What We Think
This is an e-Book reader that is worth the wait, if you’re not after audio books. Any e-book will look twice as good on the iRiver thanks to a resolution that is twice twice that of the Kindle as well as including an e-Book store packed with a few million free books and offers numerous editable settings.
The Amazon Kindle has for a very long time been the top dog of the e-book world. It has managed to stay on top of the competition. Apple even tried taking a slice of the cake but failed, they released their iBooks store but the Kindle reigned supreme.
However, there now seems to be a new kid on the block. One that features a HD screen, an enhanced processor (for an e-Reader that is) and a massive e-Book store provided by none other than Google.
Google have certainly been on a bit of a power trip, the release of the ChromeBook laptops then the release of Google+ the social networking site and now integration into the world’s highest resolution e-Reader, is there any stopping them? Probably not.
Even though the Story HD gives Google the platform to enter an E Ink-based reader rather easy the actual e-Reader frustrates even the most patient user thanks to its cheap design, inconsistent performance and poorly designed interfaced.
If we ignore Google and how it has been incorporated into this e-Reader and concentrate on the display quality you will surely be blown away. The HD implies simply that, the 6-inch display (same size screen as the Amazon Kindle) carries a resolution of 768-by-1024-pixel (rather than the 600-by-800-pixel resolution of the Amazon Kindle). These extra pixels simply help to create a more defined and better looking image or word.
As a result the text looks sharp and clear even from a reasonable difference. Nonetheless, trying to read an e-Book on this device can be a slight struggle thanks to the light. This is partly due to the weak contrast which means your eyes have to work a lot harder to read. This is one particular area that the Kindle reigns supreme incorporating a greater sense of contrast.
The font size maybe fixed on the home screen but when it actually comes to the e-Book the text is adjustable. You simply press the dedicated font button that is situated just two buttons above the spacebar and then you use the navigation bar and enter key to preview and select the font size you require. The largest font size should be more than adequate to accommodate even those with terribly poor eye-sight.
The iRiver Story HD comes with an on-screen guide once you unpack it and starts up as soon as you plug it into a computer. However, in an age where Apple seem to be leading the forefront of making everything wireless how long can e-Readers, such as the iRiver carry on incorporating wires into their technology? However, the guide walks you through the process of setting up the e-Reader.
The design of the e-Reader is slightly frustrating. There are no page buttons alongside the display instead this job is left to the four-way navigation bar that is situated beneath the screen. As mentioned above, the navigation button only moves in four directions and offers a rather sturdy resistance to your touch.
To be honest every single button on this device, including the QWERTY keyboard’s button are all hard, still and difficult to press.
When it comes to its physical presence it’s rather small and light weight. It measures in at 19.0cm x 12.7cm x 1.0cm and weighs a small 207grams. Yet it still manages to incorporate a Freescale ARM CortexTM i.MX508 processor and a 2GB of built in storage (0.6GB that is taken up by the device itself). However, the iRiver Story HD does provide a SD Card slot which supports SDHC cards up to 32GB.
Interestingly the actual interface for the Story HD is built inside a WebKit browser. Yet at times it did feel as though Google had forgotten to change things from a standard web page to fit and adapt to the device. Yet, it is certainly a good start for Google.
The Google e-Book store is a certain something to pay attention to. The text-driven minimalist design is clean and aesthetically pleasing. The home screen brings up the top selling books and next to it lays a categories button so you can browse books by category. However, a rather annoying feature of the iRiver Story HD is that each and every time you go back from the shop to your home screen or the reverse the Story HD pauses to refresh your library, even if you haven’t bought anything.
The actual processes of downloading a book though is certainly rather interesting. You first have to sign in with your Gmail account details. If this account is not configured with Google Checkout then you will next be required to provide your credit/debit card details. If you have Google Checkout you’ll skip that step and go to a confirmation screen showing the book purchase. Yet, the book has still not yet been downloaded to you device. In order to do this you have to go back to the home screen and make sure to download the book locally. This process can get rather annoying if you are trying to download multiple books in one go as you have to sign into your account each and everytime.
Google have now entered the e-Book marget via the iRiver Story HD that features the world’s highst resoltuion for an e-Reader. However, is this really the Kindle Killer?