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Update: Much of this post is outdated.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.

Hardware

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)

Opinion

66 thoughts on “Review: black Pandigital Novel (US firmware)

  1. Pingback: Pandigital Black PDN Review by The-Digital-Reader.com
  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  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. 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.

    1. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

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

  11. I downloaded the open version of Android from the Pandigital.net 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.

      1. 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.

  12. OK. Got the black model for Christmas. I heard it has less RAM than the White, although the Black has 2 gigs versus 1 gig on the White. So, the question is two fold 1) should I keep the Black if I want to run android apps and 2) is the link on the pandigital site worth using to run android apps? Thanks for helping.

        1. The black Novel is based on Android v1.5. Most apps won’t run on it because it’s too old. The white Novel is based on v2.0, so once you’ve hacked it you’ll be able to successfully install more apps.

  13. Final question – sorry to be a pain! The Pandigital site has a firmware update, I assume that is not an upgrade in operating system? Therefore, your White model recommendation stands?

  14. Thanks Nate for being engaged and for your help. ALL: #1. This is not an iPad, lets move on. #2. ftp://www.pandigital.net works and is browsable. So quit trying to download through http. #3. The upgrader.exe sucks. After failing it stopped discovering my correct serial number, then kept populating the SN field with a incorrect (white) number. #4. I saved a cap of the right file when it was failing to download, and navagated through ftp and pulled down the build. S64N_SLSB_PDUI_PD_2010_11_23. Works great and still has B&N and Import SD…slick looking.

    1. Update: Still love the platform, appears I have the 4GB version, at least that what the “about” tool says. Loaded a bunch of apps, just searched for cupcake version .apk(s) and transferred to download via USB. Solitare, Jewels, and Bonsai success . Notable fails: skymap(crash), Nine Hole Golf Trial(crash), Labyrinth(ball moves three tilt axis only), TalkingTom(crash), Mario-Jump(not sensitive to tilt control), MiniSpaceWar(crash).

      Skyfire 2.3.3 loads and browes, but does not render video (main goal – crud!)

      1. Any idea which of the files on the ftp site is the “original” firmware file for the Black Novel, 2GB model? THANKS for your postings!

          1. Nate please double check me.

            ftp is still open, on the default port, with anonymous access. The executable which validated my serial number said the source path was public.pandigital.net:8080/Support/FW/Novel/S64N_SLSB_PDUI_PD/polaris_update.dat.

            I just retrieved the file in the same path via ftp (bin)

            The file is still there.

            I placed the polaris_update.dat in the root directory of an attached USB Pandigital. Did a maintenance boot(caution: full wipe!), and then off I went.

            This version does have B&N and I was able to download books for free. (do a find on all Nookbooks with a $0.00 criteria)

            Other working apps on my pandigital:
            baseball
            braingame
            Invadriod

            Note on Skyfire: Though can’t get flash to work, facebook looks like PC version, not weird stripped down version.

          2. I just tried to update my 7 black from QVC with 2GB internal memory, and the latest updater at Pandigital installed the Android for QVC 4GB. It looks pretty neat, but I have no idea how to install some of the applications mentioned here. So I absolutely have to use the SDK Manager and install of that just to get an app into my Novel? Is there a way to go straight to the “Market” using the ES Explorer or something? THANKS FOR ALL HELP!

        1. Please understand these are all conclusions and not documented by the vendor. I didn’t decide which build went in my Pandigital, I let the executable choose for me . I just got frustrated cause http download failed at different points, and was probably getting plenty hits and was not functional… so I wanted to see if these were unix guys(:D). The executable, validates your serial number, your config xml, and then it pulls down the correct file to your directory. I knew where to put the file because there were fractional downloads from the http that never completed. The executable does not boot into the maintenace routine, the last instructions of the executable tell you to do it. At least that was my experience.

  15. Hey, I’ve got this black colored pandigital e reader thing, and I’ve been looking all around the web for a solution to the no flash compatability. I want to watch videos, I’ve downloaded all kinds of things, read all kinds of stupid posts that were so vague but so confident.. I’m just going to ask. How the hell do I get youtube to work? I read about different browsers, and some kind of old youtube plugin for it that I downloaded but can’t figure out how to locate on the damn device.. I searched, it didn’t show up, it shows up in my download history. I’ll bookmark this and check back in a day or two. Please help lmao. Thanks for your time.

  16. Thanks man, I’m having another problem now though.. I e mailed it to myself, saved it, can’t find it. I read through the pages, you said something about a taskbar, but it’s not on mine. I searched for “null” (it said it saved it as null) and nothing showed up.. ehh?

  17. my bad for being so needy bro, i still haven’t figured it out though. i don’t understand why there’s downloading capability but no file explorer.. it’s basically a small computer, would be kind of lame if it was only intended to save pictures. im going to try to put the file explorer on my SSD card and see if i can install from there.

  18. I don’t understand what all this hacking does. How does it make the reader different, in simple terms, please?

    1. Back when the Novel was first released, it was locked down. It could only perform the few activities that Pandigital allowed. Hacking the Novel was how we turned it into an Android tablet so we could do more with it.

      Since it now ships as an Android tablet, there’s really not much reason to hack it.

  19. There is a new black model (QVC) and a remastered black model (normal) both have a micro SD slot. The normal has 2gb and QVC has 4gb. Android 2.1 -2.2 upgrade coming soon.

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