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Thread: The Irex iLiad vs. the Sony e-Reader

  1. #1

    The Irex iLiad vs. the Sony e-Reader

    My backpack is a 60 lb dead weight and I carry it everywhere. With a 17-inch Mac powerbook, an extra battery, all the connectors necessary to communicate with the world, about a half dozen chargers for the computer and three cell phones, an ipod, and a camera, plus about 10 or so pounds of out-of-date paper that I always seem to be lugging around, I feel like more like weightlifter than a scientist. You know that it is too heavy when you are embarassed to let anybody else carry your backpack.

    So, recently, I have been looking for a e-reader/display/notebook that could replace all the paper that I am carrying. No, I have tried but I can't do without my Mac. I have a ipod but it is only good for music and news. I have a blackbery but it is only good for email. What I need is something to store and display the myriad documents that are always clamoring for my attention. So, I recently settled down to seriously look.

    There are only two options, as far as I can tell. There is iRex iLiad. I must admit that the name itself is attractive. It tells me that the inventor or at least the marketer of the device is literate. Basically, it is a flatpad that shows pages in black and white without consuming energy except when you turn pages. It has about 12 hours battery life and can display almost any file that a computer can and can be read outdoors. It can connect up to ethernet, wireless, and your computer to transfer files. It can take your written notes and drawings and store and redisplay them, convert them into files that you can transfer to your computer. It is a bit expensive at $700.


    The second option is the Sony Reader. This is, like many Sony devices, an attractively designed device that has a charger stand, a black on white display, apparently a longer battery life that allows 7,500 page turns, has memory for hundreds of books (based on the assumption of 800 Kb/book but uses a Sony memory stick, and weighs about the same as the iLiad. The major drawback is that it doesn't take all file formats and it does not interact with the Mac. The latter bothers me because it tell me that the Sony Reader will have all the esthetics of the Windows and little of the Mac, including fonts. Also, you can use CONNECT eBooks to buy over 14,000 titles. There is no question that the Sony e-Reader is attractively designed and has a very nice display. It weighs only 0.5 lb.

    Here are some side by side information:
    • Dimensions: Sony 6.8” x 4.9” x 0.5” vs. iRex 6.1” x 8.5” 0.63
    • Weight: Sony 8.8 oz vs. Irex 13.7 oz.
    • Screen: 6-inch SVGHA 800x600 5 grey scale vs. Irex 8.1-inch XGA 1024x768 16 gray scale.
    • Internal memory: Sony 64 Mb RAM vs. iRex 64 Mb RAM and 224 Mb Flash
    • Expansion slots: Sony SD, memory stick vs. iRex SD, CF II, USB sticks
    • Ebook formats: Sony BBeB (their own format), Adobe PDF, JPEG, MP3 vs. iRex Adobe PDF, XHTML, TXT, MP3, others.
    • Interfaces: Sony headphone jack vs. iRex headphone jack, WiFi 802.11b, 10/100 Mb Ethernet.
    • Price: Sony US$299-399 vs. iRex US$699.

    Major Differences:
    • iRex has a touch screen and one can draw on it.
    • iRex has greater resolution

    On May 7, 2007, Ego Food reviewed the iLiad. the screen is “quite remarkable. not as good as an actual bookd, but this technology is really getting close”. There is some “ghosting and interpage reset flashing of the screen but this is not a “big deal”. The page-turning is slower than desirable but again not a big problem. The pen-based input is “fun” but slow. The companion software is “disappointing” so far but it is functionally a usb hard drive. SD cards work. Settings are easy. The system is Linux based. Power management needs work. The form factor is “just about perfect. Great texturization of the chassis and the page flip bar is brilliant. Good big screen with decent enough contrast. Books are better for contrast, but reading the iLiead is like reading a very thin-papered paperback book.”

    The initial user reviews of the Sony Reader are not as good. One person from the above link says, “I found it to be very slow with clunky controls and seemingly not very sturdy. The slow page turns were frustrating and the menu systems aggravating to navigate. The screen was beautiful, but I walked out without it.” Scott Hanselman of Computerzen.com ([url=http://www.hanselman.com/blog/HandsOnSonyEinkReaderPRS500Reviewed.aspx]Source[/url[) reviewed the Sony eReader and says “It is light and very comfortable. It has a nice flip around case and reminds me of a large Palm V.... the size is really perfect.... there are too many buttons. There are ten 0-9 buttons that are multi-purpose, used to access the internal menus and to allow quick jumps into the book. There are multiple ways to turn the page. Memory slot supports both memory sticks and SD cards. The screen is 170 dpi compared to 96-120 dpi on a lapop and so it is higher resolution. The refresh rate is 1000 ms. The battery keeps going and going. There are 3 font sizes. The Desktop Connect Reader software is so so poorly designed, so truly evil that there is not word to express the breadth and depth of its unspeakable lameness.”

