Update: This review is based on the original firmware. Much of what I say about the software is no longer valid.
I hadn't planned on writing this post. As you might know, Pandigital had the Novel pulled from shelves on Wednesday so they could load a new firmware. Kohl's said it was a recall, so I returned my unit. I wasn't pleased with it, and I decided to wait a few weeks and see what happened.
But then a fracas occurred over my use of the word recall. A couple people made snide remarks about my credibility and veracity, and I do not feel that I can let that slide. I feel that I have to respond and justify the remarks I made in my first impressions post.
Fortunately, I ordered a Novel online Saturday night (before I knew I could get one in store). It arrived Thursday.
BTW, if you're reading this for the first time, you should probably go read my first post on the Novel.
First things first. The Novel was not designed as an ereader; it is a tablet. I cannot see any indication in the hardware design that the developers considered how someone might hold it while reading. The design screams “budget tablet”. Consider how the headphone jack, power jack, and card slots are on 3 different edges. That strikes me as a design decision based on cost, not usability. In fact, I just went through my collection, and all of my ereader have the exposed ports and slots on either the top or bottom edge.
Do you want to know another detail that screams cheap tablet? There's no USB host. That's not a big deal for an ereader, but this is actually an Android tablet and could certainly support it.
I said before that the Novel was heavy. Yes, it is heavier than any other hand-held ereader, but what I should have said was that it is deceptively heavy. It is about the size of the Nook or Kindle, so you'd think it weighs the same. But the Novel weighs more.
I also said that it wasn't a one handed ereader, and I still think that. I think you should hold the Novel in 2 hands because of the weight and the slippery back. Also, I could not reliably swipe and turn the page with my thumb when holding the Novel in my right hand.
I will admit that my concerns about the how you hold the Novel are really not that important. I have a couple tablets that I read on; most have to be held in both hands. Then again, they were not marketed as ereaders. The Novel was.
Main Menu, Library
I'm going to pass on defending my remarks on the main menu and the library. I didn't criticize the main menu because the only people who'd care would be software developers. And my only valid complaint about the library was its lack of speed.
I'm also going to pass on the apps. You can get them on other Android tablets, and I'm treating the Novel as an ereader anyway.
I made a mistake before when I compared the Novel with the old eReader Android app. The Novel doesn't use a newer version of the eReader app; it uses a Nook Android app. I say this because the Novel has the same reading abilities as the Nook. I'm still disappointed, though, because the old eReader app is better than the Nook app.
BTW, since the Novel is an android tablet, I think it's fair to compare its Nook app to other Android reading apps. Take Aldiko for instance. I've used Aldiko on the Archos 5 IT, and it is significantly more capable than the Nook app. Aldiko has the formatting support similar to what I like in the eReader.
Screen refresh & Response rate
I stand by my complaint about the response rate. This is the slowest tablet I've ever seen. Luckily, this is probably a software issue. I checked the FCC filings, and the unit they tested had a Samsung s3c6410xh-53 CPU, which runs at 533MHz (I think). That's plenty fast enough for the job – once they fix the software.
But the Novel is still slow. Do you want to know how slow? I still have the Gajah BK6001, and I compared the page turn speed of the 2 devices. The BK6001 was faster than the Novel, even though it has an E-ink screen. Now that, my dear, is slow.
It doesn't matter whether you think of the Novel as a tablet or an ereader It comes in a distant second to any other device I've used. There are better ereaders out there and there are better tablets out there.