Alex eReader

The Alex is much more than an e-book reader; it's also a pad-style computer courtesy of the Android OS

Spring Design Alex eReader
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Good battery life, innovative design

Cons

  • Quite expensive, lack of support for Android Marketplace

Bottom Line

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.

Would you buy this?

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.

Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Read more on these topics: e-books, ebook, Google Android, tablet PCs
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?