Ectaco Jetbook Color Full Hands on Review
Mar
18

Ectaco Jetbook Color Full Hands on Review

By

The Ectaco Jetbook Color is the first e-Reader in the world to use color e-Ink! This gives you a full color display to view a wide array of content and lets you experience e-paper like you never have before. How does this new technology developed by e-Ink Holdings stack up in a battery of real world tests? Is it truly the next step in evolution of e-Readers? We dive into the issue and find out all of the answers.

Hardware

The Ectaco Jetbook Color is a 9.7 inch e-ink Triton Display with a resolution of 1600×1200 Pixels. It truly gives you a vivid color e-paper that mimics real paper and really is a paradigm shift in the way people will experience reading on an e-Reader. If you have had the Amazon Kindle Touch, Kobo Touch, or Nook Simple Touch, you know from experience that it really does not strain your eyes during long reading sessions. The problem with devices such as the Apple iPad and other LCD based tablets is because of the bright backlit screen is not comfortable for long reading experiences and is more geared towards casual endeavors.

There is some controversy right now on the resolution of the Jetbook Color and it actually gives you a different experience depending on what kind of book, magazine, newspaper, or PDF file you are looking at. When you are using the color aspect of the device, it gives you 800×600 pixels. The reason for this is because of the RGB color filter they use to overlay the display. Each color pixel is formed with 4 dots which means it is halved from the initial 1600×1200. Keep in mind when you are reading a normal e-Book with no color displayed on the screen you will get a massive improvement on the text based experience. This really utilizes the 9.7 inch screen when you are reading technical documents or just a good eBook.

Diving underneath the hood is a Freescale i.MX508 800MHz with ARM Cortex A8 CPU processor. Unfortunately, this processor is woefully underpowered for what this device is intended to do. Navigating menus, turning page pages, or launching programs demands an exercise in patience. There is a solid 4 GB of internal memory, but with all of the student programs bundled on the device you have around 2 GB to work with, which is more than adequate. If you demand more space for your music, books, and other content you can expand it via Micro SD up to 32 GB.

Battery life with this device is fairly good with it lasting almost 10,000 page turns or about 2 months. With a recent firmware update it has the ability to use the WIFI browser and buy books, but there is no internet browser to actually surf the internet. We were promised by Ectaco that they would allow this functionality in a future firmware update.

The main aspect of interaction with the Jetbook Color is the Stylus Pen that comes bundled with it. It actually has a slot it fits into at the top of the unit so you don’t run the risk of misplacing it. On the bottom of the device is two stereo speakers that give you fairly reasonable sound quality. Music, Vocal Dictation, and more is possible with the built in microphone. There is also a 3.5 mm headphone jack so you won’t have to disturb people with your tunes or lecture notes. There is also a manual switch that you can use to turn the WIFI on or off, this might help save on battery life. Finally, there is a removable protective casing for the Mini USB, Micro SD, and full USB 2.0 port. The top of the unit and sides don’t really have anything of note, but most of the action occurs on the front of the unit. There is a settings, home, and back buttons and two manual page turns.

Hardware wise this machine feels fairly high quality but suffers from unresponsive behavior. This is mainly due to the slow 800 MHZ processor and the 256 MB of Ram. There is simply not enough power to really make this device as responsive as the kind you find in six inch e-readers. Certainly the Kindle Touch and Simple Touch Reader don’t suffer from much lag at all in almost everything you do.

Software

The Jetbook Color is mainly billed as an educational e-reader and they have attained certification in both Russia and the USA to give deals to educational institutions. It is built on a custom Linux interface and Ectaco makes different modules that you can install on the devices. Everything from 50 different dictionaries to more student apps are available to purchase.

This is one of the first e-readers in the world that is not aimed at the average consumer because of the fickle nature of the Western European and North American Markets. Everyone wants a device that costs less then $200 and it makes it hard for smaller companies to compete in the market. Ectaco decided to make a full color device that made textbooks and classroom work relevant on an e-reader instead of a tablet.

There are four main categories aimed directly at students and provide a number of very specific programs aimed at K12 schools. You have Classroom and Homework, Oxford Reading Support, Language and Games, and Science and Math. Each one of these genres has about six to twelve different applications that should greatly assist people. You have everything from SAT Preparation courses to an interactive periodic tablet of the elements.

