I paid about $220 for it here in Sweden which included our VAT of 25%. That makes it comparable to buying a kindle at Amazon.com and having it shipped to Sweden which would cost me about the same amount of hard earned money.
First of all the screen is simply just great. The high resolution really makes a difference. The text is very crisp and clear. IMHO the contrast is comparable or slightly better than on the E-ink Pearl readers I have seen but the increased resolution really makes all the difference. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to compare it side by side with the kindle but compared to my Cybook Opus (Vizplex) it’s great.
The page turns are very fast. It seems that the HD does a full page rendering for every page turn yet it still very fast and there is no visible ghosting afterwards. Overall it loads the books quite fast; it takes a few seconds to load a book and 1 or 2 seconds to get back to the main menu.
Navigation works fairly well. Page turns is controlled by the silvery 4-way switch in the middle, which allows for left/right/up/down navigation. I would have appreciated buttons on the side of the reader as well now you’re more or less forced to hold it in the bottom and it can be a bit difficult to turn the pages sometimes.
A nice surprise was that the Story HD handled PDFs very well. I loaded up a couple of large research papers of > 2M file size and they were rendered fast and without errors. Page turns were very quick here as well. I haven’t tried any comic book files but since they worked nicely on the Story Cover I assume they will work here as well.
The software is a 1.0 release and it does not have very many features. Still, you’re greeted with a rather nice menu screen which shows an excerpt and the progress in the book you’re currently reading. You can also see a selection of books in your library as well as a bookmarks and found words list. Inside a book you have a selection of font sizes and so on as well as a dictionary lookup function. The dictionary was a disappointment for me since you can’t mark the word you want to look up but you have to type it in with the keyboard. What’s up with that? There are also a few bugs in the software a few times the reader has gotten stuck on some sort of page turn loop, where it just kept turning pages over and over, but a press of the home button got me back to the main menu. Some Epub files also seem to be displayed incorrectly with line breaks within quotation marks not working properly.
Update: I compared my iRiver Story HD side by side with the kindle wi-fi last night and here's a few thoughts. The kindle was a major competitor for me when buying a new reader but the fact that I doesn’t support Epub has always made me hesitate. And now I’m quite satisfied that I waited for the iRiver instead. But it is still interesting to compare the two (for me at least 🙂 ).
1. The Story HDs screen is in my opinion the better of the two. The higher resolution allowed for much clearer fonts on the iRiver and images and line art looks great on the iRiver since it seems to have more levels of grey as well. Menus look much better than on the Kindle. I would say that the contrast is on par or slightly better on the Story HD than on the Kindle. The text appears blacker on the Story but the grey of the background was about the same.
2. The page turn speed of the iRiver was not as good as on the Kindle though. I didn’t time it but the kindle was slightly faster. The kindle was also somewhat faster in menus and handling overall. Especially if you compare dictionary lookup (thanks for pointing that out stesc) where the iRiver is awfully slow compared to the Kindle. Let’s just hope that this improves by firmware updates.
3. The devices are quite similar in size and apperance. The kindle seems a bit heavier and not so comfortable to hold in my opinion (without a case anyway). The keyboard keys are softer on the kindle and less audible than on the iRiver. I also found that I like the navigation switch on the iRiver better than the Kindles side buttons.
It would be interesting to hear other users experience with the Story HD, especially if somebody can find the wifi version (if it exists). Since the lack of media interest/pr from iriver it will also be very interesting to see how much effort will be put in firmware updates and development. I feel that this reader has a lot of potential and it’s a good reader of you like me want a great screen and do not care about touch/wifi/social functionality.