Archive for Reviews
The Blackberry Q10 is the second phone to be released using the new Blackberry 10 operating system. This new model maintains the same type of keyboard that has been a seminal success with the Blackberry Bold and Curve. It maintains a smaller screen compared to the Z10, but is a step in the right direction when compared to the previous models. Can the Q10 compete against other top smartphones on the market and is it a viable investment at $700.00 to buy it straight up or $200.00 on a three year contract?
The Blackberry Q10 features a Super AMOLED 3.1 inch touchscreen with a resolution of 720×720. It has 2 GB of RAM and a dual core 1.5 GHZ processor in conjunction with 16 GB of storage. You can expand the memory quite easily via the MicroSD card up to 32 GB.
There is a front facing 2 MP camera used for Skype or other video conferencing software, you can also employ the rear-facing model that garners you 8 MP and has a LED flash. Taking photos is fairly quick and there are some cool features like Time Shift that give you advanced tinkering. Overall, the camera is a bit better than prior models of the Blackberry, but is rather identical to the Z10.
Overall, the hardware will appeal to the crowd that desires a physical keyboard and did not grow up with touchscreen devices. Many people find adapting to a virtual keyboard when you to have to reply to a copious amount of emails and text messages is quite arduous. The Q10 will appeal to the type of people that demand a physical keyboard with fairly modern smartphone specs.
The back of the device has a pseudo textured weave, but is only for visual aesthetics. It does not have the firm grip that many other Blackberry phones have had, and I can imagine it slipping from your grip, unless you invest in a better carrying case.
One of the biggest advantages the Q10 has on the competition is the removable battery. Being able to swap them out while traveling is a huge advantage and upgrading to a higher capacity aftermarket model is very compelling. It has a Li-Ion 2100 mAh battery and should give you between 12 and 18 hours of use, depending on what you are doing.
In the past, if you had a Blackberry device, you could not hook it up to a projector, media center, or computer. The Q10 has added a micro HDMI port right next to the Micro USB. This will allow multimedia and business users to hook up their devices in a work environment and run presentations.
This phone honestly feels like the type of high-end device that is very similar to the Blackberry Bold, the keyboard feels a bit more refined than prior models of Blackberry. This unit is the best full keyboard model that BB has ever released. The resolution, camera, processor, and RAM will allow you to watch videos, play games, and be productive, without dreading every time you open the internet browser. Speaking of internet, this phone is one of the first models to feature LTE, so if you are on a fast network, like Rogers, Bell, Telus, or American providers, you will be able to get around 7 MB per second download and around 2.4 MB upload.
Blackberry 10 is one of the most refined operating systems the company has ever generated and allows users to load in their own Android apps. There are a few big hyping factors around the hardware, such as the robust multitasking and Blackberry HUB. If you swipe upwards from within an app, you can see a very large portrait of all the apps you have open, whereas prior models from Blackberry merely had icons.
Blackberry HUB is basically your Mailbox, BBM, Text Messages, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and app/game notifications. You can get everything from your social media network to email friends in one easy place. There are options within the HUB to turn off particular notifications, which is useful if you have thousands of Twitter Followers and Facebook Friends and don’t want to see 10,000 status updates and tweets a day.
One of the biggest advantages Blackberry has always had was its money email support. BB is one of the few companies to have a ‘Delete Prior’ feature that will allow you to mass delete emails at the push of a button. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can’t mass delete emails, you have to manually do it one by one. Blackberry will allow you to long-press on today’s date and then swipe the garbage icon and delete everything within your HUB. I get around 600 emails a day, and often don’t read them all, so it’s useful to just delete everything within a few seconds.
One of the big drawbacks on the entire BB10 operating system is the lack of BIS email. This was one of the big claims to fame for Blackberry back in the day. All email went through the company’s own internet servers and had built in compression. This meant that emails were instantly pushed to your device from the company’s own servers as a compressed package, so your data ratios were always low. If you are a traveler and are often roaming, it is very useful to have a reduced data consumption. With BB10, the company has done away with BIS for your average user and instead goes through the carrier’s own data networks. This results in no compression and higher data usage rates! We have heard from many users that their bills have increased by almost 3/4 when using a BB10 device. Emails also don’t arrive as quickly as they once did, but still are faster then iOS or Android.
Email support is one of the biggest selling points. Most phones fetch emails every 5 minutes by default and don’t really have a instant sync function. Blackberry has always done an amazing job at fetching emails faster than anyone else, so if quickly getting this type of thing is important to you, look nowhere else.
The phone does not come with a ton of apps installed by default on the Q10. You have LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, BBM, File Explorer, and a few others. It is clearly not the type of bloatware you could get when you buy a phone from Samsung or HTC .
New apps are downloaded from Blackberry World, which is the new app store. This edition is optimized for the Q10, and you can buy songs, movies, apps, and games. Blackberry claims over 100,000 apps on its ecosystem, but honestly it feels like 75% suck or are Android ports. Hardly any developers are actually making native versions of their apps for Blackberry and are simply just converting their APK files to BAR files.
App selection is something that has improved since the initial launch of the Z10, and we now have WhatsApp, Kindle, and MLB at the ballpark, and many more. In essence, these are all Android ports as well, but have been optimized for the two screen sizes. Really, finding quality apps like Netflix, Instagram, Kobo, and Marvel Comics are nowhere to be found through official channels. Luckily, Good e-Reader has the LARGEST BB10 App Store for converted Android apps. We have all of the above apps and over 5,000 other apps! It’s weird to think Blackberry does not have Instagram or Netflix, but we do. Go figure.
The Blackberry Q10 only has a 3.1 inch screen, which makes e-reading a bit tedious. There simply is not a lot of screen real estate to read ebooks, comics, or apps like Pulse.
When you rely on reading just pure text, reading on the Z10 is not completely bad, it’s just impractical. If you are reading using the Kindle app, there is only so much text that be displayed on the screen at any given time. Since the screen is essentially a square, you don’t gain any advantage from landscape mode. Speaking of such, there is no landscape mode; the entire ability has been locked out of the hardware. This means video, books, and everything else will not show up. So if you are more comfortable reading in portrait mode, look elsewhere.
More graphic heavy content like Manga and comic books are readable, and you can employ the pinch and zooming functionality to isolate particular frames and read the text. You can really do a ton with this in terms of reading graphic heavy content, but again, it’s not very practical.
In the end, there are lots of RSS apps, e-reading, and comic book apps for the Q10. The 3.1 inch screen is just too small to really fit enough content on the screen that can give you the most out of it. I would recommend the Z10 for almost all apps, games, and reading.
The Blackberry Q10 is the spiritual successor of any prior Blackberry that had a built in keyboard. It is meant to be a productivity device with a heavy emphasis on typing text messages, emails, and status updates. The phone experience is actually very solid with a mic on the top and bottom and two speakers. The audio quality is the best out of any phone we have had in the past.
When it comes down to it, you should only buy the Q10 if you are really dependent on a physical keyboard and you type a lot. You should buy the Z10 if you are into games, apps, reading, watching videos, and doing more multimedia endeavors.
My own viewpoint is that the Q10 will likely be my primary phone until the new slider model comes out in September. A physical keyboard is very important to me and will replace my aging Torch 2. I get a copious amount of emails every day and have to respond to many as quickly as possible. It would be nice if the screen was a bit bigger, even by an inch. If you look at the Torch 2, this screen is only smaller by .1 inches, so it’s not a huge deal. It dwarfs prior models, and is the second best phone Blackberry currently offers.
In the end, for your average business user, I would recommend the Z10. It is more versatile and gives you more bang for your buck.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD are have reached the apex on what the current generation of e-Readers can do. These two devices are released by companies who both sell the hardware and digital content. The big hyping factor behind these two electronic readers is the ability to read in the dark via the front-lit display and the high resolution. Today, we pit these head to head in a video comparison, to give you a sense on what they both bring to the table.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite features a six inch e-ink Pearl display with tremendous resolution. You are looking at a very solid 1024×768, which makes pictures looking very crisp. It runs on a 800 MHZ CPU processor and has 512 MB of RAM. There is 2 GB of internal storage and most purchases you make are stored in the cloud, one of the drawbacks is there is no expandable memory. Amazon has one of the deepest ecosystems in the world, and has over 1.2 million books that are mainstream bestsellers and thousands of self-published titles.
