The InkPad will never be a blockbuster but it does have its strengths.
Review Date: 29 November 2014
I bought my review unit from Pocketbook France in early September 2014. They never actually got around to shipping it, and then stopped responding to my emails, forcing me to complain to Pocketbook corporate in order to get the parent company to ship my order.
This review is based on a Pocketbook InkPad running the v5.4 firmware. About a month after posting the review I got the chance to downgrade my InkPad to the v4.x firmware. This fixed the problem with the Epub bug, and it added more formatting options (as well as another Epub bug). I am happier now than I was with the original firmware, but in either case I like the InkPad and continue to use it as my main ebook reader.
Pro & Con
- Screen & build quality
- PDF support
- Reading experience
- Epub support
- Availability & customer service
The InkPad runs Pocketbook's proprietary OS on a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM. It has 4GB internal storage, a microSD card slot, Wifi, and a headphone jack. It sports an 8" Pearl E-ink screen with frontlight and touchscreen. The screen resolution is 1,600 x 1,200.
Based on the design of the Color Lux, the 8" color E-ink ereader which Pocketbook released last year, the InkPad has an unbalanced design which makes it ideal for one handed use. It has a brown plastic shell with page turn buttons to the right of the screen. There's also a strip of rubber above and below the buttons to help you grip the InkPad, and a corresponding rubber pad on the back.
The only obvious detail on the front of the InkPad are the page turn buttons and that strip, but if you look closely you'll find a sensor strip above the screen. That is the control for the frontlight, and it is one of the nicer features. It takes 6 or 7 swipes to go from off to maximum brightness, offering finely grained control of the screen brightness.
You'll find the headphone jack on the bottom right edge, and under a cap on the upper right edge are the microUSB port and the microSD card slot. The power button is next to that cap.
Of the five larger ereaders in my office at the moment*, the InkPad is easily the nicest to hold and use. Given its size you wouldn't think this would be a one-handed ereader, but thanks to the lop-sided design it is the only one of the larger ereaders which I feel can be used that way (and since the text - but not the menus- can be reversed, the InkPad is equally good for righties and lefties).
* (Kobo Aura HD, Bookeen Ocean, Onyx Boox T68 Lynx, Kindle DX, and the InkPad)
Screen & Frontlight
With an 8" Pearl E-ink screen, the InkPad clearly won't have as good of a screen as the latest premium ereaders, but the screen was still far better than I expected. In many ways the screen on my InkPad is nicer than the one on my T68 Lynx or my Paperwhite (2013).
In comparison to the KPW, the Inkpad's frontlight much whiter and brighter. When the frontlights are off, the InkPad's screen is slightly grayer, but whether the light is on or off the KPW still has a noticeable brown tint. And whether the frontlight is on or off, the text on the Paperwhite's screen is sharper and blacker; if I didn't know better I would think the KPW had the sharper screen.
In comparison to the T 68 Lynx, the Inkpad's frontlight is again whiter and brighter. It makes the T68 Lynx's frontlight look fuzzy in comparison, and when the frontlight is off the InkPad's screen is still slightly whiter than the the screen on the T68 Lynx.
This section will be abbreviated because I've already covered the apps and ebook format support in some detail. (On a related note, I've recently updated the post on ebook formats with a new opinion on the usefulness of the limited support for Mobi and other formats.)
The InkPad runs Pocketbook's software, which I found satisfactory - so long as I didn't have to interact with it much.
While the home screen was good at getting me into whichever book I had open, the library screen was only good at wasting screen real estate. Rather than show a neat and orderly grid of icons for the ebooks on my InkPad, it insisted on showing the ebooks shelved in alphabetical order. If there was only a single ebook who's title or author began with a given character, it would be shelved by itself - thus wasting the screen to the right
The only to get that neat and orderly grid was to sort the library chronologically - by the day an ebook was added to the InkPad or last opened. Neither suits me.
The InkPad supports a number of different ebook formats, including Epub and PDF as well as office doc formats. I've already covered how well the various file formats are supported (here), so in this section I'll just focus on Epub and PDF.
Text PDF support is great, although I don't read much in the way of text PDFs so that doesn't matter much to me. I would like to use the InkPad for graphic novels, but each page was abysmally slow to load.
Epub wasn't so well supported. The InkPad forced full justification, which was annoying, but I actually didn't mind so much. But the other bugs, including the tendency to freeze, the general inability to go a page back in the text, and the slow page turns, did detract from the reading experience.
But in spite of the problems I still liked reading on the InkPad. Given the issue with bugs, you'd think I would be as frustrated with it. Strangely, I'm not. Even though the InkPad was noticeably slower to turn a page than the Paperwhite, I didn't mind to much.
Curiously, over the past 3 or 4 days before publishing this review I have been reading ebooks in Mobi format. In spite of the incomplete support for that format I am enjoying reading on the InkPad.
(more to come)
I'm not one to shoot videos (I don't like watching them much, either) but I have found several worth watching.
In spite of the hassles in buying an InkPad, I love this baby. It's a lot bigger than I am used, but I like reading on it.
It's solidly built with a decent quality frontlight and screen. It works great with text PDFs, and while it's not so great with Epub I am still enjoying it. With its 8" screen, the InkPad would best be described as the equivalent of reading from a hardback (in comparison to 6" ereaders, which are like reading from a paperback.)
But it's also hard to get, and with a $240 price tag it is very expensive. And as much as I like it, I'm not sure it justifies the price tag.
It's good, yes, but is it $240 good?
That would really depend on what you need it to do, and it would depend on what you compare the InkPad to. There are some really good but smaller ereaders on the market, but not much that is as big or bigger than the InkPad which compares well.
The InkPad can't quite match the screen sharpness or the ebook format support of the Onyx Boox T68 Lynx (6.8" screen, Android 4.0). It doesn't have the super-high resolution screen of the Kindle Voyage, or the waterproof and high-quality screen of the Kobo Aura H2O (6.8" Carta E-ink screen).
On the other end, the InkPad offers a sharper screen and a lower price than the Kindle DX or the Onyx Universe, and there isn't that much else in the 8" and above range.
The InkPad is good at PDFs, and one thing I do like about the InkPad is the page turn buttons. They're rather anemic, but the InkPad does have more functional page turn buttons than any of the 3 ereaders mentioned above.
That makes one handed reading a lot easier, and when combined with the 8" screen the InkPad offers the best reading experience of any of the 8" or larger ereaders.
Where to Buy
The InkPad is available from a number of retailers in Europe and Russia, including Pocketbook's official sites, Amazon, and smaller retailers. It's also out of stock at the time I wrote this review, so I'm not sure you will be able to get one.
You will have even more trouble getting one outside of Europe. While it is possible to order an InkPad from Pocketbook France, I would not trust them to ship it.
I bought my unit from them at the beginning of September, and after numerous production delays they promised they would ship in the middle of October. And then they stopped responding to my emails, forcing me to complain to Pocketbook corporate.
While I did get one, Pocketbook France did not ship it and thus I cannot recommend them.
- CPU: 1GHz
- RAM: 512MB
- Screen: 8" Pearl E-ink display, 1,600 x 1,200 resolution
- Frontlight, Touchscreen
- Storage: 4GB internal, microSD card slot
- Connectivity: Wifi
- Battery: 2.5Ah, one month runtime
- Audio: headphone jack (TTS, MP3 supported)
- eBook Format Support (more details here): Epub, PDF, FB2, DJVu, Mobi, PRC, CHM
- Office and Other File Format Support: Doc, Docx, RTF, txt, HTML
- Weight: 350 grams
- Dimensions: 195.5 x 162.8 x 7.3 mm