Update: This post is based on the original firmware. Much of what I say about the software is no longer valid.
This post is a collection of first impressions. I usually post this on the day I get a device, and then post a full review a coupe weeks later. If I were you, I wouldn't decide for or against the Novel based on this post. At best, you might use this post to help you decide to wait.
I bought it at Kohl's. Someone posted a comment yesterday and said that most stores now have it in stock. At my local store, it was behind the jewelry counter.
So what do I think? I'm not happy with it, and here's why:
- touchscreen is funky
- Wifi is broken buggy
- the Novel is slow to respond to input
- you can't charge over USB
- few options in reader
- few organization options in library
Before you read further, I want to make it clear that I don't slam an ereader without good reason. Everything in this post is written based on having the Novel in front of me. I didn't say very many nice things about the Novel because I couldn't find any. I actually went into this with high hopes, and I'm disappointed. The Novel is a rather unexceptional device.
First, the Novel is rather heavy. This isn't going to be a one handed reader. It's also not easy to hold; I wish they had included a case with a strap. The back is slippery and the device is just a little too wide for me to grip the edges. For full details on the hardware, check out the product page at Pandigital.net.
The touch screen is behaving funny. I've found that I have to press and hold for it to notice my request. Then I calibrated the screen, and its behavior got stranger. Whenever I tried to use the keyboard it kept returning the wrong key. The calibration really screwed something up. I think the Novel has a serious problem here. Update: Installing the new firmware and then forcing a reboot fixed the problem.
BTW, this screen sensitivity problem isn't due to Android. I have other Android devices and they all behave about the same. This is a hardware or software problem on the Novel.
It's divided into 3 parts. The top is a bunch of shortcuts to various parts of the B&N ebookstore, the middle shows 10 ebooks from the Novel, and the bottom has app icons (like you might find on a Home screen). From what I can tell you cannot install third party apps.
Wifi is broken
The Novel can't see my Wifi network. I tried all the normal troubleshooting and nothing worked.Two other devices are on that network, so there must be something wrong with the Novel.
Update: The Novel could see other networks, so there must be some technical detail about my home network the Novel doesn't like.
The library menu is done in the same style as iBooks (and the ones iBooks copied). You can see 20 thumbnails of ebook covers at a time. You can sort by date, title, or author, but you don't have any option to display your ebooks differently (a list, for example). I have a huge collection, so this is going to be a serious problem. They do give you the option of building collections called bookshelves, but this is still piss-poor sorting options.
Response time is slow. I swipe to turn the page and see more titles and it takes a couple seconds to respond. That is unacceptable.
Do you know what bothers me the most? The fact that so many ereader companies didn't do basic research about their customer base. The person who is most likely to get an ereader is one who reads a lot. Some one who reads a lot might want to take a lot of books with them at once. You can't do that on a lot of ereaders because the library management is crap.
Speaking as someone who likes the old eReader Android app, the one on the Pandigital is deeply disappointing. You don't have any options for margin, line spacing, font, justification. Actually, I can't see that the Novel has any customization options at all (aside from font sizes and a night read option).
It has bookmarks highlighting, and you can add notes. I can't click on internal links, and the Novel doesn't appear to support the Epub table of contents. But at least it respects the margins set in the Epub file.
Page turns are slow (for an LCD). I'm also beginning to regret that the Novel doesn't have page turn buttons. The only page turn option is swipe, and you don't have the option of changing it to screen taps. Why did they do that, I wonder?
I can't find a way to see the apps on my SD card, and with out Wifi I can't try to download them. The Novel does come with a browser and other apps, but without the ability to add more I really can't recommend this tablet.
The novel fits in my old Kindle cover (sorta), so I'll be carrying it with me this week. I plan to have the full review up by Friday.