The Kobo Aura HD features a 6.8 inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1440×1080 with 265 DPI. This e-reader is seriously the best in the business with its high-definition display. The Kindle Fire HD 7 has 1280×800 and the Nook HD has 1440×900. What this means is that as an e-reader, it actually has better image quality than the majority of mainstream tablets on the market. The Aura HD also has a built in comfort light, which allows you to read in the dark with a front-lit display. It is powered by a 1 GB processor and has 4 GB of internal memory, which can be expanded via a SD Card.
People choose e-Readers because of their minimal distractions and is the closest you can get to reading a real book. The Aura edges out the Paperwhite in terms of screen resolution, screen size and brightness of the front-lit display. Pictures, text and UI elements tend to look better on the Aura, and the extra 1 inch screen size really enhances your experience.
Over the course of this video comparison we check out the eBook reading experience with purchased books and also PDF files. You can get a sense on what type of augmentation options you can employ via fonts, linespacing, margins, highlights, dictionaries and annotations. We also dive deep into the core features both bring to the table and by the end of the video you should get a strong sense on what e-Reader is perfect for you.
The Kobo Aura HD was only announced yesterday and will not be available to purchase until the end of the month. Good e-Reader is proud to give you the first exclusive review of this new electronic reader. One of the big hyping factors behind this new model is that it is 6.8 inches, which buckles the trend of your standard six inch reader. The resolution is also the best in the business, putting the Nook HD and Kindle Fire HD 7 to shame.
The Kobo Aura HD features a 6.8 inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1440×1080 with 265 DPI. This e-reader is seriously the best in the business with its high-definition display. The Kindle Fire HD 7 has 1280×800 and the Nook HD has 1440×900. What this means is that as an e-reader, it actually has better image quality than the majority of mainstream tablets on the market. The Aura HD also has a built in comfort light, which allows you to read in the dark with a front-lit display. We compared the Kobo Glo and Kobo Aura HD side by side in an upcoming video, and were very surprised on the evolutionary growth of the illuminating screen. The Glo always suffered from a screen that ended up looking more blue than white, but the Aura is on par with the Kindle Paperwhite, in terms of the screen.
One of the major advantages of the new display screen Kobo is using is that (unlike the Barnes and Noble Simple Touch with Glowlight and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite) you can turn the illumination completely off. The Kindle and Nook both do not have the ability to totally turn off the glowing feature; you can only turn it all the way down, but technically it is still on. This contributes to your overall battery life. The Aura has a physical switch on the top that is much like the Glo, in that it will allow you to totally turn off the light. One of the upgrades on the Aura is that the power button is now orange and the glowing button is now white. The Kobo Glo used to have the power button and glow button side by side and the same color, and many users would mix up the two. This is no longer an issue.
The Kobo Aura HD is using a 1GHZ CPU processor and has 4 GB of internal memory. This is 2 GB more than what the Glo offers, and you can expand the memory up to 32 GB via the Micro SD card. Battery life is fairly respectable at a solid month of normal use.
The Aura has a very different design than prior models of e-readers that Kobo has released in the past. The company has done away with the quilted back and decided to showcase its artistic side. It has slopped grooves on the back that should make it easier to hold in your hands. I think this design is fresh and makes it stand out in a crowded arena of e-readers.
Overall, I am very impressed with the Kobo Aura HD. It does suffer from WIFI connectivity issues, though. It tends to suppress your connection whenever you are not actively surfing the internet or shopping for books. So if you buy a book and then open the internet browser ten minutes later, the reader will normally spend around a full minute to scan your WIFI connections to give you access. In most cases, it will not automatically recognize your prior hotspot or WIFI access point, and you must manually visit the settings menu and restart your connection. This makes it a bit tedious to do anything that requires internet, but to be fair, this issue has persisted from the Kobo Touch. In the end, the resolution is amazing and makes reading comics, magazines, newspapers, and graphic heavy content a pure joy. It is refreshing to see a unique hardware design, although it may not appeal to everyone.
The Kobo Aura HD has completely revised its main home screen. In the past, your home comprised of the four books you have either loaded on your device or have opened up. The new screen has three main segments that displays icons for everything you have done in the last 12 processes. This gives you shortcuts to your most commonly accessed features, such as the web-browser, custom shelves, Reading Life, and ebooks. The Sync feature to fetch new content is now on the main screen, too, which is the only element that remains persistent. I actually like the more effective use of screen real estate. Rather than browsing four different sub-menus to access the internet browser, it will appear on your main screen if you have recently used it.
I really dig the dynamic nature of the new home screen! I like how common tasks and recently accessed elements from games to comics will appear as virtual shortcuts. One of the drawbacks is you can’t long-press to move them around or save them as persistent pseudo-widgets. It would be amazing to organize your home area the way you like so it didn’t change automatically, unless you wanted it to.
Not only has the main screen changed, but most of the UI has undergone subtle enhancements from prior models. The Kobo Glo had a black area on the bottom of the screen, and when you initiated the scroll bar to find that sweet spot with the illumination levels, the black bar would often show artifacts or ghosting from images. The new UI is completely white and most of the other sub-menus and headings are also pure white, which is a small but noticeable feature.
The one thing Kobo does really well is give you a ton of customization options in the main settings menu. You can set the page refresh rate for e-ink from 1-6 pages and give you the ability to set up the different swiping motions to turn pages. This is optimal for people living in Japan and Asia, where the character layout is right to left and page turns are left to right. There are new games as well, such as a Words with Friends clone and a few others. Of course, you have your scrapbook to take advantage of the touchscreen and internet browser. There are enough options to get the most out of your e-reader, but not too many to confuse your average reader.
Kobo has not redesigned the wheel with this Aura HD e-reader and it maintains most of the core features customers are used to. Reading Life remains on this model, which earns you awards for reading and records statistics for your reading habits. The Aura is a culmination of all of the company’s experiences with making devices during the last four years. It is the most polished e-reader Kobo has ever released and the company takes some risks in the way the menus and hardware are designed.
Kobo does the best job out of any e-reader company in the world in appealing to newbies and hardcore users alike. The interface is simple enough that people new to the e-reader scene can intuitively use it right away, but packs a number of advanced features underneath the hood to appeal to the type of person that uses Calibre or wants to load in their own fonts.
The Aura HD will allow you to read most ebooks in PDF and EPUB format, and will even allow you to load in books you have purchased from other online bookstores. You will have to set up your Adobe Digital Editions account in order to this, but we will show you how in an upcoming video tutorial. Two of the other big formats are CBR and CBZ—these are the most popular format for comic books—and the Aura will allow you read them.
Obviously, the Aura HD is designed to be a pure e-reader with minimal distractions. Kobo does the best job in the world of allowing you to customize the font-type, line-spacing, margins, and text justification. Most e-readers have a small list of seven font sizes and font types. Kobo has introduced the slider bar, which really gives you more freedom to find that sweet spot. When we spoke with Kobo last year, the company representatives said there are over 1.3 million different combinations you can tweak. If these options are not enough, you can hit the advanced settings and also adjust a number of other options, such as weight and saturation. It actually gives you a before and after scenario, so you can compare how the new settings will look against the old. This is one of the best features Kobo has ever introduced.
When you are reading a book, you have a number of options you can employ. It is quite easy to 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, you can use the shiny new keyboard Kobo has introduced! The new keyboard is light years better than the one used on the Glo. The most notable addition is the line of numbers above your alpha keyboard. Since there is Facebook and a web-browser, entering passwords would be something you will be doing often. These days, most passwords are a combination of letters and numbers, and this keyboard makes it easier than ever before.
