I’ve been blown away by the number of comments and visits to my original review of the 511EB. To clarify some of the points and answer some questions, I’ve decided to post another video review. This shows the speed of page turning and some of the idiosyncrasies of the eReader.
Run VT, Errol!
I’ve set my startup screen to show my phone number and email address. Combined with the startup password, it’s a fairly simple way to protect your device and hopefully get it back if lost. Of course, all of your books can be taken from the SD card – so make sure you’ve got a backup!
Click on the above image to download the file. Edit it to show your details then save it to the root directory of your SD card as “start.jpg”. Unplug your reader and press “5” Settings. Press the right arrow twice. Press down twice to select “System Maintenance”. Then press “3” Startup Pic. If it has found the file, press enter to confirm. You can always change your image again to anything you like.
The refresh rate is extremely fast. This is because it uses a “Partial” refresh rather than the traditional “Global” refresh. The advantage of this is speed, and you don’t get the momentary inverted screen that you do on other readers.
The disadvantage is that you can – if you look very very closely – see the faint trace of an after-image. You can just about make out the ghosts of previous letters. Even after 50 page turns, they aren’t distracting – but you can hit the refresh button on the keyboard to make them go away. You can also go into the settings menu and set the screen refresh to “Global”.
- Some have noticed that the 511EB displays Chinese characters where it should be displaying accented European characters like á – this is due to the way files are saved. If they are in UTF-8 format, all characters display correctly.
- The typesetting is a little off. It doesn’t force a hyphen into words like a traditional book (this is a good thing), but it breaks the line at any punctuation.
As you can see, when I say "
That's a nice book." the line
wraps at the wrong place. It'
s slightly annoying.
- On the default set of books, some of the words run together. It’s arguable whether this is a bug in the book file or the reader – either way, it should have been fixed during QA before release.
- Searching for books works, but looks like it doesn’t. Because there are no numbers by the files, it’s not immediately obvious what you have to do in order to select them. The search box takes up the first two “rows”, so to select the first book it finds, press “3”. For the second, press “4” – and so on.
- Text-To-Speech is a nice gimmick, searching within a book is very useful. Yet they’re both absent from PDFs and the hugely popular EPUB formats. I cannot fathom it. They’re both rendered as text on the screen – so what’s stopping the reader from searching and speeking?
- Mac and Linux compatibility. This is a Windows CE device – but there’s no reason for it not to work on other operating systems. If a simple card reader from PoundLand can work, there’s no reason why this cannot. Removing the card isn’t hard, but it’s an annoyance for those of us not on Windows.
- The keyboard is slightly wasted. There is no note taking facility. The password screen only accepts numbers. Yes, it works, but it could be so much more. The placement of the Delete key is odd. It’s next to the spacebar. I’m used to the delete key being above the enter key. On this model, that’s the cancel key. So, rather than deleting a character, I often find myself cancelling.
- The Title Bar shows the title of the book you’re reading. Fair enough. But it truncates it for no apparent reason. So, if your book is titled “Lewis Caroll – Alice in Wonderland”, all you’ll see is “Lewis Caroll – A…”
- The truncating is present on the Bookcase. If your books are titled “Cory Doctorow – Ander’s Game” and “Cory Doctorow – After the Siege”, all you’ll see is “Cory Doctorow – A…” – good luck working out which is which! The solution is to save books in folders. So, for example, I have
| |-- Cory Doctorow
| | |-- Ander's Game.txt
| | |-- After the Siege.epub
| |-- Lewis Caroll
| | |-- Alice in Wonderland.txt
| | |-- Alice Through the Looking Glass.epub
- PDF zoom. PDF is a rubbish format for an ebook. The page paradigm really doesn’t work when you’re on a screen. When the 511EB zooms in to a PDF, the page down button litterally takes you to the next page – not the next part of the page you’re on. You have to use the arrow keys to scroll around the page.
Finally, there’s no screen rotation. To be honest, this isn’t a feature I’d ever use – but some people like to have it.
As I said before, this is a cheap and cheerful ebook reader. The speed of page turning speed is impressive. EPUBs and PDFs work well, but missing some of the extra features like searching and Text-To-Speech. It handles large files – although performance takes a slight hit.
The build quality is what you would expect, a bit cheap and plasticy. But it only weighs 190 grammes. The quality of the keyboard is sufficient and the display is as good as any other eReader.
A Word on Waterstone’s
Given the number of bugs (admittedly, fairly minor) it seems odd that Waterstone’s are heavily promoting this model. My local shop has 3 rather prominent displays. To dedicate so much space without even testing the unit takes some bravado.
They have taken over half of their window display.
They have a whole book case devoted to the unit.
They’re also putting it up against the much more expensive Sony eReaders.
Yet they’re not as committed to this as you may think. There are no working models on display. With the Sonys, you can try them out, see if they’re fast enough, explore their menus – the lowly 511EB gets a cardboard dummy.
The majority of questions people have asked me could have been answered by having a working model. The Waterstone’s website is also full of people asking basic questions. Questions which really should have been preemptively answered on the site. I’ve registered with the site so I can answer some of them, but a device like this deserves more information up front.
Elonex – the reseller of this device from Hanvon – have committed to firmware updates. I hope, for Waterstone’s sake, that they come out quickly and regularly. Otherwise, Waterstone’s will face a lot of angry customers and will set back the progress of eReader adoption.