I peeked into J&R’s eBook reader listings yesterday and came across one for ViewSonic’s eBook reader.
Since I’ve had 24 hours of upset that necessitated a change in my daily routine, I found myself near J&R this morning, so I stopped in to see if they had the ViewSonic.
They did. After the break, photos of it and Augen’s reader, called The Book.
Photos taken without flash and resampled down to 640 pixels wide, except in two cases where ginormo close-ups required.
The box is not an auspicious start, is it?
The Home Screen. I’d like to tell you about how it handles eBooks, but guess what? ViewSonic loaded it with zero eBooks! There was nothing to read on it!
So I went here:
The About screen under Settings. Read that and weep.
The top. The wraparound case is affixed with a clone of Sony’s design, as can see at the left. On the right, the On/Off/Sleep slider.
Absolutely stupid decision by ViewSonic to make everything stark white. First, the plastic feels awful, like a finely-sanded paintjob. Second, if you need glasses to bring things close up into focus, all of the buttons look the same! And then there was this …
… the absolutely crappy buttons! And if you’re not noticing it, here’s the thing highlighted:
The Home button was already broken on the demo model!
I could not bring up Home. I had to keep using the Back button, at far left.
All of the buttons are flush with the fascia and there is just about no feedback that they’ve been pressed. That and the fact this device is just so damn slow is a conspiracy to inspire breaking the buttons!
The bottom: SDHC slot (beneath cover I did not try to open), mini-USB port, earphone jack.
Right side. Note the cover can only be fastened to the left of the device, so this device is not really ambidextral.
The back. Wee speaker at bottom right. I’ve redacted bar codes and serial numbers.
The rear sticker, with bar codes and serial numbers redacted.
ViewSonic closed with its cover. The latch fastens via magnets. It also makes the device twice as thick as when it’s naked. And naked, it’s one of the thickest devices I’ve seen — or at least it seemed that way in person.
ViewSonic full front view (another such view of it alone was too blurry to post), next to Augen’s The Book.
Aha, The Book!
See the horror of its screen! At one point, I changed the font to a serif face. It looked nice — unlike the sans serif above. But I didn’t get a picture of that.
Full front view of The Book. Changing pages will annoy the hell out of both you and anyone within hearing range. The buttons are stiff and give off a very bad click! And it gets worse:
Look at all those buttons!! Yes, I know the first and second generation Kindle probably had just as many, but here — the color and styling of them have the impact of a bludgeoning! Also, the micro joystick and the semi-circle of buttons around it are all very, very annoying to use.
In short, I did not like either unit. And it’s a tie when it comes to my hatred.
The ViewSonic feels cheap, is expensive ($179.00!!!), and the eInk screen is unimpressive and has what seems like a sluggish refresh rate.
The Book is cheap, feels cheap, and has a screwball interface that is openly user-hostile and turns the act of reading into operating a machine!
After these twin encounters from Tech Hell, I stopped in Borders for a purgative.
I fondled the Kobo Reader again. It’s light and cute but this time the menus were sluggish, as others have reported, unlike my initial encounter. But I found its page refresh rate and eInk screen both superior to that of the ViewSonic.
I also nano-fondled the Aluratek Libre. It’s basically the ECTACO jetBook (which I’ve fondled before) with smoother plastic. Since I wasn’t directly underneath lighting, the screen was very unimpressive, even compared to the Kobo Reader eInk display — which also wasn’t directly under light. I know Nate the Great loves his, but I couldn’t recommend this to anyone.
I also went over to the Sony kiosk to play with the PRS-600 Touch Edition. Gad! What brilliance when compared to everything else of today! Few buttons and a touchscreen — which really is the way things should be these days. Time has caught up to Sony, though, and the Touch Edition — which last year I actually recommended as being the fastest of all eInk devices — now had a page refresh rate that seemed sluggish when compared to videos I’ve seen of the Kindle 3’s screen refresh. And the screen now looks very murky compared to the Kobo Reader. It will be interesting to see what new touchscreen Readers Sony will soon announce.
Right now, the only eInk eBook device worth getting is still the Kindle 3.
Which reminds me. On my way to Manhattan this morning, I saw two Kindle 2s in the wild.