Many of the programs bundled on the JB Color have audio elements that will give you an audio definition of a specific word in the dictionary or an eBook you are reading. They even have translations to help you learn new languages such as Spanish, French, Russian, and many more! This should provide a boon for people who might say a word the wrong way because people are used to pronouncing things phonetically. The audio aspect really helps people ensure they way they speak is proper.

You can really tell Jetbook put a ton of effort into developing custom content for an e-reader and no other device on the market comes close in bringing a truly unique student experience to an e-ink based e-reader.

Most people will purchase the Jetbook Color for the ability to use it in their home and not even use the student elements and this is something the company is betting on.

e-Reading and eBook Experience

The Jetbook Color recognizes a wide array of formats that will allow people to load in their own books they either purchased from other online stores or have downloaded from the internet. It will read ePub, Mobi, PRC, PDB, RTF, TXT, HTML, PDF, FB2 formats and is fully compatible with Adobe Digital Editions.

Reading a Book on the Jetbook Color gives you the best experience out of all of the current generation 9.7 inch e-readers. The resolution of 1600×1200 is unmatched by any other device and provides tremendously crisp fonts when you are reading a normal book.

Where this device really shines is on comic books! Personally I love Marvel and Indie comics and buy a bunch online. The Jetbook Color really gives you the type of digital paper experience that is much akin to reading the real thing. The large 9.7 screen is basically the same size as your average comic book so there is hardly any degradation factors in the overall quality.

Newspapers and technical documents also really shine and give you options to reflow the text and zoom in on specific aspects. You can make highlights and annotations with the stylus if you want to keep track of your work. One of the great features is the ability to save your notes as independent files and then export them onto your Micro SD card.

The one drawback of the Jetbook Color as an e-reader is that there is no way to really augment the text, line spaces, or margins. You have a basic zoom option found in the settings to tailor the book or other item you are reading for optimal performance. It seems when you read the average eBook you don’t really have to do much to conform the text properly. You might want to make the font a little bigger, but there are no options to physically change the font to, for example, Ariel or Times New Roman.

PDF Viewing gives you a few new elements such as REFLOW and Zoom to help make whatever document you are reading a little bit better. I found most PDFs loaded properly right from the get-go, but comic books always warranted fiddling around with the settings to nail the sweet spot.

The only big drawback with the Jetbook Color is that you are relegated to the portrait only viewpoint. There is NO way currently to switch it to landscape mode, although it is always possible to do this with future firmware updates. The Kindle DX was much the same technology wise but had the software to make it display

Our Thoughts

The Jetbook Color is a quantum leap in e-Ink based technology in consumer electronics. It really is a game changer to display super high quality e-paper experience while giving you the option for vivid colors.

My main concern with this device is the hardware really hinders the ability for this to catch on with your average user. I found while reading a simple PDF it took a few seconds to turn the page, often ten seconds. The more extensive and graphic intensive a document was the longer it took to open the settings and make changes. It suffers greatly by the hardware that is underneath the hood and that fact alone will turn many people off.

The Jetbook Color is great in practice while you are reading but suffers from execution. The software is amazing and the student learning software is the best in the business. Reading comics and books on such a large screen is something I have been waiting for a long time. If the processor was doubled and had 1 GB of RAM, this would be the ultimate device.

In the end, the Jetbook Color has to really be seen to be appreciated. It is currently the best 9 inch e-reader on the market and destroys its competition, such as the Amazon Kindle DX and Pocketbook 912. The fact it displays full color e-ink will resonate well with people who can afford to pay the $500.00 it costs to purchase one.

I recommend this item to anyone that is a professional and needs a device for technical documentation and who is sick of all the tablets out there and wants a device they will have to charge maybe 5 times a year. I also recommend it to K12 students as a way to cut down on the weight of your backpack and load in your own books. Finally, anyone that wants to read comics should buy this device. It may not read CBZ and CBR formats but PDF viewing is not shabby at all and there are lots of free converter programs out there.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Michael Kozlowski (3722 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to michael@goodereader.com


  • John

    Too bad… sounds like a 500USD piece of junk… 800×600 on that screen size is pointless… needs a stylus… sounds like a used Kindle DX for half the price would be prefable for someone reading PDFs and a tablet for anyone reading comic books. IPad3′s resolution is mind blowing too… could be an ereader killer with its ability to dim the backlight to almost nothing… and is the same price as this junk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000110073910 Ryno Bones

    A low-end ereader with a high-end screen and a higher-end price.  While I would love to own an e-ink ereader in this size, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money.  I won’t even consider a KindleDX because of the price.  I like that there’s room to expand storage, and I like the color, but why such otherwise inappropriate hardware? 