When it comes to larger screen e-readers, people want to read PDF files. As old as the format is, it is still one of the most popular ones in the world, and everything from comics to newspapers and magazines are easily found in this format. The Aura HD uses the same PDF rendering engine that the Glo uses. You cannot pinch and zoom like you can in the Sony PRS-T2, but you do have a virtual scrolling and zoom platform. You can scroll around each page in the PDF document, and see where you are in the document in the top left hand corner. This helps ground you and give you a sense of orientation on where exactly you are. Once you find that sweet spot, you can drag your figure to the right, and turn the page. When you turn the page, all of your zoomed settings are retained. Most e-readers negate any formatting you have done on a PDF when you do this, but this is a useful feature.
There are seldom any e-readers on the market that give you the flexibility in augmenting your reading experience then Kobo. The slider bars give you unparallelled customization options with your fonts, or the comfort light slider. Loading in your own fonts and creating your own custom shelves is a boon. Speaking of custom shelves, when you display your books as cover art, you can actually fit 12 books per page, where the Glo only let you did six. Fitting more content in is an effective use of screen real-estate, which I am a huge advocate of.
When it comes to high resolution displays, customers often gravitate towards full color tablets instead of e-readers. This has been the growing trend in the last few years, and it’s completely amazing to see a brand stay loyal and committed to its e-ink line of devices. Simply put, the Kobo Aura HD has the highest resolution out of any six or seven inch tablet or e-reader in the world. If images and clarity of text matter to you, this is a must purchase.
These days, the use of tablets is growing at a rapid pace. People are forgoing a dedicated e-reader and instead buying an iPad or Android device. When you are reading a book, it is often very distracting to have notifications from emails, messages, or gaming updates. We have all been in the position when you are reading a book and something else takes you out of that experience and you get sidetracked. As much as people are proclaiming that e-readers are on their way out, some people want to JUST READ BOOKS!
The Aura HD is poised to be released April 29th and will cost a paltry $169.99 in Canada and the US. It is available for pre-order right now via Shop e-Readers and likely will not hit the international markets for a number of weeks or months. Normally, new devices are highly available in North America, and then make their way overseas as the demand starts to taper off. One of the drawbacks of the Kobo brand is that it suffers from retail visibility in the US, but is highly available at indie bookstores participating with the American Booksellers Association.
Best resolution and DPI in the business
4 GB of internal memory, double that of the Kobo Glo
Front-Lit display is better than the Kindle Paperwhite
Ability to load in your own fonts is HUGE!
Revised home-screen is a welcome change
Tons of customization options
WIFI is prone to randomly disconnect
PDF files often load in the top right-hand corner and need to be adjusted
Curved hardware design will take some getting used to
Reading Life tends to take over your home-screen
Welcome to another Good e-Reader Video Comparison! Today we take a look at two of the most popular tablets in the world, the Apple iPad Mini and Google Nexus 7. Currently, these two devices really shine with iOS and Android Jellybean, and you can think of them as the flagships of their respective brands.
Over the course of this video tutorial we put a heavy emphasis on the e-reading experience. We look at magazines, comic books, and ebooks to give you a sense on how they perform against each other in real world circumstances. In many cases, you are buying a tablet to get games, apps, video, and music. We take a look at their respective ecosystems with Google Play and iTunes. If you are torn between buying either of these two devices as an e-reader, look no further!
Welcome to another Good e-Reader Video Comparison! Today we take a look at two of the hottest Android tablets on the market, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 and Google Nexus 7. Both of these tablets use the Android operating system, but are quite different in terms of the overall user experience. In this video we will show you how each one stacks up against the other in a battery of tests.
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 features a seven inch IPS display with 1,280 x 800 pixels. It offers an amazing viewing experience and the ability to watch 720p movies right on the unit. Underneath the hood is a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460 processor and 1 GB of RAM, which makes accessing media, books, and other content very fast and easy.
One of the best aspects of this model is the fact that it has twin stereo speakers with Dolby Surround Sound technology. It is seriously the loudest tablet I have ever used! The speakers themselves are on the back of the unit, but creep up the left and right sides. Even if the Kindle Fire HD is lying flat on its back, you still get amazing sound.
The Google Nexus 7 features a seven inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1280×800. The resolution overall is fairly solid and videos looked a little bit better than the Apple iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD. One of the strongest elements this tablet has going for it is the processor. It crushes all other e-readers on the market with a Nvidia Tegra 3, quad-core 1.3 GHZ processor. In conjunction with 1 GB of RAM, you can multitask to your heart’s content and not experience stuttering while watching videos or turning the pages in ebooks.
Over the course of this video comparison, we will show you how music, video, ebooks, newspapers, magazines, comic books, and the stores work. If you are thinking of buying these tablets as an e-reader, you won’t want to miss this.
The Google Nexus 7 is one of the only pure vanilla Android tablets on the market and boasts a bevy of hardware enhancements that put most other devices to shame. One of the benefits of buying this edition over the Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD is the fact you aren’t locked into one particular ecosystem. How does this tablet rank against the competition and is it a viable e-reader?
The Google Nexus 7 features a seven inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1280×800. The resolution overall is fairly solid and videos looked a little bit better than the Apple iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD. One of the strongest elements this tablet has going for it is the processor. It crushes all other e-readers on the market with a Nvidia Tegra 3, quad-core 1.3 GHZ processor. In conjunction with 1 GB of RAM, you can multitask to your heart’s content and not experience stuttering while watching videos or turning the pages in ebooks.
There are two models available in either a 16 or 32 GB edition. There is no expandable memory, so you will have to ensure that you buy the one that suits your needs. Not being able to put in your own SD card might be a deal breaker for some, but most computing these days has your data in the cloud. Often high resolution comic books, movies, television episodes, and magazines are 200 to 500 MB each. If you deal with companies such as Amazon, Comixology, or Google, all of your purchases will remain on your account if you purge them from your device.
The Nexus 7 has plenty of extras that are sure to impress. You can get the stock WIFI model or opt into the HSPA+ 4G edition. It has Bluetooth, NFC, two microphones, and a front facing 1.2 MP webcam. Battery life is fairly solid at around 9.5 hours and will generally last a week with casual use and the screen dimmed.
The overall design feels like a generic Android tablet, with no distinctive features that make it really stand out in a crowd. If you put this down on the table next to many different devices that have been released over the years, it would blend right in. At least most Nook, Kindle, Blackberry, and other brands really do stand out.
Performance wise, the Nexus 7 trounces the competition. It is very hard to beat this tablet’s high resolution and processing power. Plus, many people really like a seven inch device that is lightweight and easy to carry around.
The Nexus 7 features a stock Jellybean 4.2.2 Android operating system. You won’t find any of the bloatware that accompanies most devices issued by HTC, Samsung, and Acer. This will ensure that when new iterations of Android are released in the future, this model should get them first.
One of the most exciting elements that this tablet possesses is Google Now. This is a brand new feature with Jellybean that gives you a SIRI type of voice navigation. You can open up websites and get your tablet to open up common apps. There are also widgets called “Cards” that in the stock version give you bus-stops near your house, the weather, and places to eat near your house. There are a number of other ones you can easily install, such as sporting events. Google Now is one of the best new features found in Jellybean and really enhances the OS.
Google Play is celebrating its one year anniversary and has claimed an app library of over 700,000 and over 5 million ebooks. There are plenty of movies, music, apps, and magazines that you can purchase. Most is US only, which may alienate people who live in Canada and other international markets. Still, Play has the largest selection of Android apps in the world and it is fairly easy to find anything you want.
One of the problems with Android is the fact most first party developers don’t produce content on it. Android piracy is out of control and it doesn’t take very long to find paid games online. This is the main reason why iOS appeals to mainstream companies as a viable avenue to generate revenue from their paid content.
Most tablets released in the last six months do not have the latest version of the Jellybean Android OS. The Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, Kobo Arc, and many other e-reading devices do not ship with the latest OS. Most say they will eventually upgrade, but many people are still waiting. There is a great appeal in going with a vanilla tablet without having to root your existing device.
The Nexus 7 makes a very good e-reader if you are looking to read pure text. If you are checking out ebooks or other apps like Pulse, Google Currents, or even Google Books, the reading experience is great. More image heavy content does not translate well on a seven inch screen. For example, comic books, magazines, and newspapers are often too small to effectively read.
