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Old 03-03-2012, 05:11 AM   #1
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Post JetBook Color review - The best e-reader for manga?

The best e-reader for Manga?

As both a lover of gadgets and a reader of manga (Japanese comics), e-readers have always appealed to me. A quick search online for the best e-reader for manga however, often brings up the same complaints, the screens are too small and zooming plus scrolling is frustrating. The JetBook Color however has all the makings of a perfect manga reader; huge screen, high resolution, and even color! Can a device primarily aimed at the educational market actually provide what we dream for though? Let’s see…

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Starting off with the physical design, while the box and website show a black JetBook, at the time of writing (Feb 29th 2012) only the white version is available. That’s a shame because the actual e-ink screen is quite dark, and it seems even darker with a bright white surround. Overall though, the device feels very solid and well built, with the exception of the roughly cut “JetBook” sticker on the top. I particularly like the textured back of the unit, which unlike the rear of all metal or plastic e-readers, adds some real grip.

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The unit itself is quite heavy, weighing in at 662g (23.4 ounces). Taking its size into account too, this isn’t something to hold with just one hand like any 6” e-reader. The dimensions are 188 x 270 x 11.5mm (roughly 7.4 x 10.6 x 0.5 inches). To compare, 2009’s Kindle DX is 183 x 264 x 9.6mm, and 540g (18.9 ounces). That’s almost the same physical size, but nearly 20% lighter. For reference, the iPad 2 comes between them, at 600g (1.33lbs) but with a smaller design of 186 x 241 x 8.8mm (7.3 x 9.5 x 0.34 inches).

Screen wise, each of those three devices mentioned share a 9.7” screen. Where they vary is in the resolution. The iPad 2 has 1024 x 768, the Kindle DX steps it up with 1200 x 824, but the JetBook Color packs a whopping 1600 x 1200 pixels in its screen. This makes it, by a huge amount, the highest resolution e-reader ever produced. No doubt the iPad 3 will put that to shame this week, but that’s an LCD screen, not e-ink. To put this into perspective, the JetBook Color has nearly the same overall number of pixels as a Full HD TV, only tightly packed into a sub 10” screen.

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That high resolution screen is a winner when it comes to reading manga. Without having to zoom or scroll, you can comfortably read even small text on the pages. I never felt like it would be nice to zoom a little closer, or make things a bit sharper. This is a relief, because zooming around a PDF is anything but ‘zooming’. Having to refresh the entire screen with each button press as you scroll around is just agonizingly painful. With e-ink’s slow refresh rate, scrolling simply isn’t practical, but furthermore since you have to use the arrow keys instead of the touch screen, what once seemed a cutting edge piece of technology suddenly feels like something that belongs in the early 1990’s.

For those few who do try the zoom feature, an odd quirk is that the menu button only works when you zoom out, not in. But let’s just be thankful once again for the high resolution 9.7” screen, and never touch that zoom again. And that is why we don’t read manga on a 6” screen.

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Images (jpg, gif, bmp) seem to respond better to zooming at first, with the up and down arrows giving you quick zoom control. Then you realize that you can’t pan around the image unless you go into the menu and enable panning mode, which of course takes the zoom feature away from the arrow keys. It’s back into the menu yet again to change the amount of zoom. Then, after you’re all done, it resets itself when you go to the next image. Sadly, so does rotating the image to landscape, which is an option with images (but not PDFs). Considering the $500 price tag, it’s a shame it doesn’t automatically detect which way you’re holding it and rotate things for you. Especially given that the included case, which turns into a stand, is a landscape one. As all the menus are stuck in a vertical direction, a case that turns into a horizontal stand seems like an odd choice and won’t get much use.

If you’ve ever used an e-ink screen before, you’ll know you can sometimes see a faint after-image of the previous page. How much of an after-image seems to vary between e-readers and whether the screen fully or partially refreshed. A partial refresh, where only the part that changed is refreshed, is great for menus as you move your cursor around, but seems to worsen the after-image problem.

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From what I’ve seen of the Kindle, the after-image effect seems a bit stronger on the JetBook Color, but generally as you’re reading, it’s not a problem. It just spoils the view as you look at the cover, seeing a faint imprint of the book selection menu across the image. Again though, rarely did I think this was a problem while actually reading manga. The full screen mode is a handy option for manga readers, and if you’re resizing images, you know exactly 1600 pixels high will produce the sharpest results.

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The JetBook Color’s claim to fame is of course, in its name. Despite the brightly colored images you’ll find of it on some websites though, e-ink colors are quite pale and dull. That’s just the nature of the technology, without a back light to brighten up those colors. Understanding that, what color it does add is a fantastic step forward to e-ink based e-readers. Even though it’s more of a touch of color, it makes a big difference over the usual grayscale images. In fact it makes me wish more manga was produced in color. To get the best out of the color display, view it outdoors under some good strong sunlight. Outdoors, where the iPad struggles, the JetBook Color shines.

