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Old 12-12-2006, 06:28 PM   #1
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The World's Most Expensive Sony Reader Box: A Review

By now many of you have noticed yvanleterrible’s new Avatar, and may be interested in knowing a bit more about it.

Back around the end of October, Yvan asked me if I’d be willing to review a box if he went ahead and built one. I said I’d be willing if he wanted to do so. On Monday, December 4th the prototype arrived.

Before I go too far, I need to point out clearly that this is a prototype, and has a (surprisingly) few prototype-related issues. These are primarily a result of the fact that it was built entirely from measurements that were transmitted over e-mail. Yvan, being in Canada, has not yet seen a Reader for himself (since Sony, in its wisdom, has not yet launched the Reader there -- something that we all hope will change shortly). It’s really tough to build something to fit an object that you’ve never seen for yourself, so please keep that in mind as you read. Also, since I’m the one who took the measurements for him, I claim the lion’s share of responsibility for any faults that came from them. I’m also fully confident that Yvan will be able to fully resolve those faults in future builds (we’re working to fine tune the measurements) -- that's part of what prototypes are for, after all.

Also Yvan specifically requested that I make it clear that this is very much a luxury item. It’s pretty pricey at $384 ($310 without lighting), but it’s also extremely nice.

Okay, on to the box itself. My only coherent thought for the first five minutes or so after opening the packaging was a constant refrain of “It’s be-yu-tee-ful!” The box is a gorgeous piece of work, made of Zebrano wood with Blackwood accents its appearance is quite striking (see attached pictures, please). The finish on the box is a nice lacquer, and the form of it is very pleasant to look at and to hold, with flowing rounded corners and edges that are a joy to the touch. The overall construction is very tight, and the joining work is excellent. I’m not a professional woodworker, but my father was in a former life, and I watched him enough growing up to know good work when I see it, and this is very good work, indeed.

The lid’s pin and socket latch closes with a satisfying, muted click, which reassures that it will stay that way. The lining of the prototype is black felt (there’s been some discussion of adding strategically placed neoprene in the future). Running along each of the left and right edges of the lid are two LED “track lights” (ten LEDs in all, five on either edge) which do a marvelous job of lighting the screen with minimal glare -- the trick is to get the lid’s angle to the rest of the box just right (it’s a bit off in the attached pictures). The lighting is controlled by a sliding switch as well as a switch that turns the lights off automatically when the lid is closed, which reduces drain on the batteries -- just get the lid closed before dozing off completely. The lights are powered by AAA batteries, so they should last a good while on a set, and I’ve noticed no dimming in a week of use. The batteries are behind a screw-down cover in the prototype, but Yvan has plans to change that to something easier to deal with in future boxes.

The felt on the inside of the lid is a nice double-thick piece that adds an extra layer of protection for the screen. The Reader sits in the base of the box between two contoured “stabilizers” which keep it from moving around in the box. This is the first prototype issue that I’d like to comment on, and it’s a result of the difficulty of getting accurate measurements from Houston to Montreal. The stabilizers allow about 1/16th of an inch too much play side to side and top to bottom, they also could be a bit taller relative to the Reader’s thickness. Yvan is looking into lining them with neoprene to provide more ‘grab’ on the Reader itself, and as I said, we’re working on getting better measurements. As it is, I’ve found a bit of sticky-backed Velcro grabs the felt nicely to hold the Reader firmly in place.

That really is the only fit drawback I’ve seen with the box, given more accurate measurements, I’m quite confident it will be entirely resolved.

The box also includes connection points for a shoulder/neck strap. The ones you see in the pictures are not the ones that Yvan intends to use long-term, but they were available when he needed them on short notice, so take that into account.

I’ve been using the box for about a week now, so I think I’ve got a reasonably good feel for it. Far and away the most useful aspect of the box is the lighting. I found that if I put the Reader “upside-down” in the box (with the base of the Reader toward the hinges) then the lid makes an excellent reading stand for lying in bed. The lights illuminate the screen fully, and, as I mentioned, with very little glare (right at the edges of the corners). When I get ready to doze off, I just close the lid, the lights turn off automatically, and I let the Reader turn itself off on its own schedule (an hour). I can set the box aside without needing to worry about anything else. Including missing the night table, which brings me to the next best thing about the box, it’s very good protection for the Reader. When closed, the Reader is surrounded on all sides by nice, sturdy wood. No need to worry about the screen, or drops from reasonable heights. Of course such drops may do undesirable things to the wood, but the Reader ought to be fine. Note that I did not go tossing it about to test this.

I also found the box to be nice for reading in a seated position where I can rest it on a desk/table top, or in my lap. The extra width that the box adds around the edges of the Reader actually makes the page buttons (all 3 of them) much more comfortable for me to reach. Results on this point will naturally vary with hand size.

On the down-side, the box is fairly heavy, which makes reading with it unsupported (standing or walking, for example) rather less than optimal. It’s made of wood, and wood has to be thicker (and thus, heavier) than plastic or metal to get an equivalent degree of strength. Yvan was able to suggest a couple of techniques with a neck strap that mitigated this problem a good deal. One approach was to use the neck strap with the Reader upside-down in the case again, so that the lid rests against the chest, this let the weight be mainly on the strap. The approach that worked best (but requires a longer strap) is to cross the strap in an X under the base of the box, and then run the sides of the strap to either side of the open lid, and then around the neck. This supports almost all of the weight on the strap, and requires only a gentle bit of control grip to keep the box from moving around too much, keeping a thumb on the page buttons worked just fine for this.

