app for example, turning pages has animations that make the next page slide in and no way to disable it. Some of these issues are solved by changing the refresh rate on the Lynx.

Not all reading apps are incompatible with the Onyx Lynx. Aldiko, Moon+, FBReader and many others all work fine. In order to get the ideal experience you have to shut off most animations, and this warrants visiting the settings menu in each app.

I have found that 3rd party apps are incompatible with the left and right manual page turn keys. In some cases clicking on it will bring up the in-app settings menu and sometimes does nothing. This is mainly due to the nature of the Android apps. They were all designed with a touchscreen in mind, so you will have to use it to turn pages.

The stock reading app on the Onyx Lynx is amazing and provides a rich experience. There are over 60 different fonts available to change the entire book to something more suitable. If you can’t find something from the default list that catches your fancy, you can simply load in your own. Increasing the size of the fonts happen in real time and is very responsive, no waiting involved. You can also adjust the margins or employ the Text to Speech engine with a set of headphones.

Whenever you load books on an SD card or import them in with a 3rd party reading app they will be added to your library. This is where the majority of your books are stored and has some cool sorting options. There is the ability to display cover art, grid format, delete books altogether and scan for meta data. The scanning feature is particularly useful because you can access the SD card or the devices memory for books you have downloaded from the internet or loaded in yourself.

In the end, this is a great e-reader if you are using the stock app. You can fire up, import all of your books and get reading right away. The challenge is to find compatible apps that have settings to allow you to turn off animations and enhancements that were designed for smartphones and tablets. The good thing is, Google Play is a wellspring of apps and you can engage in some trial and error.

Wrap Up

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I am really feeling what Onyx is doing with its new lineup of e-readers in 2014. The market in North America and the UK is dominated by only a handful of players, Amazon, B&N and Kobo. The European, Russian and emerging markets are all wide open. Onyx does most of its business in Eastern Europe and Russia. They do have an established base of customers all over the world though, that often like their high build quality and like the fact they aren’t locked into any one particular ecosystem.

This device has a really solid front-light, 1 GHZ processor and high resolution. The glowlight is one of the best in the business and really puts Amazon and Kobo on notice to try and refine their technology when their new products hit the market later on in the year.

I would really recommend this e-reader to anyone that doesn’t want to be locked into any of the mainstream retailers. The open nature of Android on the Lynx basically allows you to install any app you want from Google Play, or alternative markets such as Good e-Reader. The freedom to pick and choose, the freedom to install anything you want or to delete it, is really compelling.

PROS

Excellent Front-Light
Great Resolution
Open Android – Google Play is your friend
A unique device in a crowded market

CONS

Pageturn keys don’t work in 3rd party apps
e-Paper refresh rate makes most apps unviable
Home button is an illusion, it turns on the light
Most apps are full screen, it makes exiting the app tedious
Incapable of switching to landscape mode outside the stock reading app

Rating: 7.5/10

Comments (9)
Jun
05

Top 10 iOS Apps of the Week

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One of the best parts of having a smartphone or tablet is populating it with the greatest of the great apps. To help you choose your next favourite, take a look at our picks for the top ten iOS apps this week!

TwoDots (Free)

The App Store is filled with games that are designed to capture our attention and fill our time (or steal it away), but few games do it better than TwoDots. Made by the same folks who brought out Dots, this app is an awesomely addictive puzzle game. Navigate yourself through 85 levels that start easy and get increasingly more difficult, trying to connect different items: dots, sink anchors, make bombs, extinguish flames and more! Titles like TwoDots make waiting rooms a little more bearable.

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Minecraft – Pocket Edition ($6.99 USD)

We all know Minecraft is addictive and fun, just ask the millions of people who have been playing it. With the pocket edition. you can play in survival and creative mode, multi-player and randomly generated worlds, while you craft and create and breed to your heart’s content! When you have a game that is centered around building things by placing blocks, it only seems fitting that you can play it on your mobile devices as you go on non-digital adventures as well (or if you need your kids to sit quietly for a few minutes, either one).

