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By 18 January 2010 | Categories: gizmos

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Far more ereaders are doing the rounds here in SA these days, with many still to come. According to online retailer Wantitall, Amazon’s Kindle is one of their most popular products ever sold. Amazon recently announced that they will be selling the Kindle DX, with its massive 9.7" screen, to South Africans willing to part with $489 (that’s without shipping or import duties). Last year we’ve reviewed Foxit’s eSlick ereader and now we’ve received the R2499 Elonex eBook 511EB.

Size

With its creamy white look and silver edging, the Elonex eBook 511EB looks truly impressive. Elonex calls the 511EB pocket sized, and granted it can, only just, fit in the back pocket of a pair of jeans.  At 10 mm thick and weighing 190 g it compares favourably to its rivals, although it''s not that much smaller than the eSlick. The screen size of 5”, is an inch smaller than both the Kindle and eSlick. It does seem that an inch makes a difference in the ereader game, since we were a bit more comfortable reading text on the eSlick''s bigger screen and found ourselves enlarging the text less frequently when using it.

Storage

There is no onboard storage on the device, but Elonex kindly provides a 4 GB microSD card with the device. Taking into the account the small files sizes usually associated with ebooks, 4 GB is very generous. We used a lot of this space for MP3s, since the 511EB is capable of playing MP3s both through the included earphones (3.5 mm), as well as its good onboard speakers. You can also record voice notes which come in handy, for example, when summarising a chapter for yourself. An interesting feature of the Elonex is its text-to-speech capabilities for certain files types, which will read the book aloud. Granted we didn’t enjoy listening to the Stephen Hawking type voice, but we can see the benefits for sight impaired users. Although the Elonex can display pictures, albeit in eight shade greyscale, anything above three megapixels can’t be open.

Handling

The inclusion of the QWERTY keyboard at the bottom of the device is a bit of a mystery. The only time we used the keyboard was in entering a name when searching for a file. The device doesn’t have a wireless connection like the Kindle to download books online, so you don’t really need it for that, and you also can’t create notes or documents. Instead Elonex should have opted to give the primary buttons more prominance. The “back page” and “next page” buttons next to the screen are very handy, but unfortunately some of the most important buttons, for example the arrow keys (used for scrolling up and down or going back and forth) and Menu button, are cramped and just too small to handle comfortably.

Larger files

Another problem we encountered was with larger files, specifically PDFs. Once open, large PDFs can take up to four seconds to load the next page, with scrolling down pages going at a snail''s pace as well. Smaller sized documents, such as the HTML and TXT files, as found for example in the 100 free books provided with the unit, load more quickly. Talking about the free books, they seem to contain some errors in regards to spacing since some of them had lots of words that were joined - making them less enjoyable to read. 

Conclusion

We didn't think an inch of screen size would really make a difference but it was less hassle reading documents on the eSlick's 6" screen than on the Elonex eBook 511EB's 5" screen. If you are planning to read larger PDFs on the device you would have to put up with its tardy page turning and scrolling performance, but keep in mind that the 511EB has the added text-to-speech capabilities and voice note recording. At R2499 it is currently one of the cheaper devices on market. Call Phoenix Software for more info on 011-807-9842.

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