The Tolino Vision was released early April in Germany and was billed as a Kindle Killer by the Tolino Alliance, which comprises of Deutsche Telekom, Hugendubel, Thalia, Bertelsmann and World View. The intention behind the Vision was to be the definitive device to own if you speak German and taps into an extensive eBook Store with over 1.2 million titles. How does this reader compare to the latest generation offerings by Amazon or Kobo? Today, we take an extensive look at the Vision and let you know if its worth it to buy.
The Tolino Vision features the latest in e-Paper innovatio, e Ink Carta. This is the exact screen technology found on the Kindle Paperwhite 2. This will not only provide higher contrast, but also eliminate the refreshing when you turn a page in an eBook. There are actually settings menu options that allow you to manually set the refresh rate from every 6 pages to every 100 pages. The overall resolution is a very respectable 1024 × 758 pixels. One of the things that stands out with this model is that the screen is flush with the bezel. The only other e-reader to do this was the six inch Kobo Aura, it almost feels like a tablet or smartphone in this respect.
The Vision is using bleeding edge technology with the e-Paper tech, to really give a solid reading experience. It gives you the best of the Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Kobo Aura in one slick little package.
Underneath the hood is a Freescale iMx6 1 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM. There is 4GB of internal memory, but after you take it out of the box for the first time, you are relegated to two. This will store around 1,500 eBooks on average, but you can expand it up to 32GB via the Micro SD.
The Tolino Vision has has brushed aluminum on the backplate and really rounded edges. There is a power button and front-light switch on the top of the unit and a Mini USB and SD slot on the bottom. There is a single software driven home key on the front, which is fairly responsive.
Overall, the Vision offers one of the most compelling industrial designs I have ever seen on an e-Reader.Deutsche Telekom were the ones that actually did the RND on this unit, instead of outsourcing everything to China. Really, this certainly puts Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Onyx and Sony on notice for their next generation e-Reader offerings.
The Tolino Vision has a fairly basic home screen that has a number of responsive elements to it. Whenever you buy or open a book it automatically appears there, making it easy to pick up where you left off. At the bottom of the main screen are 5 book recommendations from Buecher.de. You can simply click on any of these titles to see the product listing on the online bookstore.
The library management system is fairly deft, with extensive options to make you feel right at home. You can easily view books with their book cover art or condense them in list view. There are options to sort the library by author, date added or by title name. I liked the ability to easily delete books on your shelf by hitting the delete key and selecting the titles.
When it comes to library management 4GB of onboard storage should be enough for most people. BY default you can signup for TelekomCloud storage for books and have store up to 6GB of content. It is important to note that the maximum file size for each title is 500MB. They bill it as a way you can access your library titles in DRM format or student textbooks.
The overall menu system is clean and intuitive, there are hardly any advanced elements outside of the settings menu to confuse or alienate the average user. I think the only thing in the settings menu I can see someone regularly using is the built in internet browser.
The Tolino Vision certainly excels in the hardware department but feels lackluster when it comes to the reading experience. You cannot register an account to buy eBooks on the device or cannot even login to the store unless you are in Germany. If you adjust any of the publisher defaults in a book you are reading, such as line spacing, margins or font size, you are in for a long loading delay if you reopen a book.
The most damning aspect of the Vision is the PDF rendering engine they employ. You cannot pinch and zoom to magnify a specific area or text, instead you have to longpress the center of the screen to hit the plus or minus symbol for manual zoom, but if you want to zoom on the fly things get a little crazy.
The PDF rendering engine does not preserve the unrendered state of the original page you are navigating. Instead, it gives you a jumble of white noise that will likely send people into seizures. You have absolutely no preview pane on where you are in the document and once you release your finger from the page, it instantly renders. This obviously can be repaired with a quick firmware update, but since the bookstore that comes bundled on the reader does not sell PDF files, it is likely not in their best interest to fix this issue.
If you are enamoured with PDF documents there is a reflow option that will strip all of images and formatting away and give you the document in pure text form. Sadly, when you do this there is no spacing between words. Youbasicallyhaveanetirepdfbookrenderlike thisquitesad.
The bread and butter of the Tolino is reading your standard EPUB book. There are plenty of advanced features to allow you to change the size of the font (8) and change the font-type completely (6). You can change the margins, line spacing and revert back to the publisher defaults on the fly.
If you long-press on a specific word it opens up the ability to take notes, highlights, look words up in the dictionary or translate them. Currently it offers translation and dictionary support for English, German, Spanish, Italian and French. These are not installed by default and each one is around 100MB in size.
One of the things I like about note taking is the fact it will save all of them in a singular book file in your main library. Highlights will also be injected into this file, which makes it applicable for book clubs or students wanting to check on their notes, without having the sift through the whole book again.
If you are reading in the dark, you have the ability to adjust the brightness level of the display while reading a book. If you tap the center of the screen it brings up a set of UI options. This is your command and control center where you can change the level of luminosity. Overall, the brightness of the screen looks completely white, unless you jack it up to the max, and it gains a blue hue. This is a situation that has faced every other e-reader company relying on this tech, Amazon was the only one to get it right so far.
The Tolino Vision is a fairly polished ereader on a hardware level and is currently one of the most advanced ones in the world. Sadly, it is hampered by a series of software bugs and a deplorable state of PDF rendering. The great news is, this can all be easily fixed and updates can automatically be pushed out when you reboot your reader.
The Tolino is worthy investment if you live in Germany, because the entire book ecosystem is built books published there. There are over 1.2 million titles in the library, which is a mix of translated works by popular American bestselling authors and books written and produced in Germany. There are also 250,000 free books available to get reading right away, although there is only one title on the reader out of the box.
In the end, the Vision is a solid e-reader from a design point of view and can actually give a Kindle a run for its many in the critical German market. Just don’t expect to read PDF files effectively on it.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.