Comparison Review: Pocketbook InkPad vs Bookeen Cybook Ocean

The Pocketbook InkPad and the Bookeen Cybook Ocean are the only two 8" ereaders on the market at the moment, but in spite of having the same size screen they could not be more different.

My Ocean arrived on Friday, and I've had it for a few days now. At first I felt an initial distaste for the hardware design, but once I got past that I noticed that the Ocean was slightly faster and did a better job at displaying an Epub. But in spite of being weaker in the software dept, the InkPad is more pleasant to hold and read on.

Hardware

As I explained in my review, the InkPad has a brown shell with rounded edges and a lopsided design which enables one-handed reading. It has a black rubber pad to the right of the screen and a corresponding pad on the back which makes it easier for me to grip the InkPad.

The Ocean, on the other hand, is all sharp edges with an angled rear shell and page turn buttons placed below the screen on either side of the menu button. And when I say sharp edges; I am not exaggerating; trying to hold the Ocean by the edges is unpleasant.

Both ereaders have a microSD card slot, and they both ship with 4GB of storage. But the InkPad also has a headphone jack which supports an mp3 player and TTS.

When it comes to the screens, the InkPad has a higher resolution screen than the Ocean. The InkPad has a Pearl E-ink display with screen resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, while the Ocean has a "knockoff" epaper display from E-ink's Chinese competitor, Guangzhou OED Technologies. This screen has a resolution of 1,024 x 768, or about the same number of pixels as you would find on the Kindle Paperwhite.

Both devices have a frontlight and touchscreen. I haven't found a reason to comment on the touchscreens yet (they're fine), but I have observed that the frontlight on the InkPad has both a lower minimum setting and a brighter maximum setting (both frontlights can be turned off, of course).

When the frontlight is dialed up near the brightest setting, the screen on the Ocean looks decidedly grayer than the screen on the InkPad. The same is true for when the frontlights are turned off; the InkPad has the whiter screen.

Software

The InkPad and the Ocean each run a proprietary OS developed by their respective makers. The devices each have their quirks, and they offer very different software features.

The InkPad supports apps which add a number of functions, including a web browser, calculator, games, and Dropbox (more details here). The InkPad also supports a broader range of formats than the Ocean, including Mobi, DjvU, and DOC (more details here).

I would like to say some nice things about the Ocean, but in reality all it has going for it are the faster page turn and the formatting options for Epub files. The Ocean offers more formatting options, including ragged right and an option to bold all text, than can be found on the InkPad. On the other hand the InkPad does handle PDFs better. It's not just the higher resolution screen; the InkPad offers more options, including margin cropping and more zoom options (more details here).

The InkPad also shipped with several text to speech voices and with more dictionaries (the Ocean doesn't even have an English language dictionary). While both devices have a search function and annotation features, they're a lot easier to use on the InkPad. Adding a note to an ebook on the InkPad is only one click away, not three. Also, the InkPad offers a separate TOC-like journal for keeping your annotations (highlights, notes, and bookmarks) organized.

Conclusion

As much as I would like to say that each device has its strengths, I can't. The Ocean is in almost every way inferior to the InkPad. Just about the only point in the Ocean's favor is the Epub formatting, and that you can buy an Ocean right now from Bookeen. The InkPad is back-ordered.

If I were looking to get one or the other, I would wait to get the Inkpad.

Cybook Ocean Specs

  • CPU: 1GHz
  • RAM: 128MB
  • Display: 8" epaper display
  • Screen resolution: 1024 x 768 (160 ppi)
  • Touchscreen, frontlight
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSD card slot
  • Wifi
  • Battery: 2.1Ah, one month runtime
  • Dimensions: 150 X 196 X 7 mm
  • Weight: 300 grams
  • eBook Formats: ePub, PDF, HTML, Txt, FB2, DJVU

InkPad Specs

  • CPU: 1GHz
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Screen: 8"earl E-ink display,
  • Screen resolution: 1,600 x 1,200
  • 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

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

17 Comments

  1. TheGreatFilter1 December, 2014

    How even are the lights? Any blotching or color gradient? AFAIK this is first time we’ve seen a front-light on an 8″ reader.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder1 December, 2014

      I haven’t noticed any significant issue.

      Reply
  2. jcgarnier1 December, 2014

    Thanks for this review. What about taking notes in the inkpad ? For example I think in the Ocean you have only one line to enter a note, how many are there in the inkpad ?

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder1 December, 2014

      The InkPad only offers a single line of text. But on the upside the InkPad has a better keyboard which includes punctuation (on the main keyboard). On the Ocean, you’ll need to bring up the alternate keyboard just to enter a period.

