Pandigital, a company until now known for their digital photo frames, has entered the eReader market with their new device: the Novel. This 7-inch tablet device features what is described as a responsive touchscreen, 1GB of internal storage, a 6-hour battery, a full web browser, and the ability to store and view both pictures and video, among other things. At first glance, it’s honestly kinda cool. Almost like getting an iPad without all the extra expense, maybe. Given the price, however, and the emphasis on it’s status as an eReading device, we find some shortcomings by comparison.
A $199.99 MSRP is a good start, however it hardly makes this a revolutionary introduction to the marketplace with the Kobo coming in at $149.99 and the anticipated nook Lite matching the $199.99 asking price. Oddly enough, what is said to make the nook price drop so much in the move to the Lite model is the lack of 3G wireless support, which the Novel lacks in the first place. Makes some sense.
Also, not to belabor a point that most people have probably realized on their own by now, it is an LCD display. This means that while it’s likely to be pleasant to look at and great for displaying full-color texts(especially magazines and such that rely on this), it is going to be harder on the eyes than something like the Kindle. No, I haven’t held one in my hands yet, but with LCDs it’s the nature of the beast. Some are better than others, but for reading eInk puts them all to shame.
The thing that stands out the most for me, however, is the battery life. One of the most pleasant parts of owning an eBook Reader is the fact that you can treat it just like a book for the most part. My Kindle comes out once a week for charging, if that, and otherwise sits in my bag or on the bookshelf, always ready to go. I don’t have to come home and worry about plugging things in.
Needless to say, I’m unimpressed by what’s being presented here so far. It’s a neat little device, but it’s too late to make a splash. There are better eReaders out there for the same price, better multi-purpose tablets for just a bit more. Unless you spend extremely long periods of time with books or magazines that require color displays, this will probably be something you pass on.