Review: Pocketbook InkPad 840

pocketbook 840 inkpad handsonPocketbook's new 8" ereader has been delayed so often that it is a solid runner up for that title, but it has proven to be worth it.I've had my InkPad for a couple weeks now, and it has proven to be far better device than the early reports from Russia led me to expect. The price tag and limited supply will likely keep it out of the hands of most readers, which is a shame.

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.

Update

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

Pro

  • Screen & build quality
  • PDF support
  • Reading experience

Con

  • Epub support
  • Price
  • Availability & customer service

Hardware

pocketbook inkpadThe 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.

Software

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.

Reading Experience

scr0025The 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.

Comparison Reviews

(more to come)

Video

I'm not one to shoot videos (I don't like watching them much, either) but I have found several worth watching.

Verdict

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.

Specs

  • 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

 

About Nate Hoffelder (11589 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."

54 Comments on Review: Pocketbook InkPad 840

  1. I really like the specs for this ereader. The Epub support is more discouraging than the high price as far as I am concerned. I would feel more confident if this were an open source platform making possible user designed improvements. I hope the inkpad can be rooted with or without pocketbook help. Then I might consider taking the risk.

  2. Thanks for the review. I think it’s a marvellous large screen e-reader, because I have the Onyx M92 and it feels too much heavy (altough its larger screen)

  3. Sadly with the newest firmware the possibility of using third party apps as Coolreader has been removed. Using alternative reading apps is important to me, so I will wait until this feature is enabled again.

    • Agreed. Installing a proprietary OS effectively throttles the hardware. Pointless and wasteful. Use open Android next time guys. It’s cheaper for you and better for us. Duh.

      • To be fair, they do have, what, 7 years invested in their OS? It would make sense to keep it.

        On the other hand, Onyx started working on E-ink on Android at least 3 years ago. Perhaps Pocketbook should have done the same.

  4. I just recently received mine from pocketbook.fr . It only took them few days to deliver via DHL to Denmark.
    After using it for few days – I can just repeat Nate’s conclusion.
    The hardware is really good – it feels solid, lightweight (350g) and comfortable to hold (can be held with one hand for quite a long time), the screen imho is really good: I don’t see any issues with contrast – with frontlight turned on the text looks really black and clear, background white; because of relatively high resolution small text looks really good too. 8 inch screen makes it possible to read PDFs in portrait mode with a little bit of zooming in (usually I zoom in 110-125% depending on the pdf so that the text would still fit and just cover the margins).

    The software on the other hand is not so good. Default web browser refuses to render pages or just freezes on most of the web pages, PDF reader freezes when you zoom in/out too fast, epub reader shows blank pages when you try to turn back pages and everytime you open a new book you have to adjust font settings again. Also most third party applications no longer work with firmware version 5 and not only it doesn’t fix anything, it introduces more problems -> http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=251990 . Pretty much non-existent software quality assurance.

    • Ah, so the web browser really is as bad as I thought. I’m used to using real web browsers on E-ink screens so I couldn’t tell if the one from Pocketbook was poor or if I was simply used to better web browsers.

      • If they’d used Android, that wouldn’t be issue. Where are these people’s heads at? They make work for themselves, and then they get it wrong.

  5. BTW, Nate, how did you contact Pocketbook corporate? I would like to ask them for v4 firmware.

  6. Here are some more screenshots of the Pocketbook Inkpad UI -> https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1d92mft0uahgeno/AABb1I5aLyeygZ4-6VnkJT34a?dl=0 for those interested.

    @Nate Hoffelder
    Did you notice that your image previewer cuts a part of the image? Also clicking on the first two images in this post takes you directly to the original image instead of opening preview window.

  7. Going back a page is a little different to most e-readers – see the diagram on page 56 of the manual at http://download.pocketbook-int.com/840/m/User_Guide_PocketBook_840(EN).pdf

    I like the Inkpad. My only real issue is the slowness of the page turns compared to other e-ink readers and the need to change the font/margin settings etc settings with each book. I am still on version 4 of the firmware and wont upgrade until there is an easy route back if I don’t like version 5.