If you are into ebooks, there is a huge selection found in Google Play. You can easily find Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Sony, Aldiko, Marvel, PressReader, Zinio and other apps. You have a great deal of choice in deciding what companies you want to do business with and can often buy content from different businesses to hunt for deals. Google tablets really allow you to have flexibility in the reading apps you want to download.
One of the downsides of going with Barnes and Noble or Amazon tablets is that you are locked into their ecosystems. Their own curated app markets do not let you download reading apps from their competition. Your only option is to sideload content onto your Kindle Fire, and with the Nook HD, it’s not even an option, as they lock you out of loading in your own apps.
The seven inch screen may have great resolution, but comic books are often lackluster. Even with Guided View or zooming in on specific panes on graphic novels or comic books, you are squinting your eyes to read the text. You are often made to pinch and zoom every single frame, which gets tedious. The comic book experience is indicative to how magazines and newspapers also look.
In in the end, if you are just reading ebooks and content without heavy images, the Nexus 7 may be for you. If you tend to read more content with images, you might want to go for an 8 or 10 inch model.
The Nexus 7 has a ton going for it. It is rare to find an Android tablet with no bloatware and no superfluous content to bog you down. Many people are obviously really drawn to Android and the ability to craft your own experience. The Nexus 7 blends high performance hardware with solid resolution to make movies and web content look amazing.
You will be hard-pressed to find another Android tablet that has the great price and high powered specs that this one does. You aren’t locked into any one content distribution system and can enjoy a pure and open experience.
On the downside, this may not make the most ideal e-reader if you are buying this to consume magazines, newspaper, comics, and RSS feeds. The screen is basically too small to effectively consume this type of content and you may elect to buy the iPad Mini, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, or various 10 inch devices.
No stuttering with multitasking
Optional 4G model
Movies look great
No expandable memory
32 GB is often not enough in today’s world
e-Reading suffers due to small screen
The Windows Surface Pro was released yesterday in the USA and Canada. This new tablet brings the full Windows 8 experience that will allow users to run legacy apps. What this really means is that you can run any game or app and get more versatility than with the Surface RT edition. We have heard rumors of low memory and terrible battery life, but is this truly the case? We dive into the inner workings of the latest release from Microsoft to check it out.
The Microsoft Surface Pro features one of the largest display screens in the tablet industry, with a whopping 10.6 inches. You can easily interact with RT and legacy apps with the 5 point multi-touch display. One of the great aspects is that the stylus is bundled for free with the unit. You can hover it around 1 inch above the display screen, and still point and click on different aspects. There is an eraser on the top of it that will allow you easily delete drawings or text. The stylus will also transcribe your handwriting to text, allowing you convert it to a Word document or commands.
The resolution of the display is fairly amazing and the HD video looks superb. You have 1920 x 180 of pixel density, but high powered games will appear lackluster with the system on the chip that Intel provides. The CPU is a i5 1.7 GHZ dual core processor and graphics are run by the Intel HD 4000. Really, if you intend on playing high powered games like Crysus, Farcry 3, or Old Republic, you won’t get bleeding graphics, mainly because of the dedicated GPU.
The entire tablet experience is fairly quick, apps seem to load fairly quickly. This is mainly attributed to the 64/128 GB Solid State Drive and 4 GB of RAM. One thing we noticed with the memory space, is that it is not as advertised. You may have 64 GB of space, but when you turn it on for the first time, you only have 24.3 GB of memory. I would fully recommend that you invest in a 64 GB micro SDXC card .
One of the worst aspects of this new Windows tablet is the battery life. You only have 4 hours! Almost every single other tablet on the market is around 8-10 hours. It is very hard to get any mobile business done with this tiny lifespan. Most ultrabooks, which the Surface Pro competes with, last longer.
Suffice it to say, the build quality is very high. There are hundreds of individual parts that were handcrafted for the Surface Pro. This gives you a really unique design with practical elements, such as the built in kickstand. The speakers are in built into the sides of it, which allow for great sound quality, even if it’s laying on its back.
In the end, this is a very expensive tablet. At Futureshop in Canada, we paid over $1200 for the Surface Pro 64 GB and keyboard dock. I don’t think Microsoft knows what they are doing with this model. Is it an ultrabook? Is it a tablet? With 4 hours of battery life and not the greatest graphics power, you will be hard pressed to render video, audio, or play high performance games.
One of the biggest hyping factors behind the Surface Pro, is that you get the full Windows 8 experience. The Surface RT only gave you the ability to run the new apps that were custom made for the new architecture. The Pro will let you use Photoshop, Warcraft, or Microsoft Office 2013, or whatever program you would normally use in a Windows environment.
There are a number of drawbacks with the normal desktop on the Surface Pro. The main one is the abysmal touchscreen interaction on your main desktop. Windows has suffered the last four years with a small UI and all the icons are very small. You often have to triple press icons to ensure that you are clicking on it right. Even the stylus does not help in many cases. One of the other issues is calling up the virtual keyboard. If you are using it in any RT app, it instantly calls up when you click on a search field or something with a input entry. When you are on your legacy desktop, the keyboard never appears in this manner. You always have to click on the keyboard icon on your task bar, which quickly becomes tedious. I suggest to always use the docking keyboard, if you tend to spend a lot of time in your desktop.
To be honest, RT is where you want to be on a Windows tablet. The entire GUI and UI were designed to be easily interacted with. When the new iteration of Windows first launched, the app selection was nothing to write home about. The ecosystem of apps has really developed in last few months and many apps are now available.
Video is looking very good on the PRO. Since you have a true HD display, you can get proper 16:9 aspect ratio, which makes Blu-ray or Youtube content look amazing. If you are a video fiend, you may appreciate this model. Of course, with the legacy version of Windows you can run all of your different codex, which is normally unavailable on Android or iOS.
The Surface PRO offers one of the best e-reading platforms out of any modern tablet computer. You might say the iPad offers the most expansive selection of apps out there, but most companies do not sell ebooks via the iOS platform. This is mainly attributed to Apple implementing a policy that all in-app purchases are to be facilitated by iTunes, and Apples gets to take commission. If you look at how many ebooks, newspapers, and magazines are sold buy the likes of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, it makes sense. With Windows 8, you have every major ebook seller available and plenty of other content like comic books at your fingertips. You can buy anything directly in the app and it is carried over to any app you may have on any mobile platform.
One of the best changes in the entire digital reading arena has been with cloud storage and being able to buy content and read it anywhere on any device. Whether you do this from the web-browser or dedicated app, it is fairly effective.
The large 10.6 inch display really gives you tons of space to read newspapers, comics, and ebooks. If you have poor eyesight or wear glasses, the extra large area to read content may be something you want to consider.
The Surface PRO on a fundamental hardware level is fairly sound. It meets the needs of your average user, but may not appeal to people who need a high-performance machine. If you do casual website editing, blogging, small bursts of gaming, or browsing the internet, you should be OK. If you need to do extensive video editing, or image editing, you have major apps that you can use, but the rendering times may be lower than on a traditional PC.
The high price may turn off lots of casual users. At $1200 for the whole kit, you may as well buy a Macbook Air, or Samsung Ultrabook. For this kind of cheddar, you can buy a Kindle Fire HD, and an iPad. There is no reason the price should be this high, though this may be a viable investment if it comes down in price by $300.00.
Windows Legacy Support
Audio and Video Codex
4 Hour Battery Life
23.4 GB Free to Use on a 64 GB model
Blackberry Z10 Speaker Quality Is Better
Using the Virtual Keyboard in Desktop Situations Is Terrible
The Blackberry Z10 is the first smartphone to be released with the BB10 OS. This new operating system was years in development, and was a make it or break it operation from the company formally known as Research in Motion. We have seen Super Bowl advertisements and a mass media campaign to gain public acceptance. Is this a step in the right direction? Can the hardware match up against offerings from Google and Samsung?
During the course of this review, we will primarily look at the Z10 as a reading device, evaluate the content distribution system, and look at some of the new features. It is a great phone, but there are some critical flaws in it that might turn off email aficionados.
