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Old 07-28-2010, 02:20 PM   #1
dki
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Yet another Augen review

I was thinking about tagging it onto an existing thread, but it's quite lengthy, so I decided against. Anyhow, here it goes.

I decided to post yet another review of the new kid on the block – Augen the book. As I started using ebook readers back in 2000, I have somewhat long-term experience with those devices, however number-wise there were not so many of them. Basicaly, RCA and Cybook Gen3 the terrible and now Augen are the only dedicated readers – even though I would hesitate to call TB dedicated, as it performs some other functions.

First, I decided to buy TB as a replacement for RCA – converting the files became too annoying. For a while I was using Cybook the terrible, but after spending over $250 in repairs and shipping costs, and still receiving a defective unit (not recognizing an SD card) as a replacement, I decided to move back to my RCA and Axim. Of curse, I could spend another $50-60 to ship it back to France and MAYBE receive a functional replacement, but what would be the odds? Not good enough for me. So Cybook the terrible went to a friend, whose reading habits are gentler than mine, and who does not like to experiment, even though maintenance, uploads and such are still my responsibility. So I am in position to compare TB to Cybook the terrible, RCA and PDA type of the device.

So when reading in this forum about TB, and sale at K-Mart, I went and fairly painlessly purchased the unit (there were some uh’s? when I requested ebook reader, but as it was in a display case, I was able to go the way of a point and click adventure and get the object of my desire in a firm grasp.) It was still on sale (that was the last day, I lucked out .)

I will not review the packaging – it was standard, I was able to get the device out of it and that’s that. I like the cover, it’s real leather, not plasticky thing, and of good quality, too. It is pretty amazing for the price. I did not notice any tendency for TB to fall out of it, on the contrary – it is fairly hard to slide it out of it.

TB is fairly heavy, as today’s ereaders go. It’s lighter than my RCA, though. I could live without the keyboard, as I don’t intend to use WiFi – I hate slow loading and such, and don’t have wireless set up in my home. Basically, I have computer at home, at work, and when I have to travel on business I will have one provided. I cannot use the computer while driving, and that’s what I am doing while in transit between my home and my work. I don’t want to use it while on vacation, and would rather use computer room at a hotel to check emails if absolutely necessary (don’t have smart phone either, for reasons above.) The keyboard is also too small to be convenient for note – making, and I did not see so far any option to annotate the books I am reading, anyhow.

Form factor – again I could live without the keyboard, but for the price I am willing to put up with minor annoyances. I have no problem holding it, but, admittedly, I prop my ereaders on my knees while reading in bed, and on my dog, who loves to sit in my lap while I am reading in a chair. It might be a problem if you want to hold it up in one hand. That’s just not the way I hold a book (be it paper or electronic) and so far, this has been an OK experience, even thought Cybook the terrible was more convenient – smaller and lighter. However, later it acquired ugly but sturdy hard plastic box, which it rarely left, as I was in fear of the screen breaking if I breathe on it too heavily, so it was not that easy to hold, anymore. TB gives impression of being solid, and way more shatter-resistant. I am not sure if it could hold a candle to my RCA, which fell on the sidewalks, wood and tiled floors and was mangled by assorted pets, and never failed to boot up and display text on un-cracked screen.

On-off button works fine for me, however to power off you have to hold it for 5 seconds – plenty of devices have that. I have no problem with it powering on to the main menu, rather than directly to the page I was reading – I used Cybook which in a way did the same thing. With TB, though, you just have to hit “Continue reading” and you are home free. I guess with Favorites you can create a list of books you are currently reading, but I have not tried that yet.

I like little joystick, reminds me of the one on my Axim (that one was more conveniently located, in my opinion, but that is also totally different form factor.) I am getting used to the fact that sometimes pushing it will mean “enter” and sometimes you have to hit “Enter” key on the keyboard. So far I see no rhyme or reason to it, other than on the pop-up windows it’s always “Enter” key, not toggle, but it has not been a big deal. I think the navigation is pretty intuitive, and had no problems so far. The thing that bothers me about the menu display in the actual book folder is the fact that it only displays in portrait, and half of the screen is given to the options (mostly greyed out, and I have not figured out how to use it), which leaves a very narrow space for the display of the file names, so if you have a folder with books by certain author, and his/her name is too long, you will have to guess at the actual titles, and forget about the displaying the format – only for a very sort-named files. Having a fairly large and multilevel library, I am annoyed by this. On the upside, my library transferred, so far, without problems and displays as supposed (other than cutting the file names so short as to render them unusable). And believe me, it is multilevel. Icons for files and folders are kind of reversed, and the one I would use for a file represents folder and vice versa. That is my personal preference, thought, and others may think differently. There is a bit too many buttons for my liking, but I already mentioned this when I said I could live without the keyboard. However for those who want to use this device for emails (that will be sooo painful) and such, the keyboard is necessary, since this is a non-touch LCD screen. As it is now, from other reviews I gather that the device is so badly suited to browsing, that I still do not see the point of a keyboard.