  8. Page 56 in my file (User_Guide_PocketBook_840(EN).pdf) is in the “Reading Books” section and shows a “Gestures in Reading mode” diagram. It shows which areas to toch for page forward, page back, open reading menu, Close Book and bookmark…

  9. And I meant in ePub books – have not tried a PDF (or anything else) yet…

  10. Nate,

    Are you going to do a video review of the Pocketbook InkPad 840?

  11. Nate,

    I have read your review but I would still prefer to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.

    Would you compare the sharpness of the text with that of the Kobo Aura HD?

    What about the contrast?

    Are the page turns a little slow or very slow?

  12. Nate,

    Could you please tell me what do you personally prefer when it comes to page turning on an e-reader? I mean do you prefer touching the screen to turn pages or do you prefer real physical buttons like in the Pocketbook InkPad 840?

    Yes, it would be appreciated if you could do a comparison review with the Kobo Aura HD. But that is obviously up to you.

    • I like page turn buttons over touchscreens, and I like physical page turn buttons over virtual ones like on the Kindle Voyage, but it’s more complicated than that.

      What I really like is being able to hold a ereader in one hand and turn the page without shifting my fingers or using my other hand. That doesn’t work so well with touchscreens.

  13. I got mine finally today. Firmware version is 4.4, not going to upgrade it. I installed coolreader and with this installed it is pretty much everything I could ask for. Hardware is great. Software not so much but what I need, works well enough. As of now this is the single 8″ front-lit high-res e-ink out there.

  14. Nate,

    You had said that the Pocketbook InkPad 840 has slow(er) page-turns in e-books that are in Mobi format than the Kobo Aura HD has with e-books that are in Epub format. But could you please tell me if the Pocketbook InkPad 840 also has slow page-turns when reading text only PDFs and also PDFs that have images in them?

    • The page turn speed is not such a big deal like some make of it. I read epub novels and technical PDFs (programming books; mostly text with some images) on my Inkpad and don’t have any issues with page turn speed.
      What I really hate is the default epub reader showing blank pages when you turn back a page (you have to change font or margin settings for text to reappear) and PDF reader freezing when you try to zoom in or out a bit too fast (then you have to press home button for few seconds to kill the application), making pinch zoom in PDFs pretty useless. However, if you don’t upgrade to firmware version 5, you can use CoolReader to read epubs and some other formats without any issues.

    • Large images are problematic, but a PDF which is mainly text with small images exhibited a faster page turn than an Epub file (both tested on the InkPad itself).

      This was with an 8.5 x 11 PDF, full page, with the margins automatically cropped.

  15. Nate,

    In the review you said:

    “And whether the frontlight is on or off, the text is sharper and blacker; if I didn’t know better I would think the KPW had the sharper screen.”

    Do you mean the text is sharper and blacker on the Kindle Paperwhite than it is on the Pocketbook InkPad 840?

  16. I saw the Inkpad 840 in the store yesterday. Compared to an Aura HD, the screen isn’t evenly lit. The bottom is brighter than the top of the screen. It looks like the software is also slower than KOBO or Kindle. I’ll wait for a better 8″ ereader and stick with my Aura HD for now…

  17. Nate,

    Does the Pocketbook InkPad 840 have an option to make the text look darker?

    • You can make text bold if that’s what you are asking.

    • Yes. I downgraded the firmware. The older version of the stock reading app has darker text. And right now I’m in CoolReader, which also has darker text.

      Okay, not the answer you wanted, but it’s the only one I have. The v5.x firmware doesn’t have a bold option other than to switch to a bold font, which I’m not sure counts.

  18. Hi Nate, thank you for the review. I’m a graduate student and I have to read a lot of pdf files. After a while, it gets a bit hard for my eyes on a lcd screen. So I’m looking for an e-reader that allows me to read pdf, take notes and export them, when copying the pdf file for my pc. Is that possible with the Inkpad? Thank you very much!

    • I don’t know about exporting a PDF from the InkPad with notes attached. I can’t see how to do it.

      But there are Android apps which can do that, so you might want to consider the Onyx Boox T68 or the Onyx Boox Universe. These two ereaders run Android on an E-ink screen, so you can use an Android app which will let you take notes and export them.

