Technology

Novel eReader – Pandigital Novel Personal eReader Review

Overview 

The second eBook reader offering by Pandigital, the Pandigital Novel Personal eReader is the company’s premiere attempt to produce an electronic paper eReader. Their first device, the Pandigital Novel Tablet, was released in June.

It is a 7-inch multipurpose eReader that features a color LCD touch-screen as well as an Android operating system. The Novel eReader claim to fame is that it is the first eBook reader in the country to utilize a SiPix display rather than the eInk screen panels that are featured on the Amazon Kindle, Nook, Sony, etc. However, it looks like that’s no accident at all.

Positives 
Less expensive than Kindle and NOOK; includes touch interface; supports NOOKbook Store; reads ePub, PDFs; Web browser; MicroSD slot.

Negatives 
Extra features are not too helpful; display quality is poorer than that of Kindle and NOOK; patience is required to buy titles.

Bottom Line: 
As an eReader, the Pandigital Novel eReader does precisely what it is supposed to do: satisfactorily displays the pages of eBooks, e-magazines, and other electronic periodicals. Changing from one page to another is quite rapid and the navigational features are useful—in particular the touch screen. Of course, all the additional things the Novel can perform make it more attractive, but the overall usefulness of a lot of them is somewhat doubtful.

Ultimately, the best thing about the Novel is its low cost — you’ll pay less than you would for the Wi-Fi only version of a Kindle or a Nook. For those on a budget, this could be attractive — especially so if you happen to find a deal for the Novel that’s less than its current $119 going rate. Understand that you will be making some tradeoffs in screen quality as well as ease of browsing and purchasing books.

The SiPix Touch-screen Display: 
The Novel’s 6-inch SiPix display is distinctive in one aspect. Compared to the Vizplex and Pearl screens that eInk uses, the text is more gray. In addition, the background color is grayer and darker than eInk. This close-up shows the Novel’s screen and the Kindle 3’s screen side by side.

Because I have never seen a SiPix display before, I cannot determine if all SiPix screens have gray text or if it is unique to this particular eReader. I would appear that it would be quite helpful if bolder fonts were used rather than the default. While the Novel eReader touch-screen performs quite nicely, it is not as nice or capable compared to Sony’s new touch-screen eReaders.

Overall, it has fair responsiveness and accuracy. Page turns sometimes take a few tries to register, and some icons are fairly small, but it works for the most part. Fingers, not a stylus, operate the touch. Functions that can be performed on-screen include the ability to tap to make selections, turn pages, scroll (using the web browser and PDFs), and swipe to turn pages. Neither on-screen note-taking nor highlighting are included.

Features and Functions: 
The Pandigital Novel Personal eReader includes Wi-Fi for browsing the Internet with its basic web browser and for downloading eBooks, newspapers and magazines from the B&N eBook store.

The Novel eReader not only supports B&N’s eBook DRM but Adobe DRM as well, which applies to eBooks bought at many sites, as well as eBooks from libraries. The Novel eReader comes with 2 GB internal memory, as well as a microSD slot that accommodates cards up to 32 GB. It includes alarm clock, audio player, calendar, dictionary, email application, photo viewer and Sudoku.

As far as the hardware, the Pandigital Novel Personal eReader features a plastic outer casing that feels like it is of poor quality but is actually fairly solid. An orientation sensor is available that one can turn on and off, a mini USB port, built-in speaker, headphone jack, as well as a Lithium Ion battery that provides 6000 page-turns on one charge.

EPUBs and PDFs 
Barnes and Noble DRM and Adobe’s DRM for EPUB and PDF eBooks are supported by the Novel eReader, as are TXT eBooks, and non-DRM EPUB, PDF. Adobe Mobile Reader comes with the Novel. You can’t customize the text’s appearance very much. There’s only one font, although there are five sizes. The only adjustment you can make is to switch to landscape view.

On the menu, you can find the table of contents, bookmarks, a dictionary, and the option to go to a specific page. Notes and highlighting aren’t included. If you press hyperlinks in an eBook, they will work. There is simple support for PDF files. The items on the menu are the same as previously stated. Re-flow is absent.

You can zoom in five levels. Once you zoom in, you can navigate the page by tapping arrows that appear on screen. For PDFs with light fonts, which many have, the Novel’s SiPix screen can make them difficult to read.

Web Browser: 
You don’t ask for much in an ePaper eReader’s Web browser, and this one is expectedly basic. Among the options are: page bookmark, forward and back button, refresh, stop, and some zoom settings. To enter a URL, you tap the URL box and type it on the onscreen keyboard, which is decent.

To get around a page, swipe the touch-screen or use the scrollbar. It’s often hard to predict how much it will scroll. To open another page, touch a link. The touch-screen is pretty accurate, which helps when trying to choose smaller links. Using the browser, you can download EPUB and PDF eBooks from sites like Feedbooks and Manybooks that offer eBooks for free.

The browser is more or less in line with the ones on eReaders. It’s not super-fast, and text-based and mobile sites are the easiest to load. One problem with the Novel eReader is that some sites use very light text; this is the case with B&N’s website, so it is challenging to browse for eBooks.