The only other issue I ran into was with the hinge screws. They wanted to back out with the opening and closing of the lid. This was addressed easily enough by putting a very small amount of plain white glue on the threads, tightening the screws down where I wanted them, and letting it set for a few hours. That prevents the screws from backing up, but isn’t strong enough to be a problem if you decide for some reason that you want them out again later. Yvan is also looking at alternatives for this, but as it is, it’s quite manageable for the willing.

Overall, my impression of this box is extremely favorable, but I’ve tried to touch equally on what seem to me to be the points of interest and concern, so that you get a good balanced look at the box. My conclusion is that If you’re looking for a true ‘Cadillac’ carrying case, this one could very well be what you’re looking for.

As always, I’ll be glad to answer any questions y’all might have, and I imagine that Yvan just might be willing to comment on some of the more specific details.


P.S. I want to add a couple more pix to show the fit on the ends better (my first ones came out blurry), but I wanted to go ahead and get this up today, so look for a couple-few more pix later tonight or tomorrow. Done -- should've noted it before.
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Last edited by NatCh; 12-12-2006 at 10:20 PM. Reason: Adding more pix
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Old 12-12-2006, 10:26 PM   #2
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D'oh! I should have mentioned above that Yvan is open to considering a similar box for iLiads (if anyone is interested), and is working on developing a simpler design that would be lower cost.

Sorry 'bout that.
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Old 12-12-2006, 11:26 PM   #3
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It looks spectacular to me! I think "Cadillac" might even be an understatement...
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Old 12-13-2006, 03:10 AM   #4
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Damn! That's a piece of art! Very nice indeed. Also a nice review Nathan!
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Old 12-13-2006, 04:27 AM   #5
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GORGEOUS!
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Old 12-13-2006, 09:21 AM   #6
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That's VERY nice indeed, Yvan. I notice that this is a prototype - when would you expect the "finished product" to be available? I'm extremely interested in getting one!
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Old 12-13-2006, 09:36 AM   #7
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Thanks for the support and compliments guys!

I'll start a run next week. Thanks to NatCh's help, all moot points have been addressed and fixed. Anyone interested, send a PM or look up my coords.

An Iliad or any other eink can be "housed" too!
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Old 12-13-2006, 09:38 AM   #8
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Could you clarify - are the prices Nathan quoted in US$ or Canadian $?
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:32 AM   #9
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It's amazing, yvan! I imagine you could start a cottage industry with these things, making them for all sorts of devices.
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:45 AM   #10
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Could you clarify - are the prices Nathan quoted in US$ or Canadian $?
Here on this site, everything is in USD even the site's time code,

@TCV Woodworking is my life, more than cottage industry, garage industry!
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:05 PM   #11
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Here on this site, everything is in USD even the site's time code,
Damn!
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Old 12-13-2006, 06:33 PM   #12
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It is indeed the world's most expensive box, way too expensive......let me do the conversion to Canadian $ hmm.... 358 (without lights). But the idea is very nice.
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Old 12-14-2006, 08:20 PM   #13
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Um, Solan0, it's quite obvious this is priceless.
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Old 12-15-2006, 10:48 AM   #14
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It is indeed the world's most expensive box, way too expensive......let me do the conversion to Canadian $ hmm.... 358 (without lights). But the idea is very nice.
Hi neighbour!

You're right it is expensive. This is the basis of an eternal debate between man and machine. This box was made by hand with the aid of hand guided machines. I'm an artisan. I don't have a mehanized plant like electronics manufacturers. A man is paid for his work, a machine is not.

Facts about this particular box. It took 30 hours to build and around 50 to design. I don't know what kind of work you do but count up your time and i'm sure you will blow these figures. I had to learn about LEDs and related techniques to assemble and spent around $500 for tooling knives welding equipment and various paraphernalia. The box itself has about $75 worth of materials, I don't have special prices for bulk purchases. Ex: I bought my LEDs at $4.99 each, you can get them at $0.85 each if you buy 100.

The price I set was with doing several boxes at a time, using jigs. I figure around 12 hours each at $25/an hour, (I have overhead too) shops around here charge between $40-$50.

Yes it is expensive but when you have it in your hands, in the darkness with it's lights on...it's all worth it!
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Old 12-15-2006, 11:01 AM   #15
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A few more questions about this very cool and very expensive box that I dream about buying, even though I probably won't...
* How much more would shipping/tax/etc add to the price?
* Can you switch the light off with the sliding switch, or just dim the lights?
* How heavy is it?
* Do you need to stick velcro on the back of the Sony Reader for the box to hold it well?

(Sorry if they were covered already and I didn't read through the thread carefully enough.)

BTW, it's too bad that they can't be on display at places like the Hollywood Sony Style or Borders... gotta figure the rich and famous would grab one and not even blink at the cost!
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