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 HTC U11 phone: Full, in-depth review
- 2 Gigabyte Aero 15 corporate gaming laptop review
- 3 Huawei P10 smartphone review
- 4 Huawei P10 Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- 5 Motorola Moto G5 smartphone review
Latest News Articles
- Tech Timeline: The iPad first goes on sale
- New 9.7-inch iPad teardown reveals it's basically an original iPad Air with minor tweaks
- More iPad screen sizes unlikely to stop slump
- Samsung's Galaxy Tab S3 is like a giant Note7
- Cisco's Spark Board looks like an iPad -- and acts like one
PCW Evaluation Team
The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.
Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
- MSI GL62M 7RDX gaming laptop review
- Alcatel A3 XL phone: Full, in-depth review
- Sony X9300E 2017 TV: Full, in-depth review
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTProject CoordinatorOther
- CCCommercial & Public Marketing ManagerNSW
- FTService Desk EngineerNSW
- FTTransition Consultant - SMSF SoftwareOther
- CCIT Helpdesk Support OfficerVIC
- FTProject OfficerSA
- FTDevOps Lead / Identity Services Security LeadOther
- CCIT Partner Relationship ManagerNSW
- FT.Net DeveloperQLD
- FTCommercial Analyst (IT Contracts)Other
- FTPlatform/Technology Manager | Security & GovernanceOther
- FTSolution Architect - CloudQLD
- FTSoftware Tech Lead | C++ | Trading | Market ConnectivityOther
- FTSenior Project Manager- Cloud- AWS, Office 365- PRINCE2Other
- FTSecurity ArchitectOther
- FTCommunications Lead/ManagerACT
- FTHR Business Analyst-Performance Management/Learning ManagementOther
- FTChange ManagerNSW
- FTWindows 10 Project EngineerOther
- CCSenior Network Architect - CloudVIC
- TPFront End .NET DeveloperQLD
- FTEnterprise Transformation ArchitectOther
- FTSAP Logistics Consultant - SD/MM/LE/WMOther
- FTTech LeadOther
- CCTechnical Support - L2ACT