The Alex is much more than an e-book reader; it's also a pad-style computer courtesy of the Android OS
- Good battery life, innovative design
- Quite expensive, lack of support for Android Marketplace
The Alex doesn't have the polish or broad functionality of the iPad, and the user interface is also much less intuitive. On the other hand the Alex is smaller, lighter and has way better battery life. If the Alex were to come down somewhat in price, get PDF support and provide Android Market access, it would be far more competitive.
Price$ 475.00 (AUD)
What would you get if you crossed Google's Android operating system with Wi-Fi, an e-ink display and a touch-sensitive color display? You'd get something called Alex, an e-book reader with an unusual configuration manufactured by Spring Design.
Note: the listed price of AUD$475 is approximate. Spring Design sells the Alex for US$399.
Looking for the best eBook reader? Before you buy an Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad or Sony reader check out our eBook reader comparison guide to find out the best features you should compare.
Physically Alex is a 7.9 by 4.7 by 0.4 inch thick, 11-ounce tablet with two screens; a 6-inch monochrome eInk electronic paper display (EPD) with 800 by 600 resolution and a 3.5-inch capacitive touch, full-colour LCD screen. In use, the Alex is held in portrait mode with the large EPD above the smaller LCD display.
On the right side of the LCD is the power button and a "next page" button, while on the left side are buttons for "previous page" and "go back." Between the two screens is a synchronisation button.
This last button is clever; it enables and disables the copying of the content display from one screen to the other. For example, if you're reading an e-book, pressing the sync button duplicates the EPD contents on the LCD display, which also shows on-screen functions that include access to the other documents in the on-board library, access to the document's table of contents, bookmark creation and retrieval, access to annotations and the highlighter, font size control, dictionary access, and, rather cleverly, access to e-mail and Twitter for sharing clipped content.
But the Alex is much more than an e-book reader; it's also a pad-style computer courtesy of the Android OS. When you're not reading electronic books you can listen to music, browse photos or watch stored videos. Then, when you're connected to the Internet (the Wi-Fi 802.11b/g version is shipping now and EVDO/CDMA and HSPA/GSM will be available this year), you can download new content (from Google Books, Epub Books, The Gutenberg Project, Web Books, Feed Books or Smash Words) or browse the Web, watch YouTube videos or check your e-mail.
On the plus side, the dual display system works very well (although it is perhaps a little complex for the general consumer market) and the battery life is excellent (with Wi-Fi switched off the company claims you can read for around two weeks).
On the minus side, the Alex has some issues that really need addressing, most particularly the current lack of support for the Android Market, which means that all sorts of useful applications aren't yet available.
The dictionary also needs serious work. For example, under the entry for "settings" the third definition given is the inexplicable "(AmE) = SET (5)". Performance is also a little lacklustre (page "turns" are slow) while the "Web Grabs" feature listed on Spring's site doesn't yet exist.
There's also no support for tethering the Alex to a PC or a smartphone and no Bluetooth support, which seems silly. Finally, and most importantly, the lack of support for simple text files and PDF documents are serious oversights.
At US$399 the Alex looks expensive. It doesn't have the polish or broad functionality of the iPad, which costs just $100 more, and the Alex user interface is also much less intuitive. On the other hand the Alex is smaller, lighter and has way better battery life. If the Alex were to come down somewhat in price, get PDF support and provide Android Market access, it would be far more competitive.
That said, I like the Alex -- a clever idea and a nice design with lots of potential.
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Acer Swift 7
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Huawei Mate 9
Lexar® Portable SSD
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Google Daydream VR headset
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Surface Pro 4
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 2 Kogan curved 4K UHD 55-inch LED LCD TV review
- 3 Panasonic Blu-ray recorder PVR set-top box review
- 4 Garmin Fenix Chronos fitness tracker smartwatch review
- 5 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
Latest News Articles
- More iPad screen sizes unlikely to stop slump
- Android struggling in tablets as Windows 10 2-in-1s come on strong
- Samsung unveils Galaxy Book, a Windows 10 tablet aimed at the Surface-curious
- Everything we think we know about Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3
- Lenovo's ThinkPad P71 will work with HTC, Oculus VR headsets
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Behind the scenes with Team Walkinshaw at V8 Supercars Melbourne 2017
- And the 2017 winner of the Formula 1 Best Pit Lane Boom Gantry is...
- First look at the Formula 1 2017 pit lane in Melbourne, Australia
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTSocial Media ExecutiveNSW
- CCBusiness Analyst- Data GovernanceNSW
- CCICT Strategist and AdvisorNSW
- FTSoftware Development Manager - CloudACT
- TPSenior Communications EngineerWA
- TPTechnical ArchitectVIC
- FTNetwork Solution ArchitectVIC
- CCBig Data Developer - Government - 12 Month Contract - SydneyNSW
- CC.net Developer (Front and Back end)QLD
- FTJunior Applications SupportQLD
- FTTest SpecialistSA
- CCBusiness Analyst - General InsuranceNSW
- FTSecurity Lead / ConsultantNSW
- FTDevOps - Web AdministratorQLD
- FTNetwork Services ManagerQLD
- TPJava DeveloperWA
- TPBusiness AnalystQLD
- FTLinux / Unix Systems AdministratorSA
- FTDatabase DeveloperACT
- FTService Delivery ManagerWA
- FTJunior Applications SupportSA
- FTService Desk Operators (Part time and Full Time)SA
- TPBusiness AnalystNSW
- TPBusiness Analyst - AgileQLD
- CCSenior Network Designer - CiscoVIC