    My main complaint with the saturated ereader market in general is that there are three or four devices that do things perfectly while the competition seems an entire generation or more behind yet keeps the prices of current-gen products.  Having the awesome screen isn’t enough to compensate for the mediocre innards found in this device.  You can’t bring one new feature to the market and expect to change the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.skinner1 Benjamin Skinner

    I agree that that device is completely unsuitable to the average user today. I don’t know what they were thinking when they slapped it together. On a side note there are plenty of good eink devices out there, and some of the normal tablets work pretty well for magazines and pdfs as well. I believe that the superior network security and business applications that come with Windows 8 will make the tablets preferred for business use. On the other hand older non windows based tablets are going to continue to be more popular for regular consumer use. If you haven’t looked into the top tablets, or you are on the fence about a tablet take a look at these reviews. The Asus review convinced me to get my Transformer and I haven’t looked back since. 

  • Jon

    I have jetBook Color and like it very much. It has 1600×1200 resolution. New firmware update has localizations and language menus for many languages:Russian, Ukrainian, German, Japanese, English, Spanish, Portuguese
    Other Features and Functions:
    Workbook Scribbling and freehand writing on PDFsObjects of art and Music notes moved to user accessible area DJVU support in readerCPen support, TTS, Reflow mode in Reader and other features

  • uli

    Thank you for this good review that points out advantages as well as drawbacks. Also, thank you for explaining the screen resolution in detail :-)

  • Hamid

    Please some who have used this answer my question. It is important for me.
    Is it possible to change the orientation of screen?
    Thanks

  • Evan Foster

    You cant compare this to a tablet with an lcd screen.. the amount of educational technology this brings to the table is leaps and bounds beyond what other have brought.. 800×600 color over 1200×1600, pretty sure thats not pointless, can u really see the pixels? didnt think so.. The whle idea behind these are long reading times in the classroom.. If you want to bring every kid to the eye doctor you can incorporate ipads… Im a college student and cannot wait to get my hands on this, just waiting for the april firmware update. If i got a tablet id spend all day goofing off on the internet.

  • bgr32

    Thanks for this great comparision. It seems that both technologies need more time.

    PS. Michael, what’s happened to the White Balance on your photos? I suggest investing in Lightroom 4 :)

  • http://goodereader.com/blog/ Good E-Reader

     I just bought a new camera that should fix this, the rebel t3i

  • MeNotYou

    I recently received this unit with the latest (May 2012) firmware.  I like it very much.  I have seen too many reviews that compare it with the ipad or the kindle fire, etc. which is ridiculous.  I did not buy it to search the web or check facebook,etc.    Comparing it to a b/w e-ink reader is even a bit off, I’d say, because what anyone who buys it is interested in is color.     I bought it to use as an alternative to a traditional book; reading outside in the sun – so that is what it should be compared to, in my opinion.  Is it perfect?  Well no.  Is it ‘not ready for prime time’ as so many reviews I have seen suggests?  I think not.  I use it primarily as a comic book reader in daylight or bright conditions.  The colors are ‘pastel’ in appearance but are in line with a newspaper color comic page or a traditional comic book from the 60s or before.  I rather like the colors as they make it seem more like a paper version of the comic.   True, it sometimes takes seconds to load a comic initially, but page turns are normally in line with the time it would take to physically turn a paper page – so I’m ok with that.  It is SO much fun to read the comics in color outside getting a tan!    I do have to convert comics to pdf, but calibre does that in under a minute per cbr comic file so it isn’t a big deal.  True, you can’t change orientation and very occasionally you’ll get some image bleed from a previous screen (but very rare if you set to refresh every page turn) and I’m had to hard restart once (but that is in line with the myriad of other electronic products I have.    Bottom line:  Out of five starts I’d give it a solid 3 1/2 to 4 and I am really excited for this technology and think with a little tweaking and a little more hardware power down the road – this is going to be fantastic. 

  • MeNotYou

     Oh, and by the way, with a table lamp angled from the side and above the unit inside it works great too.

  • SmartGuy

    7.5/10 huh? I saw one of these and played with it. What a piece of junk it is!!! And $500? LaptopMag gave this a 1 out of 5. Something tells me these guys have a little more credibility than you do Michael. Don’t quit your day job.

  • Anon Wibble

    I don’t think the problem is the CPU, i think the problem is that e-ink takes a long time to refresh.