The iRex may be the best E-Ink-based Reader so far
Posted September 23, 2009on:
Brad Stone gets the goods on the upcoming iRex e-reader, the cleverly named DR800SG. The Philips spin-off announced today that the $399 reader would go on sale at Best Buy nationwide next month. You’ll be able to buy e-books at Barnes & Noble via Verizon’s high-speed cellular network for the thing, which has an 8.1-inch screen.
I first saw the iRex, a stylus-based e-reader that relies on E-Ink, three months ago and think that it may well offer the best value proposition in its class. (The company has promised to send me one to review.) From what I saw, the interface was clear and responsive, the screen size was just right—smaller than Amazon’s clunky DX but bigger than its standard bearer—and it handles virtually any open format, including ePub. I thought it did a better job than Sony’s fleet of e-readers and is positioned more competitively: Sony’s upcoming wireless reader is an inch smaller at the same price.
Of course, no one (except perhaps graphic artists) like a stylus. And I think buying a b/w E-Ink device is a mistake at this point, what with Apple’s Tablet Rasa pending and a flurry of color-based Readers headed this way from the likes of Pixel Qi and so on. But if you’re desperate for a book-reading device, this may well be the best to date.
Still, iRex has got it going on and I like their approach. The most intriguing bit of hardware under the hood is Qualcomm’s Gobi chip set, a radio that allows it to work seamlessly overseas. While the international reach isn’t surprising—this model is actually based on a popular iRex SKU in Europe—the relationship with Qualcomm is very significant. Qualcomm has major designs on the burgeoning third-screen market and is looking for partners who will not only use Gobi, but its Snapdragon processors and FLO distribution channels as well. Likewise, the company is rapidly working on its own color technology, which CEO Kevin Hamilton told me could be ready by next year. This is definitely a company to watch.