Sunday, 18 June 2017

Icarus Illumina XL HD released

Icarus released a re-vamped Boyue T-80 - the Illumina XL HD - with an E-Ink Carta screen and 300 dpi (I reviewed the previous generation here). The RAM and storage are also upgraded to 1 GB and 16 GB. With the expanded storage - the largest I've seen on an e-reader - there is the removal of the SD Card slot.  It is not clear if the front-light has been improved or, more importantly, if Boyue revamped its poor stock firmware. I expect Midia to similarly update the inkBOOK 8 with the same upgraded T-80 device.

The release of the Kobo Aura One likely led to Onyx and Boyue to re-think their hardware strategy, as many third party vendors that order large batches of their e-readers will find it difficult to sell re-branded Boyue and Onyx e-readers that come with out-dated E-Ink screens (Onyx recently updated their 9.7 inch e-readers with the Onyx Boox e-Note 10.3 - a device that comes with a 227 dpi E-Ink Carta screen). It makes little sense, for third-party vendors, to release another underwhelming device with an E-Ink Pearl display and a similar dpi to the entry-level Kindle and still price the device similar to the Aura One. On paper the updated T-80's hardware is superior to the Aura One but I would still choose Kobo, with its quality high contrast screens and better after-sale support.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Overview of eight inch e-readers

The six inch is the dominant e-reader size but there is a niche category of larger e-readers. Below is a list of available eight inch e-readers:
  1. There are two re-branded Boyue T-80 e-readers available through Icarus (Icarus XL) and inkBOOK (inkBOOK 8). I've tried the Icarus XL and inkBook 8 and they are near identical but with differences in the processor used. Both devices run Android 4.2 and utilise the same stock e-reading software developed by Boyue. When I reviewed the Icarus XL, I noted the versatility that Android offers and this is further extended with some Android applications that work well in E-Ink (recently Bookari - an Android e-reader application - developed an E-Ink optimised mode). The biggest issues with the T-80 are - (a) Poor display quality with a lack of contrast and significant problems with ghosting; (b) Under-developed stock firmware with few features. The second issue is resolvable with the option to install third-party Android applications but the first issue, being hardware related, is not. A positive of Boyue's T-80 is the powerful dual core processor that renders large PDF files quickly in comparison to other e-readers. Android and the stronger processor does impact battery life but still gives the user a few days of regular use.  Finally, in comparison to the Kobo Aura One, re-branded Boyue T-80 e-readers are priced too high. The Aura One comes with a vastly superior 300 dpi E-Ink Carta screen and retails slightly higher than the T-80. 
  2. Pocketbook InkPad 840 was one of the earlier eight inch e-readers. I tested the device and noted the lack of contrast, despite a relatively high 224 dpi E-Ink Pearl display, and both erratic software and battery performance. Unfortunately, the device doesn't come with Android and so the stock firmware is a serious limitation. The device's purpose built Linux based operating system is not completely closed and there is the option, for the more proficient user, to install KOReader. The Inkbook's front light - considering this was one of the earlier eight e-readers - is surprisingly good and superior to the Boyue T80. Pocketbook released an updated model - the Pocketbook Inkpad 2 - and state the contrast has been improved. Again, the device is priced too close to the Aura One to make it a plausible option.
  3. Onyx released the Onyx Boox I86ML with a 250 dpi E-Ink Pearl display that runs Android 4. I haven't tested the device but reviews praise the display quality. There is also a version of the Onyx I86ML with 1 GB of RAM (Onyx Boox I86ML Plus). At the moment, it is difficult to find an on-line retailer that sells the device.
  4. Bookeen released the Cybook Ocean 8 in 2014 with under-powered specifications. The Cybook Ocean was initially set to be released late 2013 but came out one year later. I haven't tested the device but reviews are negative.  
  5. Kobo Aura One - technically a 7.8 inch e-reader - is the one to choose. Kobo sells good hardware and its 300 dpi E-Ink Carta doesn't disappoint. Further, the front-light is the best I've seen on an eight inch e-reader. I use the device as my primary e-reader and think the device works well enough with e-books. However, as noted in a previous review, Nickel (Kobo's operating system) is significantly behind in software features compared to Amazon's Kindle line of e-readers. The biggest problem with the software, in my opinion, is the device's poor or near absent PDF support. Installing KOReader is not an ideal solution but it somewhat resolves the problem of poor PDF support.