      Reply
  3. shy2 December, 2014

    What about PDF? Does it crash a lot? (like the kindle paperwhite II, because it lacks RAM-memory)

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder2 December, 2014

      PDF doesn’t crash the InkPad, but I’m not sure I can confirm that detail with the Ocean. I only used it to read PDFs for about 10 minutes. It didn’t crash, but that might not have been long enough.

      Reply
      1. EowynCarter2 December, 2014

        I use mostly my ocean to read PDF, didnt crashed it.
        (Technical PDF, mostly text). Pdf full of images, not sure.

        Rather happy with my ocean. Does the job I bought it for.

        Reply
        1. Nate Hoffelder2 December, 2014

          Thanks.

          Reply
  4. Michael Dahan (Bookeen)3 December, 2014

    Dear Nate,

    As CEO and co-founder of Bookeen, I have been profoundly disappointed when reading your article.
    We make products for readers. If we can’t satisfy our customers, we clearly fail in our mission.

    After reading your review several times, I believe that we (as product designers) should share our vision with you and your readers and shed, I hope, a different light on our product.

    Let me first explain the design of the Ocean. Ocean has been built to be a rewritable page (you can get an idea of our vision with this video here – http://goo.gl/aKyUUX -).

    The paper page has been our inspiration and concept idea since the beginning.
    A page is thin, simple, efficient and classy. From this idea, most of the design choices went to us naturally.

    We made a flat design (edge-to-edge technology) to offer a full viewable flat area without any extra plastic casing * (see here an example of our product schematic – http://goo.gl/QuAOLo -)
    We used an aluminum body to reduce as much as possible the thickness of the product while keeping a very stiff and sturdy hand feeling.
    Sticking to our page concept, we built a tiny bezel, vertically symmetrical product with, what we call, a “narrow profile” screen.
    Unfortunately, the 8” eink screen doesn’t have a narrow profile**, it has a huge flex connector on its side which forces large bezels and asymmetric design (“one handed constraint”).
    Despite its high resolution, this panel was not fitting with our approach.

    However, we have been very careful in optimizing the optical performances of our screen. Something you may not have noticed is that we used a lower haze Anti-Glare treatment on our panel. We have chosen to use such film for a very specific reason. AG film can blur the text especially when you start to add layers on top of the ePaper panel. For Ocean, we wanted to keep the panel as clear as possible. Thus we also used glass (and not PMMA – plastic -) for our cover lens.
    In summary, proposing high resolution panels without these two options noticeably spoils your optical performances: basically you blur the text and reduce the resolution optically.

    Our design is clearly thin, sharp and square, exactly like a paper page is.

    I do accept criticism regarding this choice but I will keep defending our vision.This unique classy design makes the Ocean quite different from its competitors and certainly pushes one step further the technical limits of thinness and compactness.

    But don’t misunderstand me, comfort is also a major concern to us. To provide a softer grip, we implemented a really slim cover which perfectly envelops your Ocean. I invite you to test it, it really enriches your Ocean experience in a very unique way.

    Regarding the software, we have always been kind of zealous purists focused on core reading features. This is also why we included a new font*** particularly adapted to the digital format.

    However, you noticed major flaws that don’t fit with our standards: the lack of English dictionaries (look-up is clearly a core feature) and non optimal PDF handling.
    For the English dictionary, we are working on it and I can say, now, that we will add a well-known reference English dictionary through OTA very soon.
    Regarding PDF, this is something we must clearly optimize and rework. We will be very pleased to receive your and your readers’ feedback.

    I would like to add that Ocean proposes an impressive battery life thanks to its dedicated eReader CPU and its optimized LPDDR RAM footprint (8 to 9 weeks). On the paper, our CPU may seem pretty light but it uses a dedicated DSP to drive the ePaper Display. During a screen refresh, the full CPU bandwidth is free for page calculation. Some competitors may use entry level OEM CPU using a pure a software EPD controller. The whole system stops while refreshing a page, slowing down all page calculations. It may explain why you experienced differences in your review.

    In conclusion, we have really had a conceptual approach on Ocean. Some customers really dive in and enjoy their reading experience. (We spent a lot of time on real life testing with prototypes).
    For other people, Ocean may seem to be too radical or edgy. So I think I understand your point.

    We remain very proud of our newborn baby and invite all your readers to share with us their thoughts on our approach.

    Thank you for your passion and dedication to our industry.