The Blackberry Z10 features a 4.2 inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels. This is the largest display screen and highest resolution the company has ever released, and it makes interacting with everything a pure joy. HD content looks very clean and crisp, with the 15:9 aspect ratio, and there is more room on the screen to read books and check out your emails.
Underneath the hood is a 1.5 GHZ dual core processor and 2 GB of ram. There are only 16 GB of internal storage, but that far surpasses any of the prior models. You can easily expand the memory further via your Micro SD card.
One of the benefits for the corporate and casual world is the inclusion of a Micro HDMI port. You can easily hook it up to a projector, television, or other medium to stream movies, pictures, or music. Not many smartphones these days have a HDMI out, and this is a major advantage.
We have conducted extensive tests with the battery. It seems when we first started to use it, battery life was nothing to write home about. After a few days, it started to go back to normal. You will normally get 8-10 hours of constant use. If you do nothing but stream video, as we did on our loop test, you will get around 5 hours. If you turn Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth off, you will get a few extra hours. If all you do is leave your phone idle and take the odd call, you will get the full battery life. Unlike most phones these days, Blackberry has continued the trend of providing a removable battery. This obviously helps with quick and dirty hard-resets, but also allows companies to develop aftermarket batteries, or even allowing customers to just carry around an extra.
The phone I have been using for the last two years has been the Blackberry Torch. Honestly, if I had to open up a webpage, a sense of dread overwhelmed me. Websites took a long time to load, and the small screens warranted constant pinching and zooming to read any text. Sometimes the entire website would refresh if you did not do it perfectly right. The Z10 features LTE internet access, which is this generation’s fastest speed. Website browsing is a pleasure now, which is something I thought would never happen. The large screen makes non-mobile optimized sites load very fast, often in seconds. Pinching and zooming is fairly responsive, and there is even an advanced option in settings to enable Adobe Flash. Of course, this web-browser is very much akin to the Playbook version, which is fully compatible with HTML5.
Sometimes, battery life can be hampered with LTE connections, especially if you are traveling in areas that have spotty coverage. There are more advanced settings under connections that allow you to switch between HSPA+ and LTE, to a slower GSM. There is 5 different settings you can engage, depending on if you are in rural areas or traveling.
One of the big advancements has been the integration of NFC. This will allow for mobile payments for merchants that support it. I haven’t tried this myself yet, but obviously hardly any of the current generation of phones have the chip, so it’s a major plus.
Finally, let’s talk about the camera. We live in an age where some smartphones have crazy high resolutions. Blackberry has upgraded the camera to 8 MP and has various filters that you can use to snap some pictures. This is similar to the type of stuff you see in Instagram. If you take a picture in Black and White, it actually looks fairly sweet. One of the drawbacks is when you take pictures in low-light conditions, it is terrible. The one cool feature is called “Time Shift” which allows you to rapidly take a ton of shots, and then isolate the one that is the best. In real world circumstances, this tends to apply best to group shots.
In the end, the overall design is fairly lackluster. It almost feels like cheap plastic. I have the white model, and most prior Blackberries were pure white. The bezel is black, and the entire contrast is just too weird. It is light, though; half the weight of the Blackberry Torch and easily held in one hand.
The Blackberry Z10 is running BB10, which is the latest operating system. Blackberry has been working on this for over two years, and has finally got it into reasonable shape, but it is not perfect.
The Blackberry Playbook and Z10 share some similarities in the way you interact with the touchscreen. There are tons of swiping gestures that occur when you swipe upwards on the bezel or downwards from the top. If you want to minimize a program, or close it, you simply swipe up. You can swipe downwards when you are in an app to normally see advanced options. If you swipe down on the main screen, you will see some options to lock the orientation, turn off Wi-Fi, access your settings, or set the alarm.
The general user interface is fairly clean, which is what I like. There are a number of pre-installed apps like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Docs to Go, Foursquare, and Blackberry’s new Maps. Obviously, with any mapping feature, it is very hard to compete against Gooogle, as Apple found out. The Maps app is solid, on a basic level, but doesn’t do turn by turn navigation.
The keyboard on the Blackberry Z10 is one of the best we have ever used. It is similar layout in the physical QWERTY models, like the Blackberry Bold or Torch. The one new feature is predictive text, which will allow you to start typing a word, and then hit another key to fill in the blanks. If you are normally typing people’s names, email addresses, or domain names, it gets better over time.
Blackberry World is where you go to get new apps. Honestly, it’s terrible. Half of all the apps available are Android ports that run off of the Android Emulator. There are hardly any apps people actually use in the real world. I tend to use Pulse, Google Currents, Kindle, Moon+ Reader, Marvel Comics, Comixology, Nook, Google Reader, and Reuters. Are any of these apps in Blackberry World? Nope! Almost all of the best apps out there are clones! For example, there is an Engadet app, for $1.99, that is just a ripoff Android port, not submitted by Engadget themselves. Google Reader PRO is the same. Almost every major news and magazine app was just ripped off from the original developer and ported as an Android App. All of the submitted content has just indie developer names, and none are ported by the original company that made them. Content distribution is THE weakest element of the Z10, and will turn off a number of users.
Many people have stuck with Blackberry through thick and thin, because of their world class email support and encryption. In the past, when you used a Blackberry phone, you had BIS support. This routs all email and BBM messages through the company’s official servers. Part of this was due to hardware and the fact that older models used DataSmart Technology. DST allows emails and data to be compressed via the Blackberry servers. If you travel lots, you will likely see 4x less data consumption with an older phone than you would with the Z10. This obviously will save you a ton of money on roaming and data fees, which really helps.
In the past, if you wanted secure email and data, it was all done via Blackberry hardware encryption. The new Z10 works on a software encryption engine and does away completely from the old way of doing things. Packets of data are sent across shorter distances via your carrier, so you should receive emails in a timely fashion. The packets are encrypted each way by Blackberry, but you aren’t getting true pushed email anymore.
There are lots of unknowns right now, with the internet rife with rampant speculation on how email is actually handled. Blackberry has offered no official answers on whether or not email is handled strictly by the carrier or if it is still using the Blackberry servers. We do know that you don’t need a dedicated Blackberry data plan anymore with the Z10. This should save money for North American and European countries, but for countries like India, China, and other price conscious consumers, you will see more data fees.
All emails are physically stored in your main HUB. This is where your various email addresses, Tweets, and other social media messages are stored. It acts as a catch-all folder for everything you get, including texts and phone calls. The cool thing about the HUB is that you can disable anything you want, to cut down on clutter. One of the first things I did was disable everything except emails. I don’t want Re-Tweets, Facebook status updates, and comments pinging me all the time. Another cool feature is to control anything you want with the red LED notifier on your phone. I disabled everything but emails, so if my phone blinks red, I know it’s an email.
One of my biggest complaints right now with email would be the bugs in Delete Prior. The essence of Delete Prior is that it allows users to delete all emails in a folder, instead of having it go one by one. It seems if you have a single email address, delete prior works quick. The more email addresses that you add contributes to the amount of time it takes. Deleting is accomplished by long-pressing on the current date, but there is no highlight or indication that you are in fact doing it right. It will open a small sidebar with a delete prior message. You have to click on that, and them swipe it manually (and quickly). It often takes around 30 seconds for everything to be deleted, and often you have to repeat the same procedure two or three times for it to work.
Email used to be the strongest element of having a Blackberry. When the Arab Spring happened last year, it was primarily due to people securely sending each other messages via BBM and encrypted emails. This prevented the government from eavesdropping on what their citizens were doing. Phone companies could be subpoenaed, or (in most cases) were government owned. BBM on the Z10 is still secure, using the old Blackberry servers, so there are no worries there. The main problem right now is with the pushed email services, which have been the bread and butter of Blackberry. It seems right now that emails arrive faster on non-BB10 phones and slower on BB10 phones. This has partly to do with various carriers handling IMAP, POP3, Activesync, and various other protocols differently. If you rely on Gmail and other services like that, you are good to go. If you are like me and get emails from Exchange Servers, POP3, and other servers all over the world, the Z10 might not be for you.