    Another reader commenting on the Hanselman review explained why he chose iREx over Sony. “Screen is bigger and higher resolution plus 16 shades of gray.” It uses CF, MMC, and memory stick. It has WIFI, LAN, and USB. It uses automatic bookmarks Updating the software is automated over the network. It is linux based and more open software so that there will be more software available for it. Sony's DRM limitations seem to be problematic. iRex allows you to zoom on PDF files and anotate any page. It is slim and light. It is a pleasure to hold.” Here is a youtube comparison of the two devices (Source). When they are side by side, the size difference between the two devices is significant. The iRex is slightly faster at turning pages than the Sony eReader. Here is another youtube of the Sony eReader (Source) that shows the menu system. It seems quite reasonable on its own.

    Genene Miller Cote (Source who is a tech-savvy publisher really panned the iLiad. She points out that the package was beautiful but lacked documentation, the software does not allow adjustment of the font size which is about 5-point, the image is crisp but virtually impossible to read because it is too small. She points out that the device will not read protected pdf files. There is no search function. The unit freezes on a regular basis. There is no power management and the slow page refresh occasionally leads to ghosts. She thought that this device is “barely at beta quality and yet it is being sold as a finished consumer product”. A number of readers disagreed with Cote (Source). One said that in over a month, he had only two pdf files that would read. In comparison, his windows system crashed innumerable times. He says startup is slow but probably faster than his phone and far faster than Windows. An iRex community manager responded to the review and said that he would ensure that they would add documentation, which is a good sign.

    Another user, Branko Collin, reviewed the iLiad more on March 25, 2006 (Source). This article provided information about the Iliad reader that was not mentioned by the other reviewers. He ponted out that Iliad comes from Einhoven in Netherlands. He actually visited the factory and played with a model. He says that the surface is glass, to protect the e-ink layer. All the Iliads will have a travel hub to plug into, with an ethernet prot and USB port. He pointed out that the it takes 2 seconds to render a page. The controls are designed to mimic a book. So, movement towards the left turns the page forward (just as turning the pages of a book wold). Iliad works like a computer. When you open a file, it will look for an appropriate viewer. The manufacturer clearly intends for manufacturers of book files and “hobbyists” to make new software and viewers.

    Wikipedia has a detailed description of the Sony Reader (Source) as well as a list of all the reviews. The most recent of the reviews was on April 2, 2007 by David Skinner in the Weekly Standard (Source). As the article pointed out, “the Reader's shortcomings prove that whatever stage of development it represents, it is not to literature what the iPod is to music”. It points out the pages cannot be marked with marginalia (which iLiad can do), manueverability within books and within the Reader is limited, text is not searchable, flipping several pages in a row is a chore, and the buttons are awkward. He states, “The Reader is not compatible with Macs, another major shortcoming.” I cannot help but agree. Regarding the Gony store, he points out that the Sony Connect Store offers only spotty coverage of new and old titles. However, the Sony vice president Ron Hawkin told him that the number of titles will double.

    Likewise, Wikipedia has an article about the Irex iLiad (Source that provided some interesting information. First, it has a 400 Mhz Intel XScale processor, 256 Mb internal flash memory, multimedia card slot, compact flash type II slot, wifi 802.11, 10/100 Mb ethernet, 390 gram weight, 64 Mb RAM. Mobipocket is supported. It mentioned a web site called http://manybooks.net/ that has files specially formatted and recommended for the iLiad. It can be ordered from the company https://www.irexshop.com/product_inf...products_id=28 although I was unable to get logged in.

    There are several videos of the iLiad being used (Source). Bootup is slow but no slower than most computer. The selection process is very intuitive. The screen is very high resolution. You can put any pdf file on there. It takes three kinds of cards and access to the cards is very intuitive. Another personal video review can be found here. The following is not very professional and the guy doesn't seem to know what the device can do but he illustrated the scrolling ability and going to different pages of a pdf file on the iLiad, and other features of the device (Source). He suggests that when the stylus is taken out, the touch screen is activated and uses more battery.

    So, in summary, the iLiad seems to be the better machine, albeit more expensive, at least according to the reviews. I would love to know what people think.

  2. #2
    Okay, I have now had the Irex Iliad for several days. It is both better and not as good as I had expected. Let me explain.

    The Iliad came in a nice little barebones cardboard package. There is the device itself, something called a portable charger (which appears to be just a connector that takes USB cable that can connect to your computer and a DC end of a power adaptor plug), a piece of paper that explains how to turn the device on and to charge the device for three hours before using it, and that's it. All the other instructions for running the device are on the Iliad itself. This tells you a little bit about the confidence of the people selling the device, that it would be so self-evident how to run the machine that they don't need to tell you how.