    Best regards,

    Michael

    * Please note that when we released this design on Dec 2013 our competitor had only started their own design
    ** This 8inch Eink panel is based on a old 2009 design used for color screen which explains why the resolution is twice the normal resolution.
    *** Caecilia font

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder4 December, 2014

      Michael, I do see the design aesthetic in the Ocean; it is very pretty looking. I, on the other hand, was looking for a device which would be nice to hold and use. The sharp edges on the Ocean make that difficult.

      And while a case would improve that issue, my unit didn’t come with one.

      Reply
    2. Tomas7 December, 2014

      * The thickness of Cybook Ocean and Pocketbook Inkpad is pretty much the same (7mm vs 7.3mm).
      * Just like Kindle Voyage, Pocketbook Inkpad has flush-front bezel (flat, edge-to-edge)
      * The back of Inkpad is aluminium, not plastic
      * There are no sharp edges on the Inkpad
      * Inkpad is easy to hold with one hand
      * Inkpad has much better screen – original e-ink screen with 1600×1200 resolution versus your fake Chinese e-ink screen with 1024×768 resolution. Small text looks much better on a high resolution display.
      * Having to “push” 2.44 times as many pixels might slow down Inkpad a little bit but it takes no time to get used to a little slower page turns compared to getting used to low resolution “washed out” screen.
      * You can turn pages on Inkpad while holding with one hand which is not the case with Cybook Ocean
      * While your symmetrical design might look better it has worse ergonomics.
      * Inkpad also has anti-glare screen which looks great even in bright light
      * You were supposed to improve upon the traditional book with sharp hard cover edges, not make exact copy of it.
      * As far as I can see, Cybook Ocean cover covers both the front and the back of the device making it much thicker while Pocketbook has designed a cover which only covers the front of the device and does not increase the thickness so much
      * On Inkpad you can side-load your own fonts which allows you to choose a font which is most pleasing to you personally. Can you do that on Ocean?
      * You can use Dropbox to send files to Inkpad. Does Ocean offer similar functionality?
      * Not only you get loads of dictionaries on Pocketbook Inkpad but they also include almost the same number of high-quality Text-to-Speach (TTS) engines (pretty much all the EU languages are there)
      * You can install third party applications on Pocketbook Inkpad. Can you do that on Cybook Ocean?

      Reply
      1. Nate Hoffelder7 December, 2014

        Of all the good points you made, this made me LOL:

        You were supposed to improve upon the traditional book with sharp hard cover edges, not make exact copy of it.

        Reply
    3. makea25 December, 2014

      I hate it when product manufacturers are so in love with their products that they do not accept criticism, but rather defend their product and their manufacturing options despite the fact that the product is uncomfortable to hold, slow, and bad for reading in every other respect.

      Clearly the factory has put its own love of the product above what readers think and feel. Although all the design concepts might sound good in theory, in practice they are flawed, and the company simply needs to accept that.

      Trying to convince the customer that they should like the product because they are based on good concepts is ridiculous, not to mention childish and immature. If the customer doesn’t like it, that’s all that matters. There’s no way you can convince a customer YOU’RE right and he’s wrong, and should thus buy the product.

      Bookeen’s products are to expensive, and inferior to many other manufacturers, hence the poor sales. I think the company, instead of taking offense at what customers think, should listen to them WELL, and construct a product that the customer, and not just Booken, will love.

      Reply
  5. nsirago11 December, 2014

    hi,
    since I own both a Kindle Paperwhite and a Cybook Ocean
    I must write what i think about the Ocean.
    First of all I bought this device because I understood that 6″ (Kindle) aren’t sufficient if you need to read manuals or guides in pdf format. In fact Kindle it’s totally unuseful for this scope. So that i decided to buy the Booken’s one.
    Unfortunately I immediately realized that it was a really bad deal. The Ocean has a very low contrast, black are paleds respect Kindle, and the effect it’s terrible to my eyes.
    Speacking about the frontlight the comparison between Kindle and Ocean is scathing. Kindle’s frontlight is warm bright and undiform, Ocean’s one is cold and uneven, and this further worsens the readability.

    The only strong point is actually the screen area and the very good pdf reflow system, but it’s still not enough to justify the purchase.

    In summary, don’t do my mistake!!! If I could get my money back…

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder11 December, 2014

      Yep. I feel that the Ocean is merely a 6″ ereader flattened and stretched until its screen is 8″.

      Reply
  6. […] as I pointed out in my comparison review, the Pocketbook InkPad has a better screen. The size is similar but that screen is higher […]

    Reply
  7. […] I raised many of the same points in my review, although I thought that the Pocketbook InkPad was the better value. […]

    Reply

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