If you are buying the Z10 to read newspapers, magazines, and books, you are in trouble. Kobo was one company firmly behind Blackberry and supported most prior models and the Playbook. The official Kobo app is nowhere to be found, ditto with Kindle, Nook, Moon+, Cool Reader, Aldiko, and any other mainstream program. Like to read comics? You won’t find a single comic app by a mainstream company anywhere on app world.The only reading app available is Press Reader, which gives you newspaper replicas of thousands of papers in the world.
Since you can’t get any reading apps from Blackberry World, your only alternative is to get all of the above apps from Good e-Reader BB10 Market. We have worked very hard at converting all of the major reading apps to BB10 and Playbook compliant formats. You have to jump through a few hoops to load these on your device, but I am quite willing to do this.
One of the drawbacks with Android ports in general is the LAG associated with common functions. Opening Pulse on the iPhone and iPad takes seconds. It takes over 15 seconds on the Z10. Page turn animations on ported Android apps also take longer to happen. This is mainly because of the outdated Android emulator (android 2.3) that is available on both the Playbook and Z10. Blackberry has never confirmed that they will update the emulator, and it might be better to avoid this phone if you are looking to do any serious reading.
Now you may say, who reads on a smartphone and why does it matter? Surprisingly 51% of smartphone users, which is a large demographic of people catching up with RSS feeds, news apps, or just reading a book casually. Many people also tend to listen to audiobooks on their phone from Audible or other services. Suffice it to say, if you like to catch up on news from various websites, the Z10 will simply NOT do.
This is the first phone review Good e-Reader has ever done. We don’t plan on making it a regular thing. The sole reason why we decided to do it was because we run the second largest Blackberry Playbook and BB10 App Store in the world, so it makes sense.
Hardware wise, this is the best phone Blackberry has ever released. The company blends memory, RAM, and a great processor underneath the hood. This is a phone that I can finally watch YouTube videos on, and have a large enough screen so that internet browsing is a joy. The actual phone calling is OK, and does Internet Tethering and Wireless Hotspot. But this is subject to your carrier supporting it.
The trouble with the Z10 is mainly due to software. There seems to be a large piracy problem on Blackberry World with many of the magazine and reading apps. We noted elsewhere in the review that many mainstream apps are just Android ports, and poor ones at that. There are simply no good programs that most readers will want to download. Apps from our own App Market fill the void, stuff like Olive Tree Bible Reader, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Comixology are only available through us.
The main problem with the Z10 for business users is the lack of BIS, BES, and true push email. This may be a deal breaker with Blackberry loyalists that consistently pass up the latest and greatest Android and Apple phones to get great email service. Although the Blackberry Z10 does the best job at email, it loses out on what made the company successful with the Enterprise users. Calender sync and Outlook sync are very hard to accomplish right out of the box, and customers need to engage in complicated workarounds. It is hard to recommend this device to both casual and power users. If you receive hundreds of emails and attachments a day, you may quickly go over your data cap, because you are not getting compression anymore.
Finally, it feels like Blackberry has created a new OS from scratch and is trying to compete against Windows, iOS, and Android. It honestly falls drastically behind all of them in terms of software and developer support. It has a woeful selection of apps and no Dev Jam in the world will convince first party developers to choose this OS. Blackberry feels like it is at a crossroads, and it is trying to appeal to a mass audience and losing its core business customers in the process.
Fast processor, plenty of RAM
Lots of storage space
Large display screen
Front facing web cam
Lack of BES and BIS
Reading apps are virtually non-existent
Blackberry App World has piracy issues
Android emulator is outdated
Lack of quality Apps
Ectaco recently released a new breed of tablet with a built in keyboard. The essence of this new device is a language translator, made by a company synonymous with e-reader culture. How does this rank up against other tablets on the market and is it a viable investment?
Not much is known with the internals of the Partner Lux from Ectaco, which is seldom a good sign. The tablet features a five inch resistive touchscreen display with a resolution of 800×480 pixels. It comes bundled with a stylus, which is used for pin-point precision. There are also two GB of internal memory and you can expand it via a Micro SD card for up to 32 GB.
Battery life is fairly solid at around 10 hours, thanks to the 3350 mAh Li-Polymer rechargeable battery. You can power it via the DC Adapter that ships with it and use the accompanied Mini USB to USB cable. I found you could easily do your tasks all day long and not be struggling to find a power outlet.
One of the most endearing factors of this device is the built in keyboard. It is a full QWERTY edition and makes email, text messaging, and writing a walk in the park. Most tablets on the market have a docking port to plug in an external keyboard. The Microsoft Surface and Asus Transformer Infinity are two examples of this. The keyboard folds up into the tablet and you can even twist the screen 180 degrees, so it overlaps the keyboard. This allows you to purely interact with the touchscreen and only use the keyboard when necessary.
The exact dimensions are 5.2 x 3.9 x 0.9 in (132 x 98 x 23 mm) and makes it very pocket friendly. This Lux resonates with me on a fundamental level because I love the tectonic feel of keyboards, and have been a loyal Blackberry user for many years. I like the fact the keyboard is built into the overall design and it’s way easier to not exclusively use the touchscreen for many programs.
The Lux feels like a very high-end item. It has brushed aluminum and little design enhancements that make it stand out from a very crowded tablet PC space. One of the drawbacks is the lack of 3.1 mm headphone adapter. Instead it uses 2.5.
The Ectaco Partner Lux is running Google Android 2.3.2, which is fairly outdated by today’s standards. Still, this is being billed as a language translator, instead of your run of the mill tablet.
The Lux is brimming with Ectaco’s Education and Translator software. You can purchase many different models, depending on your native tongue and the one you are trying to learn. Our review model was English to French and was seriously overflowing with cool software.
One of the best elements is the real time voice to speech software. You can speak in English, for example, and have it automatically convert your prose over to French. If writing is more your style, it will read to you in French what you wrote in English. You can even fire up the audio language dictionary and look up the words and have their audio definitions be read to you.
There are four other main apps in this program that round off the translation aspect. The Language Teacher has four main elements; Alphabet, Words, Phrases, and Dialogs. Each set is loaded with an advanced speech recognition system so you get a detailed view and correction of your pronunciation each time. You can backtrack lessons and restart the entire learning process as often as you like with no limit.
Learning a new phrase or want to get more familiar with cultural idioms? The Phrase Book has over 14,000 commonly used phrases and authentic human narration for all of the different languages.
Ectaco has also bundled a number of their educational apps into this device that played a central role in the Jetbook Color. There is an English grammar course, American idioms and irregular verbs, and video courses (interactive course of American English, US Citizenship test, and many more!).
One of the things we had fun with was playing games and not relying on the touchscreen. We ran a test with Sonic the Hedgehog for Android and were happy to find out we could control everything with the keyboard. PC Gamers might like the fact they have a dedicated keyboard to use the directional arrows or establish hot keys.
Most of the main UI does not switch from the default portrait view to landscape. Thankfully the device shipped with Kindle and Moon+ Reader which allows you to control the orientation via the advanced settings.
The Lux is an TFT screen, which means it might not be ideal as your main e-reader device. Many of the most popular apps out there from Nook, Kobo, Overdrive, and indie readers will all work on Android 2.3.
One of the drawbacks about reading is that you have to get by on a five inch screen. This is too small for most normal readers and you will find yourself tweaking the sizes of the fonts and in order to find your sweet spot. Technical PDF documents requires courage to constantly pinch and zoom on a resistive touchscreen display.
I found comic books actually look fairly great, once you install them from the 1Mobile market app that comes bundled on it. This company provides a number of mainstream apps, but if you want more newspaper, magazines, ebook, or RSS Readers, download the Good e-Reader APP store.
The Ectaco Partner Lux was designed to be a translator and not a full blown tablet. The actual specs are fairly abysmal, but does feature two front facing speakers and a mic for all of your language needs.
On a fundamental level, this device costs too much to buy as an e-reader or daily tablet. You would only purchase this if you needed to learn another language or buy it for an older parent. It is fairly easy to use and most of the $499.99 cost stems from all of the apps Ectaco has loaded on it.