    As other reviewers have pointed out, the device is of just the right shape, size, and heft for reading. Its screen is big and bright white in the sunlight. The page turning lever is very intuitive. Likewise the up and down key and center selector is obvious. There are several buttons that give you with mysterious icons that take you to various views of folders on the device. The power key is not self-evident... it is a little spring-loaded slider switch that you have to slide over for 2 seconds and the little green light on the upper left turns on. There is a little pen on the pack that you can use to select things on the screen and also write. There are receptacles for all sorts of memory sticks, cards, and usb memory on the top.

    Booting up takes a while, about 30 seconds. It is just long enough so that you don't want to shut the device off when you are putting it down to do something for five minutes. The battery life is about 8-10 hours on one charge. I think that it could be even more if one simply used it for reading without the pen. It is not fast, taking about 10 seconds to open most files and 1-2 seconds to turn a page. It's okay, except when one is using it on pdf files with images, as I will explain below.

    If you plug the iRex Illiad into a Mac computer, it shows up as a USB device with folders. Although I wasn't able to find out how much storage space there was on the device itself anywhere, my Mac told me that there was about 130 Mb of space available. I went to www.fictionwise.com (an ebook place) to download ten of the best-selling and most highly rated science fiction books for about $50, approximately 8 Mb of files. Several different formats worked, including secure mobipocket and pdf. The Iliad comes with a free copy of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Bram Stoker's Dracula. The former, which I remember to be a very thick book, is only 772Kb and the latter is 528Kb.

    The screen quality is truly amazing. It is as sharp as your eyes can see and high-contrast black on white. It is beautiful in bright sunlight. It is the only device that I can imagine reading books on at a beach. The navigation is more than adequate. The page turner is very intuitive. You can go to specific pages. If you leave a book, go look at another book, and then return to the book, you will come back to the same page. You can navigate to specific pages and it takes a couple of seconds. There is a no search facility at least on the Mobiview but it is fairly easy to get around from chapter to chapter, page to page.

    The disappointing things was the slow speed with which it displayed pdf files. I was hoping to use the Iliad for reading pdf copies of journal articles and found tht most of the journal articles in pdf form are 1-2 Mb in size and are painfully slow to display on the Iliad. While you can enlarge them to read, it is too slow to be practical. I will continue to play around with this because apparently it is possible to optimize pdf files for display on the device and maybe that is what I have to do. I will write more when I get more experience with the different features.

    Wise.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 06-07-2007 at 05:57 PM.

  3. #3
    I have heard good things about the Sony e-Reader but you have enlightened me to the Irex iLiad. I think I recall hearing that Sony is making real progress with OLED technology. According to an MSNBC article Sony has developed a bendable display that bends like paper while showing full color video. In addition Sony wants to get this technology (display) so thin that it can be rolled up like paper.

    I heard about another story that the Seattle Post newspaper will stop using paper and ink and start using electronic paper within the next two years.

    Dr. Young, I understand that you have to travel with your 17-inch Mac powerbook, but, maybe, some of these emerging technologies will lighten your load and you can go back to being a scientist instead of a weightlifter.
    The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom
    --General George Patton

    Complex problems need to be solved collectively.
    ––Paul Nussbaum
    usc87.blogspot.com

  4. #4
    Paul,

    I fly about 40-50 hours on airplanes every month. The trip between Newark and Hong Kong alone takes 15 hours and I take that 2-3 times a month. Both my concentration and computer battery lasts only about 8 hours on the flight. By the way, the Boeing 777 recently switched their power system in the economy class to provide 120 AC. This is not as good as the original system becaue my computer must take so much of the power allocated to the seat that the power system poops out after about 8-10 hours of charging. I guess that it doesn't really matter because, my concentration also poops out and I usually cannot work over 8-10 hours on a computer. So, I do my reading on airplanes. I often carry 3-4 books with me and sheaves of scientific articles, adding to the weight of my backpack.

    The Iliad weighs about 1.5 pounds and can carry 130 Mb of books in its internal memory. That is about 100 books or articles. On my current trip, I have already finished one book and am on the verge of finishing another. In addition, the Iliad can read documents on memory cards/sticks/USB. The iliad has three receptacles for memory device. For example, I have a 4 Gb USB memory stick on which I store pdf files. When I stick the USB memory stick into the Iliad, the Iliad can directly display these pdf files. I can even make notations on the pdf files, using the magnetic field pen on the Iliad.

