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I got my device yesterday, and have been playing with it as able. I will do a definitive review in several parts as I play with it. For now:

Conclusion: Dessert first

This thing gets a solid 4 out of 5, with serious potential to actually get better as they support and upgrade it. The accelerometer is disabled, so that isn't even a factor at this point, they intend to go up to Android 2.2 with an appmarket soon, and the ONLY thing holding it back is the GUI - it's just way, way, way too big, clunky, and flashy. I suspect Pandigital is going to strip a lot of the junk out so they can get all the hardware to work properly. This thing has at least 2x as much computing capacity as phones running android - there's no reason for it to not be way more functional

Intro: This is not an IPAD

A lot of reviewers have harped about how this thing is not as good as an IPAD. I got mine for $90, less than 20% of the cost of an IPAD. This thing doesn't have Apple's proprietary software, or its proprietary architecture/chip, which I personally consider a good thing. It also has user-upgradeable memory - I had mine go from a 1gb device to a 16 GB device with 8 GB external swappable memory within 8 minutes of owning it. A 16 GB Ipad is, what, $700? Screw that. It's also smaller than an Ipad, which is good, lighter than an IPAD, which is good, and isn't Apple which is good. If you want a ferrari, a kia ain't going to cut it. If you want an IPAD, this isn't going to cut it... yet. Remember, they released the IPAD to big hype, and we just found out it's been quietly giving away national security secrets. They released this thing, and immediately told us it was a work in progress. A device that starts good and gets worse is what we call "obsolete." A device that starts mediocre and gets better is called "adaptive." I prefer adaptive.

My bias: I will not pay for apple stuff.

I own a few Ipods, bought broken and used, which I have toyed with. I own a Zen vision M. I own a blackberry. I think Apple is an evil monopoly that guards its monopoly with closed software and architecture, and deliberately misses its pricing point to gouge people. By doing that they create entire industries of companies trying to do things better, cheaper. Hence the pandigital novel, the Apad, the M001, etc.The pandigital novel is an ereader that has the capacity to do more. Compared to the nook, kindle, and sony it is light years beyond those devices, and still much cheaper. It has full color, a touch screen, access to B&N's store, user-swappable memory, plays video, etc. It also is likely to soon be able to accept software that allows it to do much, much more.

Pandigital recalled the device because it was half-baked. This is true. The firmware on the device when I got it was abysmal. However, Pandigital is marketing this thing to people who want an ereader and are not sophisticated users - hence selling it at Kohl's, Kmart, BBY, etc. They even use double-sided tape to seal the back compartment so you can't get to the mini SD card inside without getting the tape loose. Now that they know that there is a market other than unsophisticated people looking for an ereader, I suspect they will adjust accordingly.

The build quality on this device is spectacular. It feels solid, everything fits right, it doesn't overheat with use or charging. It also has a higher resolution screen than most similar devices. The speakers are better than I would have expected. Even after getting the tape holding the back on off, the back still fits snugly enough to be hard to remove. The ports all fit firmly with their respective cords, and the memory slots are equally solid.

That's a long intro, but the bottom line is this - people need to stop comparing all of these devices to the IPAD. I can get a desktop computer that far outperforms the IPAD for the cost of an IPAD. Why don't we compare the IPAD to that? Because they're not the same. If you want to spend far more for an IPAD, and are willing to do it, do so. Otherwise, join me in ignoring the Apple fanboys and finding good tech.

4/8/11 Mod Edit: Fixed formatting. Please report any broken links or other errors. Thanks --MrsB
 

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Very clear and concise, converted to a blog great job
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Open the back, replace the 1gb micro sd card with an 8 gig ($20 from radio shack). Pop an 8gb sd card into the sd card slot ($20 from radio shack). Voila, 16gb.
 

