Review: Good e-Reader 13.3 E-ink tablet

 

In July 2016, goodereader.com, a Canadian blog about e-readers launched an indigogo campaign promising a large format (13.3″) Android tablet with an e-ink screen with both touch- and stylus input for $699, hoping to ship the product in September 2016.  They were working with a Chinese manufacturer, Netronix, who had been shopping this device, as well as a 6.8″ version at trade shows (e.g. http://blog.the-ebook-reader.com/2016/12/27/video-of-netronixs-13-3-inch-and-6-8-inch-e-ink-ereaders/,  http://armdevices.net/2015/06/16/netronix-13-3-e-ink-notepad-still-waiting-for-mass-production-brand-partner/) since early 2015, but apparently had not found a retail partner.

The first orders ended up shipping from goodereader.com in Vancouver in late January 2017, and I received mine in mid-February.

The tablet is about what I expected for a first generation device without strong financial or technical backing.

The screen is big, making text readable, though it would be nice if the maximum contrast were a bit higher.  The 1600×1200 resolution is decent, but given the size, not quite as good as the best 6-7″ e-readers from Kobo or Amazon.  The 13.3″ version does not have a backlight, though they now have a campaign for a 6.8″ version will.

Because of the e-ink screen, the device gets a lot of battery life without a large battery, making it very light and easy to hold on your lap.  I use it to take notes and sketch flowcharts and other technical diagrams on the train and in business meetings.

The tablet emphasizes note-taking; the home screen displays thumbnails of your notebooks and you have to select a different tab to launch other Android apps.  The home screen has room for only 12 documents, including the thumbnail for creating a new notebook.  You can drag to scroll to see the rest of your notebooks.

The Wacom digitizer works well and the pre-installed note-taking app is usable and well-designed (e.g. it accepts touch or stylus input on the drawing controls, but only stylus input in the writing area, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your hand off the screen), though it lacks the ability to re-order pages within a notebook.  It seems to store strokes, because you can erase with the side button and you don’t have to hit all the pixels to erase a whole stroke.  There is no built-in handwriting recognition, and I haven’t had time to figure out the format of the files and see if they can be fed into a 3rd party app.
Wifi works at home.  The device only supports 2.5GHz wifi, so I suspect it is 802.11b or g, not n.  Wifi does eat into the battery life, so I generally turn it off unless I’m downloading apps or books.

Moon+ Reader and ezPDF reader are pre-installed.  I’ve successfully installed and used both the Kobo and Kindle e-readers, which is nice – I use Kobo, but my wife uses Kindle – this way I can read either on a single device.  Google Play Books also works.
The microUSB port does not support USB keyboards or other devices, only file transfer.

The biggest limitations are its Android version (4.0.4) and the limited (2GB) memory

Android 4.0.4 doesn’t support the current version of Chrome, the New York Times Crossword app, or a number of other applications,   The New York Times news app installs, but crashes whenever I try to sync.  I was able to install the Dashlane password manager and its Chrome-based, but outdated, browser.  Browsing is slow, and only marginally usable (but more so than I expected on an e-ink device with its intrinsic refresh issues for apps not designed for e-ink).  Unfortunately, that version of chrome doesn’t support the latest SSL version, so I’ve found a few websites (particularly lucidchart.com which I use for technical diagrams) which won’t work.   Apart from those application-specific problems, stability seems to be decent but not perfect (and I’ve definitely had Android phones from leading manufacturers with bigger stability problems). I’m hoping that the folks at goodereader will eventually get 4.4 working, which would make a big difference.

The other big issue is memory.  The tablet has 2 GB internal, of which 1.5 GB is allocated as /sdcard, leaving only 0.5 GB for the system plus any apps which can’t be moved to the SD card.  There is a microSD slot, which supports up to 32 GB (officially not more, and I haven’t tried more), which shows up as /extsd.  Using Android settings or a 3rd party app to move applications to the SD card actually moves them to /sdcard, not to the external card.  Both internal partitions appear to be FAT format not linux ext, so you can’t get around this using symbolic links, but I did find an app called FolderMount which does essentially the same thing, allowing you to make a folder from the external SD card available on /extsd (or the system partition, if you copy the files manually).   Unfortunately, you still have to install the applications in the system partition before you can move them over, and if you don’t have enough space there, you are stuck, even if you’ve got room on /sdcard and/or /extsd.  I’m still trying to figure out if there is any way to resize the partitions to avoid this problem.

The 6.8″ version is supposed to have 4 GB internal memory, and I’ve been told that more space is available for the system.  The price is also much more reasonable, so I’m seriously thinking of ordering one just to have a single device with a backlight which can read both epub (Kobo, google books, apple) and kindle books.

Overall, I’m pleased with the tablet, despite its limitations.  If I can figure out a way around the limitings of the 0.5 GB of system space, and if goodereader eventually comes through with an update to Android 4.4, it could be great.  But for now, expect to pay a premium price for a device with limited technical support and a lot of rough edges.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Good e-Reader 13.3 E-ink tablet

  1. Thanks for the great review. I appreciate you taking the time to post it.

    Google Play Books has a feature where, when highlighting text, the highlighted text syncs to Google Drive. Can I use Google Play Books on this device and, specifically,can I use this feature?

    Like

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