The Alex is much more than an e-book reader; it's also a pad-style computer courtesy of the Android OS
- Good battery life, innovative design
- Quite expensive, lack of support for Android Marketplace
The Alex doesn't have the polish or broad functionality of the iPad, and the user interface is also much less intuitive. On the other hand the Alex is smaller, lighter and has way better battery life. If the Alex were to come down somewhat in price, get PDF support and provide Android Market access, it would be far more competitive.
Price$ 475.00 (AUD)
What would you get if you crossed Google's Android operating system with Wi-Fi, an e-ink display and a touch-sensitive color display? You'd get something called Alex, an e-book reader with an unusual configuration manufactured by Spring Design.
Note: the listed price of AUD$475 is approximate. Spring Design sells the Alex for US$399.
Looking for the best eBook reader? Before you buy an Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad or Sony reader check out our eBook reader comparison guide to find out the best features you should compare.
Physically Alex is a 7.9 by 4.7 by 0.4 inch thick, 11-ounce tablet with two screens; a 6-inch monochrome eInk electronic paper display (EPD) with 800 by 600 resolution and a 3.5-inch capacitive touch, full-colour LCD screen. In use, the Alex is held in portrait mode with the large EPD above the smaller LCD display.
On the right side of the LCD is the power button and a "next page" button, while on the left side are buttons for "previous page" and "go back." Between the two screens is a synchronisation button.
This last button is clever; it enables and disables the copying of the content display from one screen to the other. For example, if you're reading an e-book, pressing the sync button duplicates the EPD contents on the LCD display, which also shows on-screen functions that include access to the other documents in the on-board library, access to the document's table of contents, bookmark creation and retrieval, access to annotations and the highlighter, font size control, dictionary access, and, rather cleverly, access to e-mail and Twitter for sharing clipped content.
But the Alex is much more than an e-book reader; it's also a pad-style computer courtesy of the Android OS. When you're not reading electronic books you can listen to music, browse photos or watch stored videos. Then, when you're connected to the Internet (the Wi-Fi 802.11b/g version is shipping now and EVDO/CDMA and HSPA/GSM will be available this year), you can download new content (from Google Books, Epub Books, The Gutenberg Project, Web Books, Feed Books or Smash Words) or browse the Web, watch YouTube videos or check your e-mail.
On the plus side, the dual display system works very well (although it is perhaps a little complex for the general consumer market) and the battery life is excellent (with Wi-Fi switched off the company claims you can read for around two weeks).
On the minus side, the Alex has some issues that really need addressing, most particularly the current lack of support for the Android Market, which means that all sorts of useful applications aren't yet available.
The dictionary also needs serious work. For example, under the entry for "settings" the third definition given is the inexplicable "(AmE) = SET (5)". Performance is also a little lacklustre (page "turns" are slow) while the "Web Grabs" feature listed on Spring's site doesn't yet exist.
There's also no support for tethering the Alex to a PC or a smartphone and no Bluetooth support, which seems silly. Finally, and most importantly, the lack of support for simple text files and PDF documents are serious oversights.
At US$399 the Alex looks expensive. It doesn't have the polish or broad functionality of the iPad, which costs just $100 more, and the Alex user interface is also much less intuitive. On the other hand the Alex is smaller, lighter and has way better battery life. If the Alex were to come down somewhat in price, get PDF support and provide Android Market access, it would be far more competitive.
That said, I like the Alex -- a clever idea and a nice design with lots of potential.
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Google Pixel XL full, in-depth smartphone review: Phones just got smarter
- 2 Sony X9300D and X8500D UHD 4K TV review
- 3 Hisense Series 7 ULED 4K UHD TV review
- 4 Moto X Force review: Leading features from a mid-range phone
- 5 Oppo F1s review: 2016 has another King of the Best Value phones
Latest News Articles
- Slump continues as tablet markets records worst quarter since 2012
- Acer puts liquid cooling in its Switch Alpha 12 tablet
- Intel's tablet adventure looking more like its netbook disaster
- Display expert: The 9.7-inch iPad Pro's color accuracy is “visually indistinguishable from perfect”
- 9.7-inch iPad Pro teardown reveals iPhone 6s Plus camera and 2GB of RAM
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- Google Pixel XL full, in-depth smartphone review: The new best Android phone
- Japan Robot, gadget and car expo slideshow
- Panasonic DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review: Best all-round TV ever?
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSenior Architect | Perl | Linux |MySQL | Infrastructure | TelecomNSW
- FTData Governance Project Manager | 6 month ContractNSW
- FTSystems Engineer - Managed Service Provider - No two days are the sameNSW
- CCADABAS Database Administrator - NV1 clearedACT
- CCAcquisition Marketing Executive - B2BNSW
- CCChange Manager - Telco projectsNSW
- CCHead of Digital (Technology Manager - Digital Transformations)NSW
- CCE-Commerce - Senior Web DeveloperNSW
- CCBusiness Analyst - Telecom ProjectNSW
- CCeCommerce Project ManagerNSW
- FTOutbound TelesalesVIC
- FTLinux Systems AdministratorNZ
- FTHands-on Service Desk Team LeadNSW
- FTCustomer Solutions Engineer | Voice | Data | TelcoNSW
- FTTechnical Support Engineer | Cloud | Automation techsNSW
- CCDigital Solutions ManagerNSW
- FTOutbound TelesalesVIC