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THE GAME OF LIFE Classic Edition ($0.99 USD)

I would be willing to bet that nearly every last one of you played THE GAME OF LIFE when you were children, and now you can also play it on your iOS devices! Some board games do not translate to the digital world very well, but this title does a very nice job –perhaps because it lends itself well to the 3D animations and colourful graphics that perform so well on our smartphones and tablets. Because you can pass and play with up to 6 of your friends, this app may just be the saviour of your next road trip!

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Couch-to-5K ($1.99)

I know, I know, I know… you have been meaning to get more exercise –and it is right there on your to-do list, just below the entry that says ‘make a to-do list’. Running and jogging can be fantastic exercise (as well as being a great way to lower stress and clear your head), but it can be very intimidating for those of us who have never tried the sport before. With Couch-to-5K, no experience is necessary. Honestly! It doesn’t matter whether you are doing your routine on a treadmill or sidewalk, you can workout with your own personal trainer and your own music playlist. Actual human audio cues will let you know what you should be doing and when. This program worked for me and it can also work for you!

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Tinder (Free)

Tinder is social media done a little differently. If you are looking to meet somebody new (for friends, dating or otherwise), take a flip through this app. With anonymous swipes, let people know if you are interested in them: swipe right to like or left to pass. If the feelings are mutual and you both like each other, it becomes a match and you can use the in-app chat to get to know your choice a little more. Taking your location from the GPS, Tinder can help you to meet new people no matter where you are!

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Geocaching ($7.99 USD)

If you haven’t yet joined the world-wide treasure hunt, you shouldn’t waste any more time! Geocaching is a great deal of fun and can be an amazing adventure. Caches are hidden all over the world (by the millions) –in fact, I can almost guarantee you walk by at least one of them each day… you just have to know how and where to find them! Using this app, you can locate geocaches and log your finds; I must warn you though, it can be very addictive!

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Shazam (Free)

Shazam is one of those apps that you likely need to discover again for the first time! Included as part of Siri in the next version of iOS, this app lets you identify music and TV almost instantly. Gone are the days where you have no answer to the question ‘what song is this? or ‘who sings this?’, just load of Shazam and in moments you will know (plus you can buy it with one more tap of the screen if you choose).

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Watchup: Your Daily News (Free)

There are plenty of ways to read the news on your iOS device, but what if you prefer to watch it? With Watchup, you can tune in to a considerable number of local, national and international news channels and watch their actual newscasts. If you are as forgetful as me, this app will let you schedule a reminder so you receive your newscast at the preferred time and if you want to know more about a particular story just click through to read text articles on the topic you are currently watching.

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Momondo (Free)

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, getting a good deal on airfare is something that everybody appreciates. Using Momondo, you can easily search hundreds of airlines for the cheapest flights to any destination. One of the handiest features of the app is the ability to save flights from your past searches so you can monitor whether the prices are going up or down and determine whether the latest deal is really that great. Once you find the flight you want to book, click through the app to make them yours!

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Wine Reviews & Ratings: Natalie MacLean (Free)

It’s almost (the weekend | 5:00 somewhere | the end of the work day | any other time that pleases you), so it is time for a hard-earned glass of wine. Thanks to Wine Reviews & Ratings: Natalie MacLean, you have access to the reviews, prices, ratings, prices, food pairings and recipes for over 150,000 different wines (plus if you live in Canada, current store stock is also available for many locations)! All you need to do is scan the bar code or search the database and you can decide whether the bottle in your hand is the one you should be taking home. I especially love the cellar journal that lets you keep a record of everything you currently have at home –because inevitably I am at the liquor store and cannot for the life of me remember what I still have left.

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Welcome to another Good e-Reader Video Review. Today we are looking at the brand new Skytex Skypad SP727 Android tablet. How does it handle HD video, eBooks or top end games? We let you know exactly what to expect if you are thinking about buying this.

The SkyPad SP727 has seven inch display screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600. Underneath the hood is a Cortex-A9 1.3 GHz quad-core Processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB Storage. You can elect to expand it up to 32 GB via the Micro SD if that is not enough for you.

Running on one of the latest Android operating systems, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the SP727 is equipped for you to surf the web, play apps, and read eBooks.

