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Review: black Pandigital Novel (US firmware)

I'm one of the first to get the black Novel and I have to say that it was a lot of fun to play with.

Before I go further I think I should explain the photographs. I know the screen looks cloudy but it really isn't. I have the brightness turned down (I like it that way). I also shot the pictures without a flash because I wanted to show you the screen without the ginormous crack running across it.

Update: Much of this post is outdated. Rather than read this review, why don't you go install the latest firmware update for this tablet (here)?

Last minute addition: Pandigital pushed  out an update Tuesday afternoon. It was supposed to fix a couple of the minor problems (I didn't mention them in the review), but it also made the black Novel forget the ebooks folder. I probably just need to rename it, and I'm waiting to hear back from Pandigital.


We got our first look at the black Novel a couple months ago when it cleared the FCC. Like the white Novel, it's a basic 7" Android tablet with a custom Home Screen and support for B&N ebookstore.

The black Novel is slightly thicker than the white one. It's also not quite as wide or long. It has a bezel around the screen (the white novel had a screen that was flush with the facing). There are no buttons on the front.

On the lower back right corner there is a stylus. (I didn't need it, actually. This screen is quite usable without it.) The power jack and USB port are on the upper right edge. On the top edge are the volume buttons, SD card slot, Wifi switch, and headphone jack. There is a speaker on the upper left corner of the back. The back has a matte finish (the white Novel was glossy).

Hacking & Apps

Comparison (of the 2 Novels)


About Nate Hoffelder (11132 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."

63 Comments on Review: black Pandigital Novel (US firmware)

  1. Thanks for the review! Looks interesting, though I’m not sure why Pandigital would release a new piece of hardware that is so similar to the the white, which was released not so long ago.

  2. Scratching my head over all of this. So, is it the actual *hardware* of the screen that’s better with the Black or does new firmware make a difference? If you still have the White, does the new firmware make its screen better now?

  3. Nate the great // 18 August, 2010 at 7:21 am //

    I think it’s just the hardware that makes the black Novel more pleasant to use.

  4. Where can I get my hands on one of these? I have been following your reviews and I am very interested in trying one. I had the Sony ereader and really loved it!

  5. While I would definitely like the reduced weight, until it is hacked, I won’t even consider it. If I could sell my white and get it for $10-$20 more, I’d probably be game. All of the responsiveness and firmware improvements likely can (and should) be included in FW updates to the white version, so in that the two models should be the same. Are we seriously thinking they used completely different touchscreen hardware after the white version only being on the market a month or so? I don’t buy it, it’s not like it was failing or breaking. More hardware buttons? Yeah, those would be nice, but I’ve gotten pretty good with the volume hack on my white.

  6. After having my white PDN for a while I concur that a tablet makes a bad ereader. Its ok in a pinch but just do yourself a favor and get a real ereader which has page turn buttons and is a lot lighter. PDN would be better if we could tap the screen for page turns and got rid of the page turning animations. The wifi switch is a great addition to the black, that’s a real pain on the white. So much that I rarely use it now just to save battery and hassle.

  7. Nate the great // 18 August, 2010 at 9:15 am //

    It won’t be in stores until next week.

  8. I’m wondering if the difference you felt in screen responsiveness was due to firmware updates. I know my white PDN is much more responsive with recent updates compared to what it was out of the box, or even with early hacks.

  9. Nate the great // 18 August, 2010 at 1:09 pm //

    I think it’s the different technology.

  10. So, I thought I heard the black is running 2.1; can’t we copy all the stuff and run the white with 2.1?

  11. Nate the great // 18 August, 2010 at 4:27 pm //

    It very likely won’t work. I bet the update is set to check for to make sure it’s being installed only on the correct device.

  12. I picked up the white Novel last week at Kohl’s
    for a mere $90 after the rebate and a 30% off promo on my Kohl’s charge card. I must say that for so little out of pocket I am quite impressed with the quality of the tablet. I own a iPhone and an iPod touch and wanted an iPad but wanted to wait a couple years until the next generation iPad is released as the first is lacking so much. I believe that if Pandigital can pull of the use of android marketplace apps on this unit in future software updates then I won’t be missing much and will love it even more! And the video capability with mp4 is not nearly as bad as people say it is. I use handbrake to make digital copies of my DVDs for portable use and these work quite well and look great on the 7″ Novel screen. I encourage everyone to dismiss the naysayers and decide for yourself with a minimal out of pocket cost!

  13. Can the internal SD card on the black model be changed to a larger card?

  14. Nate the great // 25 August, 2010 at 2:13 pm //

    The black model doesn’t have an internal microSD card.

  15. Thanks, Nate. You may not be able to discuss it yet but is the difference in weight between the white and black models notably different in terms of comfort while holding the unit and reading?

  16. Nate the great // 25 August, 2010 at 2:52 pm //

    I can actually.

    I thought I mentioned in the review that the black Novel weighs less than the white one.

  17. You did … but without having something in my hand it is a bit hard to determine if a few ounces really make a big change in comfort.

    One final question … on the white model, do you know if anyone has successfully loaded the ereader app? I like the “tap” feature to turn the page as opposed to the finger swipe.

  18. has anyone hacked the new blk pandigital?

  19. Nate the great // 6 November, 2010 at 10:56 pm //

    I think Pandigital posted an open firmware:

  20. I downloaded the open version of Android from the website and installed it. This wiped the format of the ereader and then I installed Skyfire app by searching for the APK file online and downloading it. From there you can search for the apk files and install open home to change the home screen and you can watch videos through skyfire which automatically converts them down for the best format for viewing on the device. So far I’m pleased with it. I just wish we could get it rooted! That would be amazing. I also downloaded Astro File explorer app and I am able to download/install apps from the sd card.

  21. What did you think of it?

  22. How did you install it?
    It’s just *.dat file…

  23. Nate the great // 8 December, 2010 at 4:26 pm //

    Copy it to the SD card.
    Turn off the Novel.
    When turning on the Novel, press and hold the up volume and power switch for 5 seconds.

  24. Thanks, Nate!
    BTW, did u see that Slatedroid lost the whole forum, including your link above?..

  25. Nate the great // 8 December, 2010 at 8:45 pm //

    What, did they move everything _again_?

  26. No clue…
    If u find out, please let all us know.

  27. Does this download really work.? will i still be able to do the same things as it did in its out the box form?

  28. Nate the great // 16 December, 2010 at 7:52 am //

    Does what download work? The firmware I review here is the one from the box. I don’t see how anything could change.

  29. my son got the black pd novel and downloaded the wrong update now it wont do anything where can i get firm wear

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