My review of the text formats is based on non-DRM files. I don’t do DRM. When I buy a book, be it on paper or electronic, I want to read it the way I want to read it. I see no reason for publisher to tell me I can only read it on one device, or only in my living room. Anyhow, I read lots of public domain books and free ebooks. I never tried to borrow an ebook from the library, there are so many books I want to read readily available and free, and for bestsellers a paper copy is still your best bet (at least at my library, and I checked). All the files are sideloaded, directly from PC, no Calibre or other interface used. Be aware that TB will not allow any duplicate files to be loaded into one folder and will scream bloody murder. TB connects to my PC flawlessly, and you can disconnect it without physically disconnecting it from PC, just by using “Complete” and “U Disc” options.

TB displays epub, txt, rtf, html. .prc, mobi and pdf as advertised. In my opinion pdf handling is really good if you zoom and display it in a landscape. Cybook the horrible could not display pdf’s in a readable form (maybe it’s better with firmware updates, I did not check, lost interest). Axim was better, even thought much smaller (it did reflow), but because of the screen size TB beats it. I did not check technical books, diagrams, tables, as I use ebook readers for recreational reading and leave all such stuff at work. I will not try to see how excel spreadsheet would look on TB, not interested. .doc format was displayed, but formatting was totally off. Weird. Line breaks all over the place, no paragraphs… Not really usable. Also, larger ones would take forever to open, and then hang my unit – I had to power off to get out of that one, and it was not even opened, just in the process of. .djvu is not supported. .epub, .html and .mobi display well, however weird quirk is that it adds space after ‘. No big deal, but why?? Particularly since .prc displays without this “added bonus”, as does .rtf. Maybe it was something to do with the original files, even thought when viewed on the PC they did not show it. .lit files are not supported – just thought I will check as I have plenty of those. That covers all formats I use, I don’t read manga or comic books. The number of formats read natively by TB is comparable with Axim, a pocket computer device, and by far exceeds anything that cold be done by Cybook the terrible or RCA.

Zip and.rar are not supported – a pity, as it would be convenient to be able to unzip the files on the fly. As it is I will have to take care of it while connected to a PC, or even before transferring files.

LCD display itself is OK – for me (not great, but OK). Cybook’s e-ink was better, but TB is fine for me, even outside on a sunny day – in a shade. I rarely read in direct sunlight as I rarely sit in direct sunlight. I used to read my RCA and Axim that way too, and it was perfectly fine. I guess that others might be bothered or have problems with that, it depends on your eyesight (and mine is pretty lousy, just to let you know) and personal preferences and what you are used to. The added bonus with TB is night readability (backlight). That could be improved if there was a night mode – light print on dark screen, as well as a possibility to light the keyboard, right now it’s a hit and miss in the dark (and there are MANY buttons). Also, I would not mind being able to choose the font color… Screen size seems a little off in TB (res. 800X480), I think that was meant for a media player more that ereader, but it’s nothing I cannot get used to at a price of $89.99. Brightness can be adjusted, however with that many buttons I just wish there was a shortcut to do it while reading a book. As it is you have to go to the main menu to change settings . Maybe there is a way, and I just not figured it out yet, and if not I think that could be easily fixed if there is firmware update.

Boot time is a bit faster that Cbook the horrible and not as fast as Axim or RCA, but that is nearly instantaneous. Also, Axim went to sleep rather than turn off completely, so that is not a fair comparison – come to think of it if I had to boot it from scratch it took a while. I would say about 15 seconds for TB, give or take a few. So far SD card did not make a difference in boot time.

G-sensor is a bit sensitive – hope that can be fixed as well. I have not found it horrible, not even truly annoying, just a small nuisance. It will flip when I change position while holding TB, but it will right itself immediately,

Choice of fonts and formatting is uninspiring. Margin set-up was discussed in another review, I can only say I totally agree – I try not to touch that setting at all, as once you set margins to 10, it cannot be restored to default in any easy way. As to the font – there are I think 5 choices – and 7 size choices (I cannot check now, as I am loading rest of my library right now). Sufficient, but as those would hardly be my choice of fonts, I would appreciate some way of adding fonts to the device. Cybook the horrible and Axim allowed me to do that. RCA not . To be honest, I only bothered to do it on Cybook because the original fonts would not display polish characters, so I added ones that would. TB on the other hand displays all the characters correctly in all the fonts, so I don’t really feel pressed to do that.