    The Iliad creates a "scribble file" that must be merged with the pdf file. Unfortunately, this can only be done using the iRex Iliad's companion software for Windows. The companion software has to have the correct name of the Iliad and the Iliad must have the correct name of the shared folder, or else nothing happens. The companion software synchronizes the contents of the Iliad with the contents of the shared folder on Windows. It also merges the files. I prefer to use the Mac to load and delete files from the Iliad. It is fast and I can see how much space there is left on the Iliad. I am looking for a Mac program that can merge the scribble file with the pdf file.

    The Iliad has ability to talk to wireless networks and internet through ethernet. I have not yet been able to figure out how to use its wifi ability because I haven't been able to get it logged onto any wifi system that I have encountered. I will work on this and report the solution. Also, while it can get onto internet, the Iliad does not have a browser. The iLiad is supposed to be able to connect through internet to download the latest versions of software. I need to figure out how to do this.

    Wise.


    Quote Originally Posted by PN
    I have heard good things about the Sony e-Reader but you have enlightened me to the Irex iLiad. I think I recall hearing that Sony is making real progress with OLED technology. According to an MSNBC article Sony has developed a bendable display that bends like paper while showing full color video. In addition Sony wants to get this technology (display) so thin that it can be rolled up like paper.

    I heard about another story that the Seattle Post newspaper will stop using paper and ink and start using electronic paper within the next two years.

    Dr. Young, I understand that you have to travel with your 17-inch Mac powerbook, but, maybe, some of these emerging technologies will lighten your load and you can go back to being a scientist instead of a weightlifter.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 06-08-2007 at 08:03 AM.

  5. #5

    Iliad after a couple of months

    Dr. Wise, you have had the Iliad for a couple of months now and I would like to know if you still think it is a good deal and does everything it's supposed to do? The reason I ask is I would consider buying one but the price tag is a bit rich for me. It might come down to personal preference or how deep the pockets are but I believe you would know if it's good investment. I read a lot and books are a bit of a pain to handle. I would appreciate your input.

    Thank you
    garlin

  6. #6
    Having used almost all the devices at one point to another, I must say that none of them hold a candle to the iPad. The lack of color, the inability to provide other functions such as email and web browsing, and the lack of productivity software such as calendar, synchronisation with your main computer, and limited gaming are just the beginning of the list.

  7. #7
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    Went to the Apple store and they showed me everything the iPad can do, and I found it to be pretty amazing once you understand it isn't designed to replace a computer.

    By the way, raffling off an iPad at fundraisers has been very successful down here. Won't last long but for now it creates excitement for the event, etc.
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  8. #8
    Kindle, such as the DX ruled out due to unsupported formats?

    f
    ight

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Wonderfin83 View Post
    I remember reading this thread a few times before. I was wondering if Dr. Young was going to go ahead and get the IPad 2 anytime soon? Has anyone read about the IPad app development? There are lots of new apps coming out that, and lots of things that will only run on the IPad 2. I'm pretty excited about it.
    Wonderfin83,

    I am still satisfied with my iPad. I did go to an Apple Store and did a side-by-side comparison. The iPad2 is slimmer, more sveldt looking, and has a cool plastic cover.

    To my surprise the iPad with its original Apple black cover is not much heavier than the iPad2 with its new plastic magnetic cover. The two seemed similar in weight. So, I decided to go look up the actual weights. Several articles made it seem as if the iPad2 is much lighter. Well, here is the data.

    The original Wifi iPad weighs 1.5 lb (680 g) while the Wifi 3G iPad weighs 1.6 lb (730 grams). A wifi iPad2 weighs 1.33 lb (601 grams) while the Verizon 3G iPad2 weighs 1.34 lb (607 grams) and the regular Wifi 3G iPad weighs 1.35 lb (613 grams). I don't know how much the lids are but I suspect that a 3G iPad2 with the new cover is probably close to 1.5 lb (680 grams).

    I own the wifi iPad with its original skin-tight black case. Perception of the weight of the device depends on the friction offered by the device's surface and how it fits in your hand when you pick it up. The original Apple black cover fits very snugly and have a very high friction surface. It is easier to pick up and seem lighter with the cover on than without.

    The uncovered iPad is quite slippery and you must press your fingers together with considerable force to generate the friction to pick it up. It is hard for a quadriplegic to pick up the bare iPad. The Apple everybody-loves-to-hate-it-but-is-practical black case has such a high friction surface that you barely have to squeeze your fingers to lift it up.

    There are two other advantages of the iPad 2 over the first generation iPad. First, the iPad 2 is significantly faster both in terms of its processor and in terms of its wifi connections. This translates into a snapper response and more impressive game play. Second, the iPad 2 has two cameras while the original iPad has none. I understand that there are some software issues relating to the camera but am certain that this will be corrected.

    At least for myself, I am not convinced that these improvements are worthwhile buying the iPad 2 while the iPad still serves all my needs.

    Wise.

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