In prior interviews we had with the head of the company, they sold us their products often cost more because of the amount they invested in app development and R&D. They need to charge more, because they are not a volume based business.
In the end, as a translator, it is one of the best in the world. It comes with all of the software you will ever need and really helps you learn a new language. Using this for anything else would be foolhardy.
Excellent Voice Translation
Tons of Learning Apps
Educational Based Programs
Built in Keyboard
Front Facing Speakers
Outdated Version of Android
Must Charge with DC Adapter, PC will Not Charge It.
Flimsy Hardware Specs
Bookeen has released its second generation Cybook Odyssey e-reader and has incorporated a front lite technology and a high resolution display. How does this rank up against the other popular brands out there like the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo? During this comprehensive hands on review, we will evaluate all of the features this European reader brings to the table.
The Cybook Odyssey HD features a six inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024×758 pixels. It uses the same type of XGA technology found on the Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite. Underneath the hood is an 800 MHZ Texas Instruments Cortex A8 processor and 128 MB of RAM. The hardware is perfectly adequate for an e-reader and navigating the menu and opening books occurs very quickly.
You will have 2 GB of internal storage for all of your ebooks, and you can enhance it further via the Micro SD for up to 32 GB of additional memory. Battery life is also very solid with the 1600 mAh, which will normally provide up to a month of battery life. If you tend not to use the front light very much, you should be able to have it last a little bit longer. One of the ways this device conserves battery life is the automatic disabling of wireless internet access when you leave your reader idle. You can charge it via the accompanied Micro USB cable by plugging it into your computer.
The Cybook Odyssey HD has a very unique design that is a departure from the standard cookie cutter readers that are prevalent in today’s climate. It has rounded edges and little angle grooves that allow you to hold it in one hand very easily. There is a home button on the front screen and manual page-turn buttons. Honestly, I love e-readers that are touchscreen but still have buttons to give you a tectonic feel and a higher degree of interactivity. A single press will call up the menus and a double tap will turn on the front light.
Front Lite technology is still rather new and there are only a few models that are currently on the market. The essence of this front lite screen gives you the ability to read in the dark or under low-light conditions. In the past, you needed ambient light or a book-light in order to read in the dark. I found the light in the Bookeen model does not give you the pure white screen that the Kindle Paperwhite provides, but is a little bit better than the Kobo Glo.
The Cybook Odyssey HD is running on a Linux operating system and uses Bookeen’s HSIS scrolling technology. This is quite evident in browsing the internet and looking at PDF Files. You get these little directional arrows that let you know you can scroll in four different directions. This helps you orientate where exactly you are in any given document, which is fairly intuitive.
The main home screen is where you will find yourself the most often by clicking on the home button or exiting a book. It shows you the last five books you are reading and you can scroll your entire library by gesturing left and right. There is a bookstore on the very bottom that can actually be customized by the company you purchased it from. By default it is dealing with the Bookeen eBookstore, but you can get them to tie it into whatever free source of paid or free ebooks that you want to.
One of the coolest elements of this e-reader is the inertia in the way you can switch the orientation from landscape to portrait mode. The Odyssey HD allows you to scroll quite easily when you are accessing menus, and by gesturing downwards, it will actually scroll very quickly. This is easy for changing your fonts or setting up the sweet spots in PDF with different zoom levels. The other cool part is being able to hold two finders down and twist them to the left or right. This is how you accomplish switching the orientation because it does not have a built in gyroscope or accelerometer.
If you live internationally and want to buy an e-reader with tons of different language options, the Odyssey HD does not disappoint. It has language support for over 21 different countries, such as Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Turkish, German, and many more! Bookeen is based in Paris France, so they tend to know a thing or two about the different languages in Europe.
Finally, if you have ever bought an e-reader before, you will know all about firmware updates. These normally produce enhancements and new features and sometimes can be arduous in setting up. Many of the most popular brands slowly push out the firmware and often warrants you to put it on an SD card and load it in manually. This device has automatic firmware downloads done OTA. As long as you have a WIFI connection, you can get a quick update. Bookeen has confirmed with us they have a new patch in development and will be issuing it soon.
When you open a book for the first time on this dandy little reader, you will see cover art that starts in the background and slowly moves into the foreground in one fluid motion. The cover art has a twist that immediately captivates you with a unique experience. This reader currently will read EPUB, PDF, Adobe DRM, HTML, TXT, FB2 eBook formats.
Book reading is very pleasant with the HD model and you will find it very easy on the eyes in true e-ink fashion. If you are not a fan of the default font, you can easily select from 18 different font sizes to find your personal sweet spot. When you select a new font, you get a visual cue on what it will look like by the way the font sizes increase as you scroll down. When you find one you like, all of the text within your ebook is dynamically updated in real time. Many other readers need you to exit the menu to refresh the screen.
Not only can you adjust the font size, but the font type is selectable too. There are around 10 different pre-loaded fonts types to choose from and they are ideal to mess around with if you have your own particular favorite. If you plug the Cybook HD into your PC, you can load in your own fonts! We have reviewed hundreds of digital readers over the years and seldom do we encounter a non-Kobo model that lets you load in your own fonts. This opens up a world of opportunity to load in your favorites or even foreign language ones with different ways to display characters.
Most touchscreen e-readers allow you to hold down on a specific word to make a highlight, take notes, or mark an annotation. Instead of doing it the traditional way, Bookeen has added another sub-menu to initiate these features. I honestly like it this way! I have found with other touchscreen models that when you are turning pages you will often accidentally tap on word and bring up a bunch of editing options. This model negates the clicks you might make and always turns the page properly.
One interesting thing we found out is if you swipe to turn the page, you will get an instant full page refresh. If you tap on the left or right hand side, you will get a seamless transition and will experience a full page refresh every six pages. If you hold downwards on one of the margins, you will very quickly scroll throughout the book.
The Cybook Odyssey HD really gives you a great PDF experience that puts the Sony PRS-T1 and T2 to shame. You have 20 different levels of zoom to really find that sweet spot in whatever document you are reading, and it takes into account how heavy the images are. You can tap on fit to screen, height, or width depending on what orientation you are reading the PDF on. In many cases your user manual or technical document may not be that readable and in this case you can strip away all the custom styling sheets and get a pure ebook experience. You can turn Reflow on and it disregards all of the images and just gives you the text. Tweaking with the zoom levels when you have Reflow enabled really allows you maximum flexibility.
Finally, there is no way to really organize your collections properly into different folders, but it does have some great searching options. You can refine your library view by Genre, Tags, Author, Publisher, and other facets. This makes managing large collections a little bit more viable.
If you are looking for a quick, stable, and robust e-reader with a heavy emphasis on internal support, take a look at this model. Bookeen has been a company that has been floating under the radar for a long time, but the company heavily invests in research and development. They continue to find new ways to stand out from the competition and bring an interesting hardware design to the table and new software features like inertia and a great internet experience.
When it comes down to it, one of the features that really stands out is the front light technology. It allows you to read in the dark and not be dependent on ambient light or third party accessories. It may not be as good as the Kindle Paperwhite, but it does put the Kobo Glo and Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight to shame.
I would recommend this reader if you are looking to separate yourself from the herd or if you are always reading PDF documents. If you have had a prior reader, it may take a bit of time before you adjust to the unique ways this reader handles itself.
Solid PDF experience
Load in your own fonts
Front light is really good
HSIS scrolling is responsive
Lots of font options
Don’t like page refresh flashes? Disable them completely!
No true ebook collection management in your library
Default store is weak
Battery life lasts around a month
The only new tablet Samsung debuted at CES 2013 was the Galaxy Verizon LTE model! This new device is certainly a step up from the WIFI model released a few months ago. It ships with Android Jellybean and has a number of software enhancements that are sure to impress. If you live in the USA, you can tap into Verizon’s LTE/4G network via a SIM card. You can actually now use the Note in a mobile setting without having to rely on a constant WIFI connection.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 LTE model has no firm release date yet, but Samsung said they will be announcing one shortly. Suffice it to say it is running on a 1.4 GHZ Quad-core processor and a resolution of 1280×800. It has a 5 MP rear facing camera and a front facing 1.9 MP one for video chatting. You can enhance the 16 GB of internal memory up to 64 GB via the Micro SD card. It also has an HDMI port to stream it to your TV.
