When Toshiba announced the DB50 ereader back in February of 2012 I never really expected to see it in the US market or to get my hands on it, but thanks to a friend who was visiting Japan last month once again I have an ereader which no one else owns.
Except it's an Android tablet, and it's running Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
The DB50 has a 7" screen and runs on a 1GHz Freescale CPU with 8GB Flash storage, It has a microSD card slot, Wifi, Bluetooth, and a speaker. Aside from the BT those specs would make this a rather ordinary budget tablet, and thanks to the iffy software a marginal one at that.
I first played with the DB50 on and off on Monday and I have gotten it to the point where it is behaves pretty much the way you would expect an Android tablet to act. It was originally programmed for the Japanese market, but after fiddling with the settings I have gotten it to work adequately well in English.
Right now I have the Amazon Appstore and 1Mobile app store installed, and while I don't have any other apps installed I would expect that they would work. But I don't think I will bother. This is an underpowered Android tablet and the performance is best described as buggy.
As an ereader I think you'd be better off with a newer Android tablet. The DB50 only natively supports Blio format and it can only buy them from Bookplace, Toshiba's Japanese language ebookstore, so it's pretty much useless for its original purpose in any place other than Japan.
I was originally going to write that if you want to read any of the less obscure formats like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo then you'll need to install apps. But it turns out you'll need to install an app to read Blio as well, and what's more it doesn't even support all the features.
That's why I think you're better off getting a better quality Android tablet which will likely cost about the same. Plus whatever tablet you buy in place of the DB50 will likely work better as an Android tablet.
But if you have one then here are a few tips on switching to English and fixing the keyboard.
How to Change the Language to English
From the home screen, click on the briefcase icon at the bottom of the screen. Click on the icon in the upper right corner. That's the standard Android icon for the settings menu.
When you're in the settings menu, look for the A. That's the language and keyboard menu. Click it, and then click the top menu option (there should be three). Select the top option from the pop up menu.
Bam. The menus should now be in English.
How to get the Qwerty Keyboard to Behave
Spend a few minutes typing on the onscreen keyboard on this tablet and you'll probably wonder why the keyboard is showing qwerty keys and yet the text coming out is Japanese characters. That is happening because this tablet was shipped in the Japanese market and comes with a Japanese keyboard app.
The next time the onscreen keyboard is visible, look at the button near the bottom left corner. It has a 1, a letter a, and a Japanese character. Press that key to select the a. That will make the keyboard act like a normal Qwerty keyboard.
Well, mostly like a keyboard I would expect. The enter key requires a double tap to skip over the suggested completions.
My third tip is a suggestion to read this post: Getting Start With an Android Tablet. It was written for tablets like the DB50.
All in all this was a fun device to play with (even though I don't think anyone should buy it).
I'm rooting about for Blio format ebooks to load on to it, and I plan to have a review up by the end of the week.
I've now had the the DB50 for a couple weeks now, and I have to say that it is disappointing. As an ereader it is completely useless to me because I don't know Japanese and it is tied to Toshiba's Bookplace ebookstore. There is no obvious way to load Blio ebooks from the main Blio ebookstore.
As a tablet it is not much more useful than as an ereader. Performance and the general quality of the software don't match the quality of the $99 budget tablets I reviewed in early and mid-2012. The DB50 feels laggy and buggy, not the polished experience I expected from Toshba.
Frankly you are better off buying another tablet. The Android OS is now several generations out of date, and the customizations that Toshiba added to turn it into an ereader simply get in the way. The CPU is now much less capable than the generic budget devices coming on the market in early 2013.
- 1GHz Freescale CPU
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread (Customized with Japanese interface)
- 7" (800x480) screen
- Storage: 8GB Flash, MicroSD card slot
- Wifi, Bluetooth