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Part 2:

Not a total fanboy

I mentioned earlier that the GUI is clunky. Seriously clunky. I have frozen this thing up on video, on ereader, on music, and even playing with the settings. The library screen literally has wood grain imaging. There are textures in the background images. The ereader "sliding page" animation is totally pointless and uses ram. You can't necessarily close an application when you switch to another. All of this means that after a while, the thing is going to crash.

The GUI is also all-encompassing. You literally cannot get a file folder listing. I screwed around on B&N downloading some "free" "ebooks" (mostly samples and WARNING - some are pretty graphic sexual stuff. Didn't bother me, but it will bother someone...). After loading them, the gui confused the files and so several similar books -star wars ones - had the same graphic and only one would open. Meanwhile, you have to actually go into the library to see what's loaded. You can't load an app a this point, and if you could, you can't find the file to run it. Time for someone, hopefully pandigital, to root and fix that.

For some reason my work computer running XP could recognize the Novel as a generic drive, but my home computer running Vista home couldn't. Neither could load a driver specific to the device, and pandigital doesn't have one in its downloads section. Drivers would be nice...It doesn't charge over the USB port. This is stupid. 'Nuff said.

The charge port is on the left side in portrait mode. The earphone port is on the bottom in portrait mode. They're about the same size. You WILL plug the power cord into the headphone jack, and feel stupid. Prepare accordingly.

Battery life is bad. Not terrible, but bad. Worse with wi fi on. Bad. The hunt for replacement batteries and portable chargers begins...

Ereader. First and foremost this thing is an ereader. It's a lot better than any of the others out there, which doesn't say much. It's faster. It's full color with higher resolution. The touch screen is fairly responsive. But...--It only handles epub and pdf right now. WTF?--You can't actually close the ereader app, but just switch out.

--The accelerometer doesn't work, but you can switch to landscape manually. This needs to be fixed.--

I hate page turn animations. Pointless, resource hogging, and what, I need to be entertained for the .3 second it takes to change pages?--Sometimes the reader crashes, while the device has not. You can't turn the page. Sometimes you can turn BACK a page and it will fix things. Sometimes you can do nothing but switch out and open another book to get it to work. Sometimes you just have to reboot. Rebooting reboots to "off." This bothers me, and I can't think of why at the moment.

--the GUI overlay pisses me off in any application on the device.--lack of external keys to change pages is annoying.

Barnes and Noble The interface to existing BN accounts is a high point. Very easy, works without problems for the most part, though lack of access to the files themselves means similar file names get lost. I had some issues with book covers not appearing, or being mismatched. Still, BN access and use is good.

video If you work for pandigital and read this, I want you to take your right shoe off, put it on your right hand, and punch yourself in the face 4 times. The ONLY video format for this thing is mp4. Mp4? I own no mp4s. All the digital copies of movies you get when you buy the fancy two disk editions are wmv or something to that effect. I had to download a converter and go looking for mp4s. Seriously? MP4? Once I got a few mp4s and converted a few things to mp4, video was smooth. The controls are a bit rudimentary, and that accelerometer thing being absent is annoying. I was not able to get the video into landscape manually either. Mp4s?

music The music player is also somewhat rudimentary, but works reasonably well. The speakers are better than I expected, and the sound with decent headphones is pretty damn good. It supports a few formats, at least more than ONE, and I can't think of any that are missing. Even if there were a few, you can easily convert. The music player is acceptable.

wifii I've connected this thing to several networks, secure, unsecure, different types of security. No problems. I can't explain why others have had problems. Lack of 3g is par for the course - the black 2gb version may have it, but I don't miss it.

browser The browser works. That's about all I can say. Most of the links on pages are too small for me to aim at with my ham-fists, and the text is puny without a working accelerometer. It doesn't set any speed records either. Sometimes it decides to zoom in or out, and I can't really explain when or why except that it zooms when you go to input text. a + - touch for zoom shows up randomly and seems to do nothing at all. Pandigital needs to scrap this browser and add another.
 

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The Samsung Arm 11 chip that power this thing has native MP4 decoder so that is probably why the video files type are limited to that. Also many android devices only