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Above: JetBook Color vs a regular LCD screen

Storage wise, with 1.6gb of usable on-board memory, you’ll quickly want to get a MicroSD card to hold more manga. With support for up to 32gb, this is a giant advantage over the Kindle DX. Amazon’s reader includes 4gb of storage, 3.3gb of which is usable, and no option to add more.

Navigating through your content can be done either with the buttons below the screen, or through the stylus (no finger touch support). When you remove the stylus from the unit, an icon automatically changes to enable stylus control. I guess (but can’t confirm) this is because it disables the touch screen when the stylus isn’t in use, and saves power.

Below: Color vs B&W, sorry about the distorted photos I took

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Working in a retail store where I see Kindle’s come in with broken screens every so often, I’m nervous to jab at this display with a piece of plastic. The tip does have some give on it, but unlike the iPad which has a layer of glass over the screen, e-ink readers leave the screen exposed.

The menus are simple and intuitive enough. With such a large screen, it would have been nice to fit more titles on each page, but as they are the menus do work fine. When moving your cursor, it can feel slow because of the slow refresh rate, but you can actually press the arrow keys multiple times and it’ll jump to where you wanted to go. A handy bar to the right of each file shows you how far through you are, and thankfully it remembers which page you’re up to in all documents even after a restart.

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You’ll probably want to disable the auto-off timer, given that the reader takes 30 seconds to boot up. Given that e-ink should only use power when changing and that there’s a physical wi-fi on/off switch, I’m not quite sure why such an option even exists.

With its 800Mhz CPU, it took a full 10 seconds to load a 110mb PDF file, and 4 seconds to load each page as I read through it. To compare, a small 10mb PDF file took 6 seconds to load, and about 3 seconds to load each page. A typical 250kb JPG image was fairly speedy at roughly 2 seconds to load.

Overall the JetBook Color feels like a prototype that the brass forced out the door well before it was finished. This is quite likely not far from the truth. Many of the listed features, such as wi-fi and a web browser, simply aren’t here. The box comes with a sticker on it stating that updated software will add more features on March 1st and April 1st. The first update adds these features: http://ectaco-global.blogspot.co.nz/...or-update.html So we assume the April one will enable Wi-Fi and the browser. After that, I look forward to seeing how well reading manga online works.

Running Windows CE instead of Android, and not being one of the very top few brands, I’m not sure the chances of someone hacking and creating their own software for this device are very high. So here’s hoping those two firmware upgrades do add what was promised. Other things need fixing too, like the Time Zone option being in Russian. I found a very unusual bug myself too; if your folder has a dash in it in it, JPG images inside that folder will only load as a blank screen.

Despite its flaws though, the JetBook Color does a genuinely good job as a manga reader considering it’s not aimed at that market. If you are after a very high resolution e-ink reader with color, this is your only choice right now, but no doubt more options will appear later this year. If you’re after a very smooth, polished device to use however, do yourself a favour and stick with paper books for just one more year or so. If you have $500 to spend today though, and you won’t mind buying a new e-reader next year (I’m sure whatever improvements the next 12 months will bring will be enough to temp us into upgrading from this first-gen feel product), you’ll be reading your manga in style, and you’ll probably be able to impress your friends too. Perhaps wait until the black version actually hits the market though.

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Last edited by WT Sharpe; 03-04-2012 at 10:36 PM. Reason: Changed overly large graphics to thumbnail attachments.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:23 AM   #2
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Thanks for what I would call the first actual review of this device. What people call a review nowadays seems to consist of listing and demonstrating features, but you've actually highlighted good and bad points, and compared with other similar devices. I'm sure this will be very helpful for people thinking about buying a jetBook Color.

And comics do look good in colour don't they? Photos don't seem to do it justice, even under strong light.

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Old 03-03-2012, 05:37 AM   #3
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You're welcome I totally agree on how the word "review" seems to mean something different these days. I really hope this can help some people out in making up their mind

Comics sure do! I did have my doubts, and I really think not everyone will agree that the type of color these produce is worth it, but for me I'm very happy with it.

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Old 03-03-2012, 10:55 AM   #4
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Well written, this is a usueful report about using it in a real context, with detailed data.

I consider it a shame that we still insist doing comparisons of 9,7" readers with Kindle DX, which is the most outdated of them (despite the good screen).

I don't mean to deny reality: Kindle DX name is probably the most known between 9,7" ereaders in the word. But it can still read only mobi files, for 379 dollars. Its features on pdfs are ridiculous.

So please next time try do do, if possible, a comparison with Pocketbooks', Boox's and other less known but non obsolete devices.

Thank yoU!
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:29 PM   #5
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@Lorenzoens: You can easier get a Kindle DX, which is still sold on amazon for $250 and up,than all other devices you mentioned.

@LostboyNZ: Thanks for the review! One of the reasons I never bought a kindle was because it had an ugly looking keyboard, and no SD card reader (and seemingly also a lower resolution).


