Unfortunately I lost my much loved Sony PRS-505 the other day so began the search for a replacement. Argos no longer have the PRS-505 in stock and even the Cool-er ebooks are only available in pink. My eye was caught by the Binatone Read Me
which is on sale for just £129.99 and comes complete with mains charger and cover.
Before I took the plunge I did some research to the and identify the device OEM and sure enough found the Chinese manufacturer links here:
Ebot Digital Technology Co., Ltd.
<- clicky linky
Looks very promising, a company which manufactures ten different ereaders must know what they're about and a screenshot of the 'Read Me' looks very encouraging. It looks like a nice clean interface:
<- clicky linky
As you see it's an obvious rip-off of the Sony design and looks like a nice item and according to the Argos web site the case is also aluminium . Being cheap I decided to give it a go...
First impressions are good, it comes in nicely styled packaging that has a quality look & feel. The reader certainly looks every bit as good, if not better than the catalogue picture. Sure enough in the box there's a small mains charger, a USB lead and a nice looking leatherette case - all seems excellent value so far. However, upon picking up the reader it's clear that the case is plastic and not aluminium as expected, but still it's none-too-bad at that. There's not much in the way of instructions included - just a simple start sheet which explains the functions of the various buttons and expains that the reader is designed to work with Kovid's Calibre - excellent choice and obviously not developing their own software helps keeps costs down. Like the Sony it includes a 3.5mm headphone socket, volume rocker and even has a built-in speaker. It doesn't come with an standard expansion slot, but it does include a micro-SD slot which apparently will take up to 4GB cards.
All looks pretty encouraging so far...
And so now to power-on the device... You have to hold the power button for a second-or-two to get the device on but you are greeted with a cheerful-looking and nicely presented splash screen and as a bonus the battery is fully charged out of the box. Unfortunately from here on it all goes horribly wrong, sure the Linux interface looks quite nice and at first glance there seem to be plenty of options but it's slow and the menus use a horrible mono-spaced font - absolutely nothing like the image shown on the OEM site. Understanable for a budget device it does not come with any books installed but hooking it up to Calibre instantly sees it correctly recognised both in Calibre and Windows explorer.
This is where the real bad news comes in... on trying to copy my existing non-drm ebub files from Calibre to the device Calibre informs me that the files must be converted to text format before they can be viewed. OK hyperlinks aren't everything and I could perhaps live without them. Calibre seamlessly converts the books and sure enough they show up as expected on the reader library.
Great I have a working ebook!
Opening up the books on the reader is noting short of horrific, the same mono-spaced Courier font used for the menus is used for the reader, text flow is seemingly random and there's no option to change it. Worse still standard punctuation characters are replaced by random block images with the result the text output is difficult to decipher - it makes the txt wrtn of teenagers look like the scribes of Shakespeare by comparison!
Not to give up, I returned to the PC to scour the OEM site to see it I can find a link to the far more promising firmware shown in their web-shot. Sadly I found nothing, and the only links are for resellers to buy and these units by the thousand. No manual links, no firmware updates - nada. It must be out there somewhere - it looks like a genuine photo
With decent software that looks like and delivers what is promoted on the web site this could be an excellent budget reader, it certainly looks the part and the hardware seems to be well implemented, but it's totally let down by such appalling firmware that's actually installed (for the UK market at least).
After turning no more that half-a-dozen pages I decided it wasn't fit for purpose, even as a budget text-only device, and took it back for a full refund.
After some hard-bargaining at a local store, I'm now the proud owner of a shiny new Sony PRS-600, it's an extra £90 out of the bank account but at least it's a device I can happily live with. I haven't had much chance to play with it yet as the battery is still charging, but the screen certainly isn't as bad as some make out, although definitely a slight step down from the PRS-505 as far as readability goes, but it's still excellent and much sharper than typical paperback print. Shame about the included 'case' - I've seen better quality fabric adorning the local chavs, but I still have a slightly battered Sony leather cover from the 505 which fits OK on the 600.