TopJoy Reminds Us Why Some eReaders Never See the Light of Day
When I first reported a couple weeks ago about a Chinese OEM selling off-brand ereaders on Amazon, I wondered why I had never heard of many of the devices from companies like teXet, Inves, Dfrance, Yarvik, etc.
Now that I’ve owned one for a few days, I rather wish I had remained ignorant and saved myself the $54 I spent on a truly terrible ereader.
I bought a Topjoy D30. It carries the Inves name (a store brand for the Spanish retailer El Corte Ingles) and has a 4.3″ E-ink screen and 4GB internal storage. It’s clearly a very cheaply made ereader which was sold by the maker as used or factory refurbished, and it lacks Wifi, a touchscreen, or a frontlight.
That is limited hardware, but that’s not the issue. The problem with the D30 is that the software is utter crap, and it’s running on hardware that feels like it came out of a crackerjack box.
While I have very low standards for cheap ereaders, the D30 doesn’t even meet most of my minimum requirements. This device can display an Epub ebook and you can read on it, but it looks terribleon the screen. What’s more, the sound effects from the shoddy hardware don’t add to the experience.
In terms of hardware, the D30 has a cheap plasticky feel and creaks when I grip it firmly. It had a gray front and rear with silver trim around the edges, The power button is on the upper edge, there are volume buttons on left and right edges, and below the screen you’ll find arrow keys, menu, back, and enter keys. There is no frontlight or touchscreen, but I wouldn’t expect either on such a cheap device.
It’s a very flimsy device. In fact, while I’ve been testing how flimsy it is, I’ve discovered that I can warp the D30 simply by using my hands. I also broke the screen without even trying, it is that frail.
The broken screen will preclude me from testing the audio support, which is okay by me because the software is so annoying that I wasn’t going to bother anyway.
While the D30 does have clearly labeled buttons which could fill all the basic needs for navigation, several do not fill the role implied by the symbols they carry. For example, the power button on the top edge can turn on the device or rotate the screen; it cannot put it to sleep or turn it off. The "home" button between the arrow keys is actually an enter button, and the button to the left (which carries a mystifying "()" symbol) is the back button.
Those may not be important details but they do add to the perception that Topjoy’s hardware isn’t just bottom of the barrel, but actually belongs in the bottom of a trash barrel.
That perception is born out by the reading experience, which lasted all of 2 minutes before I decided that the D30 would be of greater use as a target in skeet shooting. It would save at least one clay pigeon from meeting a tragic end.
P.S. Based on what I have seen with the D30, I would argue that you should avoid all the brands that Topjoy works with, including teXet, Inves, Dfrnce, Yarvik. Any company willing to carry crap from Topjoy must have really low standards, and I would recommend avoiding them.
Nirmala July 25, 2015 um 1:46 pm
Ayeee! When an entry level Kindle is only $79 and is sometimes on sale for much less (including right now when you can get a refurbished one for $64) why would anyone mess with something like this? I could see if it was $29, someone might be tempted, but $54 is not that much less than a Kindle.
Nate Hoffelder July 25, 2015 um 1:58 pm
I like the possibilities suggested by small screens, and the design looked great in the product photos.
Nirmala July 25, 2015 um 3:31 pm
I understand and appreciate why you would buy one, especially for reviewing purposes. Thanks for steering the rest of us away!
Isobel Carr July 25, 2015 um 1:52 pm
I still have my Bookeen OPUS, even though it basically became a brick when FictionWise closed. If anyone wants a lovely, light, ePub reader, hit me up! It even has a cover. Free to good home.
Nate Hoffelder July 25, 2015 um 1:54 pm
Is the Opus the 5″ model? I think I have one.
Jon Jermey July 25, 2015 um 5:23 pm
I bought a cheap YellowStone YSE300 e-reader ($AU40) at an electronics store, just to see what it could do. The build was fine and the battery life was OK, but the navigation was very poor and the page turn speed grossly unacceptable — unless I wanted to wait for five seconds each time, I had to hit the page turn button when I was about two paragraphs from the bottom of the page. I have owned cheap e-readers before that didn’t have this problem, so it’s not an insurmountable problem for them — just shoddy design in this case.
Nate Hoffelder July 27, 2015 um 7:47 am
Wow, I’m surprised it was so slow. I found that model online. I don’t recognize the name but the hardware has been around for nearly 4 years now under a bunch of brand names. (I think Archos even had one.)
I would have thought that the hardware was generic to the point of being cookie cutter by now. Perhaps you got a bad knockoff.