The Skytex Skypad definitely contends with the big boys of 2014. Skytex really goes out of their way to make app discovery both simple and plentiful. HDMI out, a corner mounted camera, and enough processing power to run any app or game available in today’s market makes the Skytex Skypad SP727 a quick, affordable, robust little tablet.


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May
29

Tolino Vision Review

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The Tolino Vision was released early April in Germany and was billed as a Kindle Killer by  the Tolino Alliance, which comprises of Deutsche Telekom, Hugendubel, Thalia, Bertelsmann and World View. The intention behind the Vision was to be the definitive device to own if you speak German and taps into an extensive eBook Store with over 1.2 million titles. How does this reader compare to the latest generation offerings by Amazon or Kobo? Today, we take an extensive look at the Vision and let you know if its worth it to buy.

Hardware

The Tolino Vision features the latest in e-Paper innovatio,  e Ink Carta. This is the exact screen technology found on the Kindle Paperwhite 2. This will not only provide higher contrast, but also eliminate the refreshing when you turn a page in an eBook. There are actually settings menu options that allow you to manually set the refresh rate from every 6 pages to every 100 pages.  The overall resolution is a very respectable 1024 × 758 pixels. One of the things that stands out with this model is that the screen is flush with the bezel. The only other e-reader to do this was the six inch Kobo Aura, it almost feels like a tablet or smartphone in this respect.

The Vision  is using bleeding edge technology with the e-Paper tech, to really give a solid reading experience. It gives you the best of the Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Kobo Aura in one slick little package.

Underneath the hood is a Freescale iMx6 1 GHz processor and 512 MB ​​RAM. There is 4GB of internal memory, but after you take it out of the box for the first time, you are relegated to two. This will store around 1,500 eBooks on average, but you can expand it up to 32GB via the Micro SD.

The Tolino Vision has has brushed aluminum on the backplate and really rounded edges. There is a power button and front-light switch on the top of the unit and a Mini USB and SD slot on the bottom. There is a single software driven home key on the front, which is fairly responsive.

Overall, the Vision offers one of the most compelling industrial designs I have ever seen on an e-Reader.Deutsche Telekom were the ones that actually did the RND on this unit, instead of outsourcing everything to China. Really, this certainly puts Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Onyx and Sony on notice for their next generation e-Reader offerings.

Software

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The Tolino Vision has a fairly basic home screen that has a number of responsive elements to it. Whenever you buy or open a book it automatically appears there, making it easy to pick up where you left off. At the bottom of the main screen are 5 book recommendations from Buecher.de. You can simply click on any of these titles to see the product listing on the online bookstore.

The library management system is fairly deft, with extensive options to make you feel right at home. You can easily view books with their book cover art or condense them in list view. There are options to sort the library by author, date added or by title name. I liked the ability to easily delete books on your shelf by hitting the delete key and selecting the titles.

When it comes to library management 4GB of onboard storage should be enough for most people. BY default you can signup for TelekomCloud storage for books and have store up to 6GB of content. It is important to note that the maximum file size for each title is 500MB. They bill it as a way you can access your library titles in DRM format or student textbooks.

The overall menu system is clean and intuitive, there are hardly any advanced elements outside of the settings menu to confuse or alienate the average user. I think the only thing in the settings menu I can see someone regularly using is the built in internet browser.

Reading Experience

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The Tolino Vision certainly excels in the hardware department but feels lackluster when it comes to the reading experience. You cannot register an account to buy eBooks on the device or cannot even login to the store unless you are in Germany. If you adjust any of the publisher defaults in a book you are reading, such as line spacing, margins or font size, you are in for a long loading delay if you reopen a book.

The most damning aspect of the Vision is the PDF rendering engine they employ. You cannot pinch and zoom to magnify a specific area or text, instead you have to longpress the center of the screen to hit the plus or minus symbol for manual zoom, but if you want to zoom on the fly things get a little crazy.

