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Hanvon N516 review part 2

You may recall from the first part of this review that I bricked my N516 while trying to install a firmware update. I got the replacement on Friday, and I think I’ve used it enough to give a definite opinion. I’m going to discuss both the N516’s original abilities and how well iot functioned under Open Inkpot.

First I should probably list what I’m looking for in an ebook reader. For a small device (5″ to 6″), my list is rather short. I’m looking for an ereader that:

  • supports a popular format
  • can be used with one hand
  • has a sleep mode (or a very fast boot)

Note: I’m not concerned about DRM support or battery life. There are many sources of ebooks not encumbered by DRM, and as for battery life, I’d need to have a different standard for my LCD based ereaders than for my epaper ones. Better just to avoid the rule completely.

Original Firmware

When using the default firmware (v1.7), the N516 scores a 1 out of 3. It has no sleep mode, and it can’t read a popular format. In fact, it’s really not very good at reading ebooks. My unit only supported HTML, TXT, and PDF.  The HTML was completely unusable; all of the tags were ignored. The PDF was marginal (on a 5″ screen). And the txt is text.

Open Inkpot Firmware

My reading experience improved greatly after I installed OI. Open Inkpot uses FBReader as its reading software, and all of FBReader’s features were implemented: page margin, line spacing, font choice & size, justification, everything. It’s difficult to convey how many options FBreader has, but I can say that it will satisfy the pickiest user.

One of the improvements OI had over the default firmware was that you can customize the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. You have the option of adding the clock, battery meter, progress bar, and you can the height of the task bar and the spacing between it and the text.

Installation was not easy; I’m skilled at causing software failure.  But I did get it installed. Important note: the installation is reversible. If you want to go back to the default firmware, you can.

OI scored a 3 out of 3 because of the broad format support provided by FBReader and because of it has a sleep mode (hold down the OK button).

My Recommendation

I still think the Jetbook is better, but if you get the N516 then you should install Open Inkpot. It’s worth it. If it were available, I’d use the OI firmware on my Jetbook.

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Alan Jenkins February 8, 2010 um 6:50 pm

Sleep mode

Holding down the OK button doesn’t go into sleep mode; it does "lock screen". Just like a mobile phone – it stops it from responding to (short) button presses while in your pocket or whatever. I’m surprised if the original firmware lacks this feature.

The hardware *does* have a sleep mode. I have no idea what the original firmware does (although I do know it shut down automatically after an hour or so of inactivity, which was rather annoying). But I do know that OpenInkpot automatically enters a (supposedly) low power consumption "sleep mode" automatically, after some period of inactivity.

I have a linux box, and I followed the instructions to SSH into OpenInkpot. If you’ve left the device powered on and inactive for some time beforehand, and then run "dmesg", you will see the evidence in the kernel log. It shows the same lines as when you suspend a standard linux system. I haven’t bothered to find out what the timeout is though.

Alan Jenkins February 8, 2010 um 6:51 pm


I think it’s worth pointing out that the process is not strictly reversible – there’s no known way to back up the existing firmware. It’s also not clear what the official status of the "original" firmware images linked from the OpenInkpot wiki is. They’re certainly not an exact match for the firmware which was pre-installed on my device (going by the version number).

In my particular case the procedure for installing the "original" firmware images didn’t work – I’m "stuck" with OpenInkpot for some reason. I reported this but no-one has any suggestions. I’m very happy with OpenInkpot, but I wouldn’t recommend installing it unless you know it’s what you want, and you’re prepared to accept the risk that the process might not be reversible.

Jay February 9, 2010 um 6:42 am

It might be worth mentioning that is you install one of the newer daily builds you will have the option to use Coolreader as well as FBReader, even more options to play with. 🙂

Ereader Sales & Free eBooks – 2/14/2010 | Find eBook Readers Blog February 14, 2010 um 2:20 pm

[…] at $219.99.  Fry’s is also offering the Hanvon WISEreader for $149.99.  After reading Nate’s reviews of this ereader I don’t think it would be a wise choice for most users […]

Anabelee February 26, 2010 um 5:17 am

Jay, are you saying that Coolreader can be installed on a N516?

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