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Pandigital Novel first impressions

June 6th, 2010 by · 24 Comments · Android, hardware reviews

Update: This post is based on the original firmware. Much of what I say about the software is no longer valid.

This post is a collection of first impressions. I usually post this on the day I get a device, and then post a full review a coupe weeks later. If I were you, I wouldn’t decide for or against the Novel based on this post. At best, you might use this post to help you decide to wait.

I bought it at Kohl’s. Someone posted a comment yesterday and said that most stores now have it in stock. At my local store, it was behind the jewelry counter.

So what do I think? I’m  not happy with it, and here’s why:

  • touchscreen is funky
  • Wifi is broken buggy
  • the Novel is slow to respond to input
  • you can’t charge over USB
  • few options in reader
  • few organization options in library

Before you read further, I want to make it clear that I don’t slam an ereader without good reason. Everything in this post is written based on having the Novel in front of me. I didn’t say very many nice things about the Novel because I couldn’t find any. I actually went into this with high hopes, and I’m disappointed. The Novel is a rather unexceptional device.

Hardware

First, the Novel is  rather heavy. This isn’t going to be a one handed reader. It’s also not easy to hold; I wish they had included a case with a strap. The back is slippery and the device is just a little too wide for me to grip the edges. For full details on the hardware, check out the product page at Pandigital.net.

The touch screen is behaving funny. I’ve found that I have to press and hold for it to notice my request. Then I calibrated the screen, and its behavior got stranger. Whenever I tried to use the keyboard it kept returning the wrong key. The calibration really screwed something up. I think the Novel has a serious problem here. Update: Installing the new firmware and then forcing a reboot fixed the problem.

BTW, this screen sensitivity problem isn’t due to Android. I have other Android devices and they all behave about the same. This is a hardware or software problem on the Novel.

Main Menu

It’s divided into 3 parts.  The top is a bunch of shortcuts to various parts of the B&N ebookstore, the middle shows 10 ebooks from the Novel, and the bottom has app icons (like you might find on a Home screen). From what I can tell you cannot install third party apps.

Wifi is broken

The Novel can’t see my Wifi network. I tried all the normal troubleshooting and nothing worked.Two other devices are on that network, so there must be something wrong with the Novel.

Update: The Novel could see other networks, so there must be some technical detail about my home network the Novel doesn’t like.

Library

The library menu is done in the same style as iBooks (and the ones iBooks copied). You can see 20 thumbnails of ebook covers at a time. You can sort by date, title, or author, but you don’t have any option to display your ebooks differently (a list, for example). I have a huge collection, so this is going to be a serious problem. They do give you the option of building collections called bookshelves, but this is still piss-poor sorting options.

Response time is slow. I swipe to turn the page and see more titles and it takes a couple seconds to respond. That is unacceptable.

Do you know what bothers me the most? The fact that so many ereader companies didn’t do basic research about their customer base. The person who is most likely to get an ereader is one who reads a lot. Some one who reads a lot might want to take a lot of books with them at once. You can’t do that on a lot of ereaders because the library management is crap.

Reading

Speaking as someone who likes the old eReader Android app, the one on the Pandigital is deeply disappointing. You don’t have any options for margin, line spacing, font, justification. Actually, I can’t see that the Novel has any customization options at all (aside from font sizes and a night read option).

It has bookmarks highlighting, and you can add notes. I can’t click on internal links, and the Novel doesn’t appear to support the Epub table of contents. But at least it respects the margins set in the Epub file.

Page turns are slow (for an LCD). I’m also beginning to regret that the Novel doesn’t have page turn buttons. The only page turn option is swipe, and you don’t have the option of changing it to screen taps. Why did they do that, I wonder?

Apps

I can’t find a way to see the apps on my SD card, and with out Wifi I can’t try to download them. The Novel does come with a browser and other apps, but without the ability to add more I really can’t recommend this tablet.

Conclusion

The novel fits in my old Kindle cover (sorta), so I’ll be carrying it with me this week. I plan to have the full review up by Friday.

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24 Comments so far ↓

  • terry fry

    It’s a shame you had problems but have you installed the latest firmware from the Pandigital website? As I have noticed in the past 2 weeks they have posted at least 4 updates. I read one reviewer that said that a lot of her problems vanished after installing the latest one. You might want to do that before finalizing your opinion. Just a suggestion….

    • Nate the great

      I downloaded the update last night, an I installed it this afternoon. the Wifi and touchscreen problems are still there.

  • Dan

    Can you figure out what version of android this is running? I am hoping its 2.0 and not 1.6.

  • ColdSun

    Hrmm now I am having serious second thoughts on buying this one. I was going to get it tomorrow, but I think I’ll hold off until after your review.

    • starr

      Go with the HP touchpad. 250 bucks and acts just like the fancy ipad. It is an e reader, too. The pandigital is a waste of money. Received one for christmas. I am stuck with it as my father thinks the company can help, but it is pretty evident that YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. Going to beg to send it back and get something USEFUL. Hah.

