The iReader XS might just be the Kindle Oasis killer that we have been waiting for. The device features the same asymmetrical design and manual page turn buttons. How exactly is it better? It has a larger screen, better hardware and a bigger battery. It is also running the Google Android OS, which allows you to sideload in your own apps. There is English firmware that will be released soon, making it viable for people who want an Amazon alternative. Is this e-reader all its cracked up to be?
The iReader XS features an 7.8 inch E INK Carta HD capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1920×1440 with 300 PPI. The screen is flush with the bezel and is protected by a layer of glass. There are two physical page turn buttons on the side of the unit, they are positioned to the right of the screen. The color scheme is black around the edges of the bezel and the rest of it is this really nice offset rose gold, where the page turn buttons are and the back. The XS has the same asymmetrical design as the Kindle Oasis, complete with a small hump on the back, where most of the components are, such as the battery. Manual page turn buttons are also very compelling, almost every single brand has abandoned these, except for Pocketbook.
There is a front-lit display with a color temperature system, in total there is 28 white and amber LED lights, so you can read in the dark and get a nice warm light effect. It actually has more LED lights than the Kindle Oasis, providing even light distribution.
Underneath the hood is a octa core processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. It has two microphones for the AI assistant, which will read ebooks aloud. There is a single speaker on the back that can play back TTS, but also sideloaded audiobooks, podcasts and music. If you don’t want to use the speakers, the e-reader has Bluetooth 5.1, so you can pair a pair of wireless headphones or earbuds. I can hear the cheers now, instead of a Micro USB port, the iReader XS is employing USB-C, which is used for data transfer or charging. It is powered by a 1800 mAh battery, whereas the Oasis has a 1100 mAH battery. The dimensions are are 177.2x161x4.3mm and weighs 210g, a bit heavier than the Kindle.
I really like the overall hardware design of the XS, it really stands out in a crowded e-reader segment where everything is black and looks the same. It retails for $319.99 and can be purchased from the Good e-Reader Store.
The iReader XS is running Android 8.1 and has a small app store, that primarily has Chinese apps, such as Wechat Reading. You will want to sideload in your own apps and use the file manager to launch them. The XS right now is all in Chinese, but the company said that in a few weeks they are going to release a firmware update that will change everything to English. The only things that won’t be transcribed is the iReader bookstore, that is exclusively populated with Chinese titles and they magically won’t switch to English.
Luckily, even with the entire UI and menu system in Chinese, it does support English ebooks. The device supports TXT, EPUB, PDF, MOBI, EBK2, EBK3, UMD, DOC, DOCX, DJVU, AZW3, PPT, PPTX, XLXS, and various other documents. You can sideload everything by plugging in the USB-C to USB-A cable to your PC and drag and dropping your ebooks to the root of the device. Once you unplug it, the titles should appear in your library.
Basically, this device is a dedicated ebook reader, it does not have a WACOM screen and does not come with a stylus to take notes. Instead it is very much like the Kindle Oasis. The default e-reading app is really good and since it supports a multitude of formats, can basically read anything you have stored on your computer. Page turns are lightning quick, you can press down on the physical buttons or simply swipe and gesture. The only downside of the e-reading app is that if you longpress a specific word or body of text, you can easily do a highlight, but all of the dictionary functions and social shares are in Chinese.
Aside from all of this, you can change the look and feel of the book by going to the settings menu, and you can change the font, font size, line spacing, margins. You can also have the book read aloud by the TTS system. Admittedly it does not sound as good as Amazon Polly, or even Pocketbooks TTS system, but it is passable. The speakers on the device really make it shine, since you don’t need to rely on headphones.
I really like the audiobook engine. It supports MP3, WAVE, FLAC and a number of other formats. It is really polished and even though it is clearly designed for music, you can skip ahead, change the playback speed.
The overall UI and menu system is clear and crisp. It is easy to jump between your library, file manager, apps or main settings menu. Once everything is all switched over to English, it should be better.
Is the iReader XS a Kindle Oasis killer? Right now, only if you speak Chinese, but it should be viable once the English firmware is released, if they release it at all. I remember the company telling me that their color e-reader, the iReader C6 would get English and it never did. I believe the Kindle Oasis is the better buy. The company can be trusted, constantly develops firmware updates and introduces new features. The Kindle is in English, and also in a multitude of other languages. You can buy books in your native language right on the device, and you can also buy audiobooks. Sure, the Oasis 3 is older, and the iReader is newer, with better specs, but when it comes to reading ebooks, you can’t really beat the Kindle Oasis.
I am at least happy that other companies are trying to compete with the Kindle and providing good hardware options to compete against 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.