PDF Glitch

The PDF rendering engine does not preserve the unrendered state of the original page you are navigating. Instead, it gives you a jumble of white noise that will likely send people into seizures. You have absolutely no preview pane on where you are in the document and once you release your finger from the page, it instantly renders. This obviously can be repaired with a quick firmware update, but since the bookstore that comes bundled on the reader does not sell PDF files, it is likely not in their best interest to fix this issue.

If you are enamoured with PDF documents there is a reflow option that will strip all of images and formatting away and give you the document in pure text form. Sadly, when you do this there is no spacing between words. Youbasicallyhaveanetirepdfbookrenderlike thisquitesad.

The bread and butter of the Tolino is reading your standard EPUB book. There are plenty of advanced features to allow you to change the size of the font (8) and change the font-type completely (6). You can change the margins, line spacing and revert back to the publisher defaults on the fly.

If you long-press on a specific word it opens up the ability to take notes, highlights, look words up in the dictionary or translate them. Currently it offers translation and dictionary support for English, German, Spanish, Italian and French. These are not installed by default and each one is around 100MB in size.

One of the things I like about note taking is the fact it will save all of them in a singular book file in your main library. Highlights will also be injected into this file, which makes it applicable for book clubs or students wanting to check on their notes, without having the sift through the whole book again.

If you are reading in the dark, you have the ability to adjust the brightness level of the display while reading a book. If you tap the center of the screen it brings up a set of UI options. This is your command and control center where you can change the level of luminosity. Overall, the brightness of the screen looks completely white, unless you jack it up to the max, and it gains a blue hue. This is a situation that has faced every other e-reader company relying on this tech, Amazon was the only one to get it right so far.

Wrap Up

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The Tolino Vision is a fairly polished ereader on a hardware level and is currently one of the most advanced ones in the world. Sadly, it is hampered by a series of software bugs and a deplorable state of PDF rendering. The great news is, this can all be easily fixed and updates can automatically be pushed out when you reboot your reader.

The Tolino is worthy investment if you live in Germany, because the entire book ecosystem is built books published there. There are over 1.2 million titles in the library, which is a mix of translated works by popular American bestselling authors and books written and produced in Germany. There are also 250,000 free books available to get reading right away, although there is only one title on the reader out of the box.

In the end, the Vision is a solid e-reader from a design point of view and can actually give a Kindle a run for its many in the critical German market. Just don’t expect to read PDF files effectively on it.

Rating: 7/10


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BufferWe’re all addicted to social media, some of us more than others, and it can be a little daunting to juggle accounts with all the biggies like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and App.net. Luckily for us, apps like Buffer exist to let you leverage content to be shared easily across all of your accounts. To further compliment their existing app, the company has released Daily by Buffer –branded as “Tinder for content sharing”.

The concept is simple: every day you are presented with a selection of articles and posts that the app feels you would enjoy.  If you like them, swipe right… if you aren’t so keen, swipe left. After you go through all of your picks, review your Buffer queue and share them out across your connected social media accounts.

Daily by Buffer currently offers five to sex stories each day and a lot of the content is being reused from the main Buffer app, but in time this offering should improve.

So far the app is only available for iOS devices –but with any lucky there will be an Android version available soon.

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When you purchase a high end tablet you obviously want to take care of it. There are hundreds of faux leather or cheap Chinese knockoffs on the market that will do the job, but are flimsy or have a very poor build quality. Today we are looking at the Noreve Saint-Tropez leather case for the Kindle Fire HDX 7.

Noreve Saint-Tropez is a boutique French company that produces really solid leather cases for most mainstream tablets from Apple to Amazon. The case for the Kindle Fire HDX 7 is very elegant and uses top quality handcrafted leather. It has an ultra slim profile and has 3 pockets for business cards, credit cards or notes. There are plenty of customized areas that have plenty of room for you to access the volume, 3.55 mm headphone jack and croppings so the speakers are visible.

One of the most compelling aspects of the Noreve case is the kickstand. It has a ton of torque that allows you to prop it up to watch movies or interact with the touchscreen and not have to collapse on itself. If you want to bundle it up to carry it while on the go, the magnetic clip insures it will not fly open. The aspect I like the most is the tablet, once hunkered down fits nice and snug.


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