The iRiver Story HD is being promoted as the world’s first eReader to be fully integrated with Google eBookstore. This is a nice boast to be able to make – but one boast they certainly can’t make is that it’s an elegant-looking eReader. It isn’t. After spending some time with the Nook, Kindle and Kobo Touch eReaders this one is an ugly and unappealing non-contender. Some have japed that the previous version iRiver was a Kindle clone, and it seems like the designers have taken it to heart and tried to replicate the clunkiness of the first generation Kindle. Kindle, of course, has since moved on. It seems that iRiver hasn’t, at least in terms of design. The miniUSB port – not even micro – and the 38 button QWERTY keyboard, which seem to be styled on 1980s calculators don’t do it any favors. This keyboard is a blatant design flaw: there is almost no need for it on an eReader. a 38 button keyboard takes up space (aside from searching for books at eStores what do we need a keyboard for?} and destroys the aesthetics. This is underlined by the size of it: 7.49 x 5.02 x 0.37 inches. That makes it close to the thickest and widest eReader currently on the market; comfortably bigger than the 3rd Gen Kindle, which is also too big and brought down by a QWERTY keyboard. If iRiver really think we need a full keyboard, then make it touch screen and move on.
Another big mistake made is the lack of page buttons on the bezel – the iRiver Story HD requires you to flip through the pages with the arrow buttons at the base of the keyboard. Frankly, doing this is awkward and irritating.
It has decent processing power, backed by a 800MHz Freescale i.MX508, incidentally the same used in the far superior Kobo Touch, and a slightly meager 2 gigs of memory (the Kindle 3 has 4 gigs). The battery seems decent – although iRiver’s claim of lasting between 10 days and 2 weeks is pretty optimistic. On a side note: I wish these companies would stop exaggerating how long their battery will last. In my experience none of the eReader’s get more than half the promised time.
Apart from being synced with Google’s store, the other selling point of the iRiver Story HD is the HD. I must admit when I heard that an eReader would be HD it seemed like a pretty bizarre idea – it’s not as if you can watch Avatar blurays on it. It’s just a text page, why do you need it in HD? After playing around with it, I’m still slightly skeptical – the resolution (768 x 1024} seemed sharper than the Nook, Kindle or Kobo, but enough to make a big deal of it? For me, no. It’s still just a page full of words. I doubt many eReader fans will care about the subtle difference.
As mentioned above, a few weeks ago iRiver announced their partnership with Google. It’s no surprise that iRiver would want the deal, but if I were at Google I’d have advised against it – go with the Kobo or Nook. This mediocre, mid-ranged, forgettable eReader doesn’t exactly reflect a glorious light on the Big G.
Still, the way the iRiver Story HD works with Google’s eBookstore was good – it was basic, it seems like most of the functionality has been removed, but it didn’t bother me. Google’s site is nearly all text, it looks like a beginner’s website – but then that’s always been Google’s style. They have three million + books to choose from, with a simple search engine.
The iRiver Store HD isn’t bad, all in all. It has a reasonably effective interface, it has the big perk of the Google partnership – but it comes up short when compared with the Kobo Touch, the Nook and the Kindle V3. The two main selling points: Google and HD don’t come close to the draw backs, and don’t come close to making up the chasm in quality between it and those other eReaders.
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