  • Wineaux

    Have you contacted their tech support vis-a-vis the Wi-Fi issue? As for not being able to install new apps, that is true of any Android tablet right now. Google has not opened up the Android Marketplace for non-cell phones yet. Once they do, then that issue will be corrected, but don’t slam the product for something Google is responsible for, and not Pandigital.

    It has been confirmed that the OS version is Eclair, so that should be either Ver 2.0 or 2.1 for those interested.

    Should you wait? Yes. Wait until the 9th when it goes on sale, has a Mail In Rebate (MIR), and the 30% off coupon code for Kohl’s charge card customers goes live. There are also some cash back opportunities, 2-5%, which will bring the cost for the Novel down to around $105.

    So contact Pandigital’s tech support and see what they have to say, keep checking back there for more updates as they seem to be coming hot and heavy, and let us know how all of that pans out.

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  • julian Rosenberg

    I’m on my second novel. First one seemed like it was meant to be a demo. Nothing on the bookshelfs.

    Second one is still a disappointment. I can put up with the screen if I could use download apps and change settings. I was hoping for more of a computer, like Archos, than a reader.

  • Xjnumb

    With regard to other colour tablets, I just bought the Archos 7 Home Tablet (even cheaper than the Pandigital). It uses Aldiko as a reader and for Epubs it is better than my Sony Touch with regard the ability to change font size, line spacing etc. With regard to WiFi, internet etc., it has all the facilities of an android phone. Battery life more than 7 hours. Unfortunately the current PDF readers available for Android are cumbersome.

  • ColdSun

    I haven’t had any problems with my Novel. The wireless worked even before the firmware. The screen is working fine and page turning seems fast enough. It found all my epubs on my SD automatically and added them to the library. I guess I’m one of the few that love the thing. I think if I can do some customization like adding apps it would be the ultimate cheapo tablet.

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  • PHYLLIS

    JUST BOUGHT THE NEW BOOK AND THINK IT IS JUST FINE I HAVE HAD NO PROBLEMS , THE W-FI WORKS PERFECTLY SO FAR.

  • Richard Lozier

    This is one of 6 E-readers I own, I like it. Bookeen cybook gen3 and Nook had software problems, every firmware upgrade has improved the device.

    Wi-Fi problems, do a power down and restart. (Skype) vegas11t

  • Cindy

    I picked up the “updated version” of the Novel this past Friday from Kohl’s and played around with it most of the day Saturday. This will be a gift for my 15 year old niece and I have to say I am very pleased. Easy set up and once I calibrated the touch everything ran smoothly. Easy WiFi set up and connection to the B&N bookstore is great! One touch hook up to Facebook will be a BIG plus for her. So far the only lag I found was about a 5 second lag when switching from holding the device portrait to landscape. That didn’t seem “unbearable” to me. I truly feel she will get a ton of use out of this device!

  • Tony

    I just picked my Novel up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It’s $169.99 and if you sign up for their emails on their site, they’ll email you a 20% off coupon. AND they have a $20 rebate (print on their website). It seems to work well out of the box (better than I expected).

    Here’s a question, though… On the device, it says I have version S10_07_05B_PD_INX7E_ENG_6410POP. The latest update on their website is:
    S10_07_04K _PD_INX7E_ENG_6410POP. Would the 04K actually be newer than the 05B??

    I don’t want to update it (if I actually would be doing the opposite).

    • Nate the great

      You have the newest firmware. Yours is dated July 5th, and the one online is dated July 4th.

  • Kim

    I have been trying to convert video’s to MPEG4 using ZC video converter.
    The audio and video are not in sync when I play them on my pandigital.
    Does anyone know the correct settings for video conversion?

  • Sharyn

    I love the Novel. sure it has some problems, but it was cheap ($124) and it does just what I want…read a book. the other functions work well and I have no complaints.

    I bought the Armor cover and hate it. The zipper gets caught around the corners and it is heavy. Any other covers that flip open available?

  • Kerril

    I just got my second pandigital today in the mail, I was having problems with the wifi before. This one seems to do the same thing now, it says it’s connecting then it quickly says disconnected. =( I’ve called customer support and they told me to update the software which I did, no difference though. Any one have any helpful suggestions? I really like it but I can’t do much with out the internet on it. Please help!!!

    • Nate the great

      If the update didn’t help then you either have to wait for another update or return it. I don’t see another option.

  • Barry

    I recently purschased from Kohls for my wife at Xmas and the unit simply will not respond. It powers up, however the touch screen will not respond. Very frustating and I am returning this piece of crap today!

  • kathleen ogden

    ONE question, that I cannot find the answer……the current pandigital seems to have a matching printer available, not advertised . I NEED TO KNOW IF THIS IS CORRECT, AND IF THE NEW ONE HAS THE PRINTER ALSO. please, please answer the non techie grandma’ s question. thanks KO

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