I must admit, I slept on the original release of the Galaxy Note Tablet. The one thing I liked about this model was the multitasking feature. You have some of the same multitasking models found on the Windows OS. You can have two windows open at the same time and lock them in. For example, you can have your email on one side of the screen and a video playing on the other. You can scroll around to position them in different ways to size them to your liking on the fly. You can also open up a new multitasking feature that makes windows out of your open apps. Traditionally with Android, you have a series of open apps you can view. The Note 10.1 takes it in a bold new direction of being able to adopt a seriously cool Windows feature. You can click on the X to close them and scroll open windows around the screen.
The one thing I noticed with this is Verizon did away with Samsung Readers Hub. This eliminated Press Reader, Zinio, and Kobo from the default apps that came loaded on the device. Instead they ship with KNO for educational textbooks and Amazon for ebooks. It is a significant departure, but it does maintain the Media Hub, which has a revised interface. It actually looks way better in this iteration with new Jellybean enhanced features.
The entire world has been starving for information on Txtr’s first e-reader, the Beagle. The Berlin based company has not officially made this unit available for sale and we are proud to bring you one of the first comprehensive hands-on reviews of this new device. Initially, we were very impressed on how light it is and the fact it has over one year of battery life. How does it rack up against other five inch devices like the Kobo Mini or Jetbook Mini? We endeavor to find out!
The Txtr Beagle features a five inch e-Ink Vizplex screen with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels. Most e-readers these days do 16 levels of grayscale, while this model only does 8. Txtr has informed us that the final model will have e-ink Pearl, which should give it 16 levels of grey and sharper/crisper text. There are 4 GB of internal memory and five ebooks can be cached at any given time. We noticed we had way more than five books loaded on the Beagle, and it only took a bit longer to open them up, so you are not exactly limited to five.
The Beagle boasts of one year battery life, thanks to the 2 AA Energizer Lithium Ion batteries that are included in the box. It also is being billed as the world’s lightest reader, but that’s not totally true. The Wexler Flex One currently wears that crown at 110 grams, while the Beagle is 128 grams (with batteries) and 111 grams (without batteries).
This is an extremely bare-bones reader. There is no WIFI, Mini or Micro USB ports, or any expandable memory via SD. There are three main buttons on the bottom of the screen which function as the Left/Right and Home. About the only thing it has is Bluetooth, which is used to facilitate copying ebooks right from your phone or tablet to the Beagle.
Txtr has taken a page out of Kobo’s playbook by adding a product line of interchangeable back covers. You can choose between five different ones right now to personalize your reader. They come in Black, Jade Green, Grapefruit, Purple, and Turquoise. You can easily peel off the back of the unit to swap out batteries and put on a new cover. We found that the covers don’t fit easily and need to be tediously pushed into the locking position.
Honestly, this reader is fairly awesome. It is not officially available in the retail market yet, and Txtr is working on making arrangements with phone carriers and tablet companies to give it away for free with the purchase of a higher priced gadget. It is super light and feels great in the hands, the only drawback is the small hump on the back where the batteries are stored.
The Txtr Beagle is actually not even running on OS according to Txtr. It is not bundled with Linux, Android, nothing. There are no menus or sub-menus. Your main screen entails the books you loaded onto it with your phone or tablet. You click on the cover art to open the book and that’s it.
Many online publications said that you can only cache up to five ebooks on the device, but we noticed we could store a bunch more. They all show up on your main homescreen and you can employ the left and right buttons to page through the cover art. Clicking on the main “OK” or “Home” button will automatically open the book and you can begin reading.
One of the downfalls of the overall reading experience is the full screen refresh on every single page turn. Most readers by Sony, Pocketbook, Kobo, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble have options to augment the refresh rate from every page to every six or nine pages, allowing for less flickering. The Beagle has this every single page, which grows tedious after a while.
Txtr provides a small user guide when you buy the Beagle, which basically teaches you how to use the main interface and copy over ebooks. It should be suitable for most non-tech-savvy people and even has a QR code that you can scan with your phone to access the Txtr app listed on Google Play.
This is the most user friendly e-reader we have ever reviewed. It is hard to mess up clicking on cover art to read a book. More tech savvy users will lament the inability to change the font, font size, line spacing, highlights, annotations, dictionary, or even zoom. You get none of that with this Beagle; it’s stupidly simple.
Txtr has informed us that in the final production model they will be adding support for font size editing, to give customers the options to make the text larger and smaller. They also promise crisper text, which should make it easier on the eyes.
How to Load eBooks on the Txtr Beagle
The only way to load books on the Beagle is to connect your phone or tablet to the Beagle via Bluetooth. Right now the ability to pair your device with the e-reader is relegated exclusively to Android, the only supported platform. The company has informed us that it will be adding the functionality to its iOS apps and PC software.
In order to get started, you need to download the official Txtr app via Google Play or the Good e-Reader App Store. Keep in mind you need to have Ice Cream Sandwich or Jellybean to connect to the Beagle. If you have an earlier version you won’t be able to sync books, as we found out.
When you load up the Txtr app on Android and hit the settings menu, there will be an entry titled “Beagle.” Clicking on this will give you the option to pair it with your e-reader. You want to hold down on the power button on the back of the Beagle for about four seconds. This will initiate a pairing sequence, and then you click “connect” on the Android app, which will connect them both up. You will see a blinking blue LED light on the Beagle letting you know it was successful. There are no codes or other information you need to enter to finalize the connection.
Txtr owns and operates many different bookstores in Europe and has a great English one. You can buy books and have them synced to all of the devices you own with an official app. By default they are stored on your main library shelf. If you long-press on the cover art you will see a few options pop up. The only one you should be concerned with is “Send ebook to Beagle.” It will copy it over to your reader and the book will automatically open.
Right now the Txtr app only works on Android devices that are running on 4.0 or 5.0. This may be the more modern version of Android, but statically the vast majority of the population are still running outdated versions of the OS. Txtr has informed us that they are adding support for earlier versions, such as 2.3. They are also updating all of their other apps across a myriad of platforms to allow you to sync with Bluetooth.
The Txtr Beagle is one of the most unique e-readers we have ever reviewed. It will not confuse anyone who already has books on it and just wants to read. Buying books directly from Txtr on your tablet, PC, Mac, or phone will save you tons of headaches about different ebook formats and using advanced software. You buy a book, connect Bluetooth, and read the book. No frills, no gimmicks, easy as pie.
This e-reader is joining a small exclusive club of companies issuing five inch models. Kobo recently introduced the Mini, which has not been selling that well because of retail distribution woes. It is still not available internationally, but is more fully featured with store, WIFI, web-browser, reading life awards, and the ability to load in your own books. The Jetbook Mini was one of the first e-readers to use batteries and was five inches, but never gained much traction due to its high cost and poor performance.
There are a few things I really like. The price is poised to be 10 Euros or around $16.00 in the US. This makes it the cheapest e-reader in the world and would serve as a great throwaway device. You can take it out on vacation, read it by the pool, on hikes, camping, or have the kids play with it. You won’t want to baby it as much as your iPad 4 or Kindle Fire HD. The second thing is the battery life. Seriously, what could drain the batteries? No WIFI, GPS, data, USB, or anything else that would slowly eat away at your precious power. One or two years of battery life puts it in a class of its own: light, long-lived, and ludicrously cheap.
The price is up in the air at the moment. Txtr has always said they are looking to partner with Mobile or tablet companies to help slash the price. If they choose to market the device themselves or choose a distributor, it is unknown what their rock bottom material price is, and how cheap they can sell it without losing money.
If is fairly hard to find cons in this unit. It is what it is. It doesn’t give you any options to augment the reading experience or anything else. You click on a book and you read it. It’s basic. Some font options would be nice, as not everyone has great vision.
One year battery life
Syncing with your phone can grow wearisome
Need Android 4.0 or 5.0 where most people still have 2.3 (this will be fixed soon)
Relies on Google Play as the only source to download it (other than our own app store)