TB recognized 8GB SDHC (Kodak, as it was the cheapest) card without any problems (I inserted it with unit on), I was able to transfer data (books and video files) to it, and open them. It played video flawlessly. So far it played .avi, .wmv and one .rmvb file. It would not play another .rmvb, I have no idea why. Screen is a bit dark, but it’s watchable, if we want to do it all in one shoot. There are no controls for the video player, which is very puzzling and extremely annoying. I played video from the card and had no problem (I have seen in another review that someone could only play it from internal memory). I had no lagging of the video behind the soundtrack, and I played 40 minute video. That lack of synch occurred, however, when I tried to push various buttons (none worked) to figure out if there is, after all, a way to pause the video. As far as I can see, there is none, and I think that it clearly indicates that software was not ready for the release. Hope it will be fixed in a firmware update, as video playback is a feature that I would find useful, and video playback without controls in hmm…. Not so useful.

I did not check mp3 or other music formats supported, as I already have mp3 player & would not expect this to be better than a dedicated player, not even mentioning the fact that it is much larger and hardly likely to go for a walk with me in my pocket.

One feature that I was intrigued by, and disappointed in, is text to read. It’s “Pronounce” option on the menu, and it is what it says – it pronounces the words on the page. That is not great, but I could live with that, somehow. I had to think about what is it saying, and sort of glue sentences from words, but it was still doable, if not a pleasant experience. Unfortunately I found out that it pronounces all the words on a page, and then stops, so you have to flip the page and choose “Pronounce” on the menu again. That might be kind of OK if I was on a beach with my eyes closed relaxing to the sound of the pronounced words, but as I was driving at the time, that realization just killed all the usefulness for me. It hardly beats reading while driving, and definitely is up there with texting while driving. Considering how touch-sensitive the buttons are (a tad too sensitive) it’s pretty much not doable at all, unless you can do it really quick at the traffic light. But then you are only good for one more page. An option for “continuous read” would be good. I would love to read a book, and then have it read to me starting where I stopped, and then be back to reading it at the spot were it finished it’s pronunciation. And that should not be a hard thing to include in a firmware upgrade.

Battery life – depends on what you are doing and what brightness is your screen. Overall I would say with reading at low brightness you will have 8-10 hours. Be aware that TB does not charge over the USB port like most of the ereaders do. It has a separate charger. This works fine for me – I’m rarely away from electrical outlet for more than 2-3 hours, and you can use TB while it’s charging – Cybook the horrible would not allow that, RCA and Axim would. That was on of my main gripes with Cybook – I was not even aware of this when I purchased it, because that would kill the deal for me. As Cybook charges for 5-6 hours, I frequently found myself with a brick in the middle of a day. Somehow I could not always figure out how the charge (or power usage) will go, so as to schedule charge time at night, while I sleep. Major UGH! I understand other e-ink readers also can be used while charging, so Cybook is just the horrible one. You can sort of do it, but you need to go through loops and hoops and pres buttons fast enough and all that jazz, because that’s just walkaround.

Overall, I am sure e-ink gives you a better and more paper-like reading experience (particularly new Pearl (?) version) even though I had to use light even at a level when I would be still able to read a regular p-book. I will go back to e-ink, or comparable screen technology when the plastic substrate becomes available, and e-ink screens stop shattering when I sneeze. And for all of you who are getting easily tired or teary-eyed reading your computer screen this may be not a good option. For now LCD at this price level is IT for me! I can get two and a half new TBs for what it cost to replace the faulty screen in my Cybook. AND without a hassle of shipping and a wait time. TB is more versatile, reads more formats and can probably withstand more pressure and real-life challenges that e-ink readers currently on the market. At this time, I went for it and I am not sorry. Even if the firmware upgrade never happens, this was definitely worth the $$ I paid, because it can still display fairly well more text formats than most of the readers (I think with the exception of JB and JBL, which are not e-ink anyway), can play video files, has no problem with SDHC cards, up to 8 GB in my experience (I will try 16 or 32 GB as soon as I can find one at a reasonable price), has 2GB of internal memory, which is also not so shabby. So, as a cheap iPad substitute it will not do, due to WiFi problems and crappy processor, but as a cheap media player/ereader it will do, and do fairly well. And I mean cheap! Other than some tablet devices with WiFi I have seen on the eBay and some other sites, this is the cheapest reader, and sold by a reputable and well established distributor (K-Mart), so if you don’t really like it, you can take it back, and you have 30 days to figure out if you like it or not. No hassle, no problems, if you have a K-Mart near you. Now, I realize that is US again, but honestly, that is none of my doing, and I never had anything to do with the fact that some devices are available (or easily available) in US, and not so in other parts of the world. But for those who can spot a K-Mart, it is, I think a nice device to check out. Even at it’s post-sale price of $99.99 it’s a good deal.

dki

Last edited by dki; 07-28-2010 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:11 AM   #2
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dki,

Thanks for your in-depth review! I have a The Book (boy, that sounds odd...), and I agree with you - it's well worth $90 and I expect some improvements with firmware updates.

