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First Impressions: The Pocketbook 650 Ultra is a Prime Candidate for Worst eReader of 2014

620_pocketbook-ultra[1]When the Pocketbook Ultra leaked earlier this year I was thrilled to  see a device maker exploring the idea of combining an ereader with an E-ink screen with a camera which could convert images  to text. Finally, I thought, there was a ereader which could not only add notes to a file but create them from scratch – just like a tablet or smartphone.

Alas, the actual device does not come even close to meeting the expectations engendered by its price tag, nor is it capable of fulfilling all of the features listed on the product page. I’ve only had mine out of the box for a couple days now, and I deeply regret spending so much on a device that can do so little.

So what’s wrong with it?

To start, there’s the screen and frontlight. If you look at the product page you’ll see that the Pocketbook Ultra has a 6″ Carta E-ink screen with a capacitive touchscreen and frontlight.

That sounds nice, but what the product page won’t tell you is that the screen is noticeably more gray than the Carta E-ink screen on the 2013 Kindle Paperwhite. And to give you an idea of just how bad this screen is, I can also tell you that it is grayer than the 6.8″ Pearl E-ink screen on my Kobo Aura HD.

I’m not sure it’s visible in the image, but it is obvious to the naked eye. What’s more, I am not the only one to think so. I was warned about the screen, among other issues, by Chalid of (He helped me buy it after trying to talk me out of the purchase.)

pocketbook ultra 640 screen 3

It truly is bad, and that’s not the only issue. The frontlight is also a fail. it’s noticeably dimmer and fuzzier than the frontlight on either the KPW2 or the Aura HD. The consistency of the light is also noticeably uneven when compared to the white frontlights on the older ereaders.

Folks, I paid $240 for this device, and it has a screen which comes in a distant second to the screen on a $120 ereader released last year. This is simply not acceptable.

pocketbook ultra 640 frontlight 2

And then there is the software. I can’t cover all of the issues without turning this into a multi-thousand word post, so I will merely discuss the single biggest deficiency.

The Pocketbook Ultra’s most vaunted feature, its ability to take an image of text and convert it to actual text, simply does not work. Oh, it has a 5MP camera with flash, and it can take a passable image. But it cannot actually convert that image to a text file.

Here is are a couple images I took with the Pocketbook Ultra. They’re not great but if you zoom in they are legible. (If I had used the Flash they would have been somewhat more legible, but the reflection of the Flash would have been caught in the image.)

And here is the what I got out when I converted similar images  to text:

-, I cud :.‘.'-:.- uh «\ pl –lurm.Uu|h’uni-‘-.
?u–n;h -.'.a 0| 2| n Izuu Mutlnd hum

72- imnhlll .l|- mu .0-1″-un||?|‘|\ v r–ugh!
4‘ 7- in I‘. Ir n .‘ .\u-v, uh! ?nk luv“ ‘Id Lu
~ ‘ kw! ~-un:u- -n‘m,.‘ ‘. ‘Id!–Iht
‘ W14! — v-‘I .n -'- .*grJ‘y [uh . an as

y'?|PI’I u'- -r-.- 611- my sins: MI‘ um!

, 7 N ‘ az?buul cI:l";?-
J. I Lhgudnul hid ‘I|ll"|lIM‘b§ . . _

I swear to Cthulhu that is what the Ultra gave me when I was done.

Folks, I am only beginning my review of the Pocketbook Ultra, and I can tell you that the hardware design, screen quality, and software features all disappoint, leading this blogger to nominate the Pocketbook Ultra 650 for the title of Worst New ebook reader of the year.

I strongly urge you to buy something else. This ereader might be priced higher than its premium-priced competitors, but it does not even come close to matching their quality or abilities.

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Timothy Wilhoit September 21, 2014 um 6:27 pm

Lovely, that looks like an old Vizplex screen. Actually, that may be worse than a Vizplex. Condolences on your loss (of $240).

Mango September 21, 2014 um 7:11 pm

Not good. I do hope your Pocketboook InkPad 840 fares better when (if) it arrives…

William D. O’Neil September 21, 2014 um 11:32 pm

I can’t imagine why anyone would buy an 840 after this. If you’re in business it’s better to put an end to it right away before alienating all your potential customers with an egregiously bad product.

Guest September 22, 2014 um 8:37 am

That’s Pocketbook !
It’s not the first time the product page shows features which are not yet available and will not be in the far future. It’s the reason PocketBook is a NoGo for me since years ago.

Patrick Watson September 22, 2014 um 9:24 am

When the Elders Gods come to consume us all, we’ll know who to blame for summoning them…

Gnama September 22, 2014 um 9:49 am

Why can’t we have ONE good 8″ reader? smh

Gnama September 22, 2014 um 9:51 am

Well, not a kindle one of course their closed products are a No go.

Michael W. Perry September 22, 2014 um 11:33 am

When a market in a particular product is well-established, it can be challenged in two ways:

1. Something stupid, such as adding a camera and OCR to an epaper reader. If a print book is in front of me, why would I want to create a badly OCRed digital copy. I’ll read that print copy.

2. Something that breaks the mold in sensible ways. In this case, it’s the similar size of epaper readers. Every one of them I know about is designed to fit in a coat pocket and is as fragile as glass. What about those who need something larger (lawyers, those reading large-format books etc) or smaller (kids wanting an ereader small enough and rugged enough to fit in the pocket of their jeans. They’re out of luck in our current market.

Alas, no one seems to be doing #2 for epaper readers. Everyone from giant Amazon on down is created ereaders that differ in only minor ways. In the marketplace, they’re bumping into one another,

Name (required) September 23, 2014 um 11:27 am


The code number for PocketBook Ultra is 650 and not 640.
640 is the waterproof one here:
650 is Ultra, look:

To get a more reasonable result, try to OCR page image that isn’t upside down. Go ahead, switch to Documents and have a look at the document you have tried to OCR. Isn’t it upside down?

When you switch on camera, the viewfinder flips upside down, to force you to turn reader 180°. This is to prevent you from covering the camera with your finger. Our dear PocketBook programmers forgot to turn the photo you take 180° as well. So you have to turn the photo manually (just click on little icon to the left bottom of the picture and select turn picture) or put the page upside down when making picture.
If you want to get at least some results print letter page with at least 24 point font.

I know, the OCR in PockeBook is abysmal, and the upside-down photo is a serions bug, but the result isn’t as totally bad as you have presented.

Nate Hoffelder September 23, 2014 um 11:40 am

Thanks for catching the detail about the 640/650; in my defense the Ultra is listed as the 640 on Pocketbook’s retail site in France (and I had forgotten the model number for the Aqua). I thought that Pocketbook had simply changed the model number.

And I already know that my photos were not upside down; I checked before I posted. They are readable and properly oriented.

Review: Pocketbook 650 Ultra – The Digital Reader October 4, 2014 um 3:39 pm

[…] I reported last weekend in my first impressions post, this feature simply doesn’t work. The camera is very good and can take legible photos […]

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