Alex – Second Impressions

I don't normally do a second impressions post, but a couple people have requested one.

I bet some of you would like pictures. I'm only now starting to take some; I'll post the pictures and a short video tomorrow. I regret that I haven't posted them yet, but I honestly expected that at least one of the major tech blogs would get an Alex and take pictures. I'm surprised that I haven't seen any yet.

If there is a point that you would like me to elaborate on, please ask in the comments.

Edge vs Alex

I'm really tempted to give the Alex a nickname: Edge Jr. That's what it feels like.  The Alex doesn't have the Edge Journal or Annotator, but it does have all the attachment abilities. I can create links to files, webpages, other books, or other locations in the book. I can create and link to a voice memo. I can also highlight, bookmark, and type in a note.

I wonder who developed the attachments originally. Obviously it's not Entourage or Spring Design.

I'd say that the menus on the Alex aren't quite as well designed as on the Edge. But  the Edge has so much more screen real estate that might not be a  fair comparison.

Nook vs Alex

UPDATE from 25 April: I just downloaded the Nook firmware update, and I've changed my mind. The Nook has improved significantly.

It's not fair to compare the 2 because the Nook is just an ereader. (But it's also $180 cheaper.)  Now that I have an Alex, I think the lawsuit Spring Design filed against B&N is ridiculous. Surely B&N would have done a better job if they had tried to make an Alex knockoff. It's just not possible for someone to sit through a product demo for the Alex and then design the Nook. There are too many poor decisions in the hardware design (when compared to the Alex).


I've been playing around some more with the Reader. I've noticed that the you can bring a page down from the epaper screen to the LCD screen by pressing the little button between the 2 screens. The formatting is preserved when you go to the second screen, and there's a zoom mode on the LCD screen. It's going to be really useful for zooming in on PDFs.


I've logged in to my Gmail account. It worked fine, but I don't like thumb typing emails.  So I opened Google Reader instead. I really like that I can read the feeds on the E-ink screen. I said before that the Alex was a web tablet; this is why. Also, I like the Alex enough that I think I could get used to thumb typing the emails.

A couple of the feeds I follow are podcasts. It was easy to download one and play it. This is something I hadn't thought of, actually. It's probably not going to win out over an MP3 player, but it is nice.  (I'm listening while I type.) But I can't do anything else while it's playing, and I think it's actually streaming the podcast. (I need to look in the )


The Alex is tied into Borders/Kobo, of course. But you're also prompted with the option of downloading free ebooks from Feedbooks, PG, Smashwords, Google Books, etc. This is the first time I've seen an ereader promote free ebooks alongside the paid.

BTW, there are separate icons for the Library, Bookstore, and Reader. I like that.

What doesn't work

  • I can install some apps , but not all. (Appslib didn't work.) And I can't open Android apps on the epaper screen, darnit.
  • The Alex has trouble with certain Wifi hotspots (Edge has the exact same problem).
  • The keyboard has a noticeable lag (ditto for the Edge).
  • There is a default setting which blocks apps that didn't come from the Android Market. Guess what? The Alex can't access the Android Market.
  • There is no landscape mode. I wasn't really expecting it, so I'm not disappointed.


There is an email client. Unfortunately, the Alex won't accept the security certificates from Google so I can't test it.

I have the eReader app working, and I downloaded a few ebooks from Fictionwise. Even though it can't use the epaper screen it's still useful. I look at it this way: I can have 2 ebooks open at once.

There is a Youtube app, and it has the same problem as the one on the Edge. It can't play everything, unfortunately.

About Nate Hoffelder (11476 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on Alex – Second Impressions

  1. I wanted to know your opinion on clarity and speed of the page turns of the EPD screen vs the other “standard” ereaders; Kindle / Nook / Sony. Because I am considering buying this as an ereader 1st and web tablet 2nd.


    • All the current e-readers are using the same screen, so the clarity is the same.

      I tested the Alex against a recently updated Nook, and the Nook was only slightly faster.

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