Anyone knows if it is possible to install programs on the operating system?

I saw a link about Comic Reader for Windows Mobile, and my imagination began to flow...???
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:59 PM   #6
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@Lorenzoens: You can easier get a Kindle DX, which is still sold on amazon for $250 and up,than all other devices you mentioned.
My dear Sir,

I live in EU, the DXG can only be ordered from USA. It's 379 dollars, not 250. When it gets to me, I'll pay custom taxes on it, unless I use some not-so-legal* trick. Warranty is one year only. Overseas shipping = slow and risky. If I want to return it, it'll be a p.i.t.a.

I can buy Pocketbooks in my country (and all over EU), I have two years warranty, fast shipping, no custom taxes, can return them, have dictionaries and localization for my language.
(And they do a lot more)

It's a matter of trust & marketing, there's no ease of access for the DXG. How do you see DX easier to get?

* "alternative" shipping services

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Old 03-03-2012, 02:00 PM   #7
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.....

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Old 03-03-2012, 05:47 PM   #8
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You pay taxes on second hand material too?
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Old 03-04-2012, 12:55 AM   #9
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Thank you for your review, LostBoyNZ! Can you send me the sample of manga or link for it so I can see how it looks on my jetBook color unit? I want to show it to my kid so He will start read more than play X-box...
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Old 03-04-2012, 05:38 AM   #10
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You pay taxes on second hand material too?
Yes, you have to.
Plus, buying a second hand reader from overseas is not a good idea. Even IF you get it in time to return it, in case, you'll have lots of expenses for shipping it back. No warranty. Used price + shipping + custom taxes = same price of a new Pocketbook 912. Even with no custom taxes, it's still not a good idea.
Where is the ease you were talking about?

ProDigit, please: can't you simply admit your mistakes or AT LEAST quit talking when you're plain wrong?

Do you realize this is exaclty what is called 'trolling' and it is considered harassing by every online community? Didn't you read the Mod's intervention in the last discussion?

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Old 03-04-2012, 01:11 PM   #11
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..and another person added to the list, LOL.. :-)!
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Old 03-04-2012, 03:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProDigit View Post
@LostboyNZ: Thanks for the review! One of the reasons I never bought a kindle was because it had an ugly looking keyboard, and no SD card reader (and seemingly also a lower resolution).
I do prefer the 5-way pointer vs the buttons on the jetbook color... its annoying on the jetbook b/c the up-down is on the right side of the device, but the left-right is on the left side... at least put them closer together


Quote:
Anyone knows if it is possible to install programs on the operating system?

I saw a link about Comic Reader for Windows Mobile, and my imagination began to flow...???
Windows Mobile != Windows CE 6.0

They might share a similar underlying kernel depending on the version (i think WM 6.5 uses W CE 6.0 kernel), but CE is more like a really-really no-frills version that OEMs can customize while WM is more "complete" version

Since CE 6.0 is really old, there isn't much current info about it. I'm trying to look at ways to bypass the custom program that ectaco uses, but would be easier if I have a firmware dump to play with


jetBook color uses Freescale i.MX508 ARM A8

http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/...?code=IMX50_SW

the processor itself has linux/android compatible drivers/kernels..... so its just breaking the job of breaking the WInCE hold on the jetbook color

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Old 03-05-2012, 03:57 AM   #13
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Old 03-05-2012, 05:44 AM   #14
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LostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameterLostBoyNZ can solve quadratic equations while standing on his or her head reciting poetry in iambic pentameter
 
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Device: JetBook Color
Thanks everyone

More comparisons would be great, but sadly I don't have access to any other readers (very small range available here in New Zealand). Looking on Wikipedia though, I got the impression all other 9.7" readers had been discontinued (which it seems then, might not be correct?), so I didn't compare them specs wise, with the exception of checking none of them had as high of a resolution as the JetBook Color.

Kris777: I'd be happy to help How old is your son? I wonder what type of Manga he would like. I can find some online for you. If he's old enough (over 15 I guess) Death Note is one of the coolest manga's I've seen.

Paperwastage: Good luck with getting into its software, that'd be fantastic if you could
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Old 03-05-2012, 06:41 AM   #15
mod186k1
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Posts: 233
Karma: 256666
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Italy
Device: iLiad, PRS-650, Jetbook Color
Quote:
Originally Posted by andyh2000 View Post
And comics do look good in colour don't they? Photos don't seem to do it justice, even under strong light.
Andrew
True. It is very difficoult take a photo expecially with a lucid white chassis.

I did a photo in similar condition but I tried to avoid the chassis reflection and other noises:
(photo took in shadow)
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(photo in oblique sunlight):
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(photo in oblique sunlight but brightness not influenced by chassis):
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(frontal light: I tried to avoid reflection)
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The best in my experience is to have the light on my side when I am reading.
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