I have found some video controls: the "Enter" key will pause/resume video playback, and the joystick seems to be a "skip ahead/back" function. With the one video I tried, however, the skip function often messed up the video/audio sync.

I'm still puzzled about turning the unit on and off with the power button. Sometimes I can power off directly from the book I'm reading, and then power-up directly back to my book, with no need to go through the main menu "Continue Reading". Other times, I can press and hold the power button forever and it won't turn off. I haven't been able to figure out if it depends on what format of book I'm reading, or anything else, but I hope that Augen can make the on/off operation more consistent. Being able to go immediately back to my book consistently would be great.

One more enhancement wish (again) - PLEASE implement an auto power-off after X minutes feature. If you fall asleep while reading at night like I do, you really miss this!

Eric
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Old 07-29-2010, 06:53 PM   #3
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Thanks very much for this informative post. I have some of the same ebook readers as you do (Axim and ebookwise) so this was very useful to me.
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:28 PM   #4
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@ebsebs - see that is a weird thing about this device, and that's why I think the software was way not ready - the controls do not work for me in the video files. I tried three video formats and all the buttons (including enter) and they just don't work in any way. On the other hand, my on-off buttons just works without fail, on all the formats I tried, if powers right off when I am in the book. There is also already a firmware update, but I think I am going to wait a bit, since it's not on their page yet, and instructions are a bit sketchy. And I don't have time really until maybe this weekend. Plus, I am going off for business and then for vacation, and don't want to risk bricking my travel companion at this time, so I will try to hold off, as it does most of what I want it to do right now. But maybe I'll just be unable to hold off, sometimes I'm just my own worst enemy. Anyhow, for the price I would still be able to replace it without too much pain, we'll see.

Firmware update link is included in this post on Augen forums:

http://augen.lefora.com/2010/07/09/e.../page2/#post34

I had no problem downloading, but won't be able to get a look at it today .

OK, I eventually was unable to hold off and installed the update. I had no problem installing, other than I had to go to my sewing box and get a needle to reset TB. Usually reset can be done with a pen... This one needs a needle.

So far for me the only thing that changed was that I can now pause the video with both the "enter" button on the keyboard, and by pressing the joystick. No forward or backward functionality in the video playback, as far as I can see, and I pressed all the buttons. I did not really notice anything else changing, but as stated above I don't go for DRM and don't plan on using a browser on it. Another video format i tried with no luck is .flv, which I had no high hopes for, as it is NOT divx, but well, never hurts to try.

Last edited by dki; 07-30-2010 at 04:54 PM.
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Old 08-01-2010, 01:18 PM   #5
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UPDATE - I am not 100% sure if this is related, but after the update TB refuses to charge. I tried two different chargers with the same result - right now I have a brick. It will have to go back to be exchanged or returned, because even of it IS the upgrade that did it, there is no way to fix it - I now have a brick, there is no charge left.
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Old 08-06-2010, 01:16 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ebsebs View Post
dki,

Thanks for your in-depth review! I have a The Book (boy, that sounds odd...), and I agree with you - it's well worth $90 and I expect some improvements with firmware updates.

snip

I'm still puzzled about turning the unit on and off with the power button. Sometimes I can power off directly from the book I'm reading, and then power-up directly back to my book, with no need to go through the main menu "Continue Reading". Other times, I can press and hold the power button forever and it won't turn off. I haven't been able to figure out if it depends on what format of book I'm reading, or anything else, but I hope that Augen can make the on/off operation more consistent. Being able to go immediately back to my book consistently would be great.

One more enhancement wish (again) - PLEASE implement an auto power-off after X minutes feature. If you fall asleep while reading at night like I do, you really miss this!

Eric
I think I have figured out the power button- at least, I can get it to behave consistently. one quick tap, and it shuts off, one quick tap, and I am back in the book on the page I was reading. Hold it just a fraction longer to power off or on, and you are in the menu. Continue reading will bring you back.

Rebecca
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Old 08-08-2010, 06:30 AM   #7
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I bought one yesterday and am quite happy so far with it. Does anyone know how to get our section "Augen" in the other section of Mobileread Forums. I think K-Mart will sell enough of these that we need our own slot. I cannot find all of the posts and there are several topics that need their own thread/
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