This article originally appeared in issue 88 of Linux User & Developer magazine.
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CPU:Samsung AL-40 400MHz
Memory: 64MB RAM
Dimensions: 118 x 188 x 8.5mm
Pros: Lightweight, easy to handle and navigate and it offers exceptional battery life. The file format support is good, and the quality of the screen is excellent
Cons: While the control pad and button layout work well, it would have been nice to have a bigger and better-located button dedicated to page turning
The PocketBook 301+ is actually a recent update of the original model released in 2007, itself based on a popular eReader design that’s been sold by various companies. Ukrainian in origin, the original 301 was a variant on the Netronix EB-600 eReader and essentially offered the same basic spec as a very wide range of other eReaders – around seven or eight of them in total. The 301+ improves the specification in several ways, though the quality of the E Ink screen and a sizable increase in internal storage capacity (up to 512MB from 256MB) are two of the key areas here. It features second-generation Vizplex E Ink electronic paper (the same tech as adopted by Sony for its 505 among others), and boasts a resolution of 600×800 pixels on its 6-inch screen. It can cater for 16 shades of grey – which, like its size, is essentially the standard for eReaders at the moment.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a half-decent eReader first hand, your first few minutes with E Ink is quite an eye opener. It’s completely unlike the viewing experience of any normal LCD or other standard screen, and the way in which it emulates the true paper-based print reading experience is a joy to behold. The PocketBook 301+ is a prime example. The viewing angle is for all intents and purposes limitless and the fatigue we all experience with standard monitors is nonexistent. The clarity of the print is essentially second to none. It is literally like reading in print with the added bonus of being able to adjust the font size on a whim. The 301+ has next to no screen glare and is easily read in bright sunlight as a result.
The unit comes bundled with a good selection of extras and out of the box you’ll find a mini-USB to USB cable, a wall charger, SD card and protective cover among other things. The ‘Comfort’ version we reviewed actually includes a larger SD card (2GB instead of 1GB for the standard edition), a set of headphones designed to fit the nonstandard 2.5-inch audio port for music and audiobooks, a security hand-lace and a faux-leather case. The case is like a stiff book sleeve which incorporates little pockets for further SD cards and an adhesive strip to which the PocketBook can be stuck to keep it in place. We found it unnecessary to use the sticky strip, though, preferring to simply slip the 301+ in and out as we needed. The case certainly offers a good level of protection for the eReader, though it does add some bulk to the device, making it – quite fittingly – about as thick as your average paperback book.
The real beauty of the Pocketbook 301+ is the fact that at its heart runs a Linux operating system. Besides the fact that it’s easy to navigate and relatively feature-rich as a result, you’ll also find that a very wide range of eBook formats are supported. Though some of the bigger-named eReaders have some advantages over this PocketBook (such as Wi-Fi or touch-screen capabilities), you’re often limited to a few formats. In all there are 12 eBook formats supported by the PocketBook (more details of which can be found here) and this is before you consider the six or seven image and audio formats also catered for.
The 2.5GB of storage on offer is enough for all but the most obsessive bookworm, and its light weight works to its advantage since it’s easily stowed and easy to hold up for long periods. Since E Ink only uses power when the page is being turned, the battery life on offer is quite staggering. It could easily survive three weeks of regular use on a single charge and boasts a manufacturer promise of 8,000 page turns between charges.
There are a wealth of options in the eReader marketplace. Assuming you don’t need features like Wi-Fi or a touch screen (both of which can play havoc with battery life and readability if not done properly), the PocketBook 301+ is definitely worthwhile. Its ease of use, pleasing design and a high-quality E Ink screen combine to create a very solid option in a market currently being saturated with cheap and tacky alternatives.
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