      As I recall from the Q&A on the t68, someone had me test this feature. It worked:
      http://the-digital-reader.com/2014/06/13/onyx-boox-t68-arrived/comment-page-1/#comment-515350

      • Thank you for your answer. But, sorry, maybe I didn’t explain my question correctly or I’m not fully understanding your answer. The comment you referred mentions exporting annotations to zotero and I think that’s what is confusing me. What I’d like to do is to take notes and highlights on the ereader and then copy the pdf file for my pc and be able to see them on the pdf file in the pc. Is that possible, or notes are only visible in the inkpad? Thank you again and sorry for posting the same question twice. I had already heard about the onyx t68, but I read some comments and reviews that say it has lots of bugs.

        • Sorry for the confusions.

          I just tested a PDF. I can highlight, bookmark, scribble over the text, and copy a section of the page (similar to a screenshot).

          I cannot export the notes. In particular, this is not possible:

          take notes and highlights on the ereader and then copy the pdf file for my pc and be able to see them on the pdf file in the pc

          • I understand that it’s possible to take screenshots on the InkPad. Is it possible to take a screenshot of a PDF marked up w/ handwritten notes and export the screenshot to a PC?

            BTW, does it handle PDF image files well (e.g., a chapter of a book scanned in black and white at 300 dpi)?

  19. Hi Nate, thank you for the review. You say:

    “This [firmware downgrade] fixed the problem with the Epub bug, and it added more formatting options (as well as another Epub bug).”

    Could you please specify what the Epub bug with the v4.x firmware consists of?

  20. Thank you anyway. Awesome review!

  21. This is my first ebook reader that I bought and only reason that I bought was its screen size. 6″ was too small for my technical readings as it involves a lot of diagrams and configuration stuff and the available 9″ were seem to be a bit too heavy to carry.

    This ebook has a really good resolution and the front light option makes it really a nice ebook reader to have.

    On the other hand it is very slow in terms of page turning and doing other stuff like turning pages etc. If you turn the pages a bit too quickly it would hang. secondly also if you resize the font size a little quickly it hangs too, it really sucks in that department and sometimes I would just like it to throw it in the trash.

    Its also not very good with the epubs specially if you turn the page backwards it would hang. If you want to select a text for highlighting again its a nightmare. It takes so much time to get your desired text selected and sometimes you would just leave it out of utter frustration.

    Notes taking is another department where it really lacks, it only support that feature with finger but you won’t be able to write with a finger not more than two three words because it is not precise and the font size is big. So again not a practical option.

    Initially I took all its shortcomings for granted for the reason I had no prior experience with the ebook readers so I thought maybe the technology is not that developed however recently a friend of mine who happens to posses a pocketbook Inkpad as well purchased a kobo 6″ reader and told me that the performance of kobo is way way better than this one.

    In my opinion it is priced high for its value. So I would definitel suggest NOT to buy this crap.

  22. There is new firmware. Does it improve user experience as they claim?

  23. Francesca Passsalacqua // 6 May, 2016 at 5:25 pm // Reply

    I recently purchased the Inkbook 8. I cannot figure out how to download books. The bookstore on the device is in Polish. Can you help me?

  24. Francesca Passsalacqua // 6 May, 2016 at 7:31 pm // Reply

    Kindle books are downloaded from the Amazon site. iBooks are downloaded directly from the iPad. I wanted an 8″ screen in a lighter-weight, more portable version of my Kindle DX. That’s satisfied by the Inkbook, but I cannot figure out a way to download books from my Mac to it. I tried Axis 360 to which I downloaded a book from my library, but it won’t transfer to the Inkbook.

    • iBooks: You’re out of luck. Apple has its own DRM, and it is not easy to remove.

      Kindle: You need to install the Kindle Android app on your Inkbook before you can download the ebooks.

      1. Open the app folder on your Inkbook 8.
      2. Look for the Midiapolis App Store icon, and click it.
      3. Search for the Kindle app, and install it.
      4. Log in to the Kindle app with your Amazon account.

      Now you should be able to download the ebooks.

      That should help. If not, let me know where you get stuck.

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