Got my Woot PE, some impressions
It showed up today and appears to be new, not refurbished. I plugged it in and started charging it while I did some errands, including an absurd trip to Microcenter for a keyboard. For anyone who's ever been there, Microcenter is sort of a cheap geek's paradise, stacked up with Newegg-priced bare OEM hard drives, no-name accessories, stacks of tower cases, etc. It's the only place in the area that actually stocks mini keyboards to test for feel. It's also comically difficult to get to. This is my fourth trip, third with the wife, and every time we get more and more lost on the way. It's one of those stores that you can see from the highway, but cannot for the life of you figure out how to get to. After forty five minutes of floating in a Sargasso of suburban housing and strip malls that time forgot, we finally took the one exit that gets there. But I digress.
Updating to Ermine was completely straightforward. Rooting was also no problem. I was excited when I saw the SD card in the ystem properties at 16GB (the size of the uSDHC I stuck in there), but no there was no fix in Ermine. It's still seen as extSDcard. I'll mess with that in time. Such a terrible design decision.
The thing I hate the most about the PE is the LCD screen. I knew it was resistive, but between the underclocked processor and the laggy sensor it's very difficult to navigate to anything. Trying to go through a list of apps in Titanium Backup is an exercise in hitting the back button over and over again as every single entry gets accidentally activated. Scrolling a web page seems to stop about one-third of the time to either click on an ad or randomly zoom the screen. And trying to multiselect files in ES File Explorer? Hilarious, As I've recently rooted a Nook Color from Froyo to Gingerbread and used both versions on the same device, I get the feeling this is more of a Froyo problem, as the NC has many of the same problem on stock 2.2. Seriously, I'd like to start a collection for a Gingerbread ROM for this thing. There's no reason it couldn't be supported. (BTW the 1GHz CPU requirement cited as a reason it can't work is bunk. The Droid 1 was also underclocked to 800MHz and it works perfectly.)
Titanium doesn't recognize any of my ported backups. I thought it was a bug until I realized that my phone is on Gingerbread. I'll back up the ROM later and load a Froyo build to get GApps working.
I bought the cheapest mini USB keyboard available for it, the $10 inland. It's actually exactly the same as the Gear Head model, but is worse packaging. I don't have too much of a problem typing on it, except for the ever-so-slightly smaller layout and the Home key that's right next to the backspace. I thought I was running into browser crashes until I realized what was going on. I may open it up and disable the Home key at some point, as I don't use it anyway. Docs to Go works fine; I just wish I could hotkey-map formatting to the usual ctrl-I, etc. Instead of having to deal with screen taps. I am fat-fingering a bit more than I normally do on the mini keyboard but still type pretty quickly, quickly enough to outpace the buffer most of the time.
I don't think the stylus is very useful. For one thing, annotation on the e-ink side is pretty wonky with full text there, and I haven't managed to save any of it yet. The stylus is also microscopic. If I get more used to it, I might pick up one of the $35 Motion Computing pend. With the stylus, the LCD is a little easier to deal with, but it leaves marks on the surface. I'll have to play with a Zagg shield at some point to see if that works well.
The eInk side is all right, although the contrast on Vizplex screens is noticeably worse than Pearl (Kindle 3, recent Sonys, Nook Simple Touch). I much prefer the Kindle for long term reading just because of contrast and resolution. Still, it's better than reading on LCD.
The battery life really does seem horrible for a device that originally sold for $400. I've been using it for about two hours and the battery is more than half gone. I plan to charge/discharge it a few times to work in the battery memory. There must be some phantom processes draining things unnecessarily in there. Again, a custom 2.3 ROM would probably help, let alone a kernel modification for lower idle clock/lower voltage. The kernel should be available as open source, but Entourage seems to have gone out of their way to drive off independent developer involvement, to say nothing of violating the terms of various licenses that apply to the kernel and the OS. Some manufacturers do this when they think they need to protect some "proprietary" part of their code, like the eInk integration section, but all it does is reduce interest in the product (as no one is developing for it) and get the attention of FSF lawyers.
Still, for $120 I think this is a reasonable purchase. I have few problems with the USB host port for typing or drive mounting, and aside from the Screen response I can't complain much. I should have a better idea after a few battery rundowns and with a working market, once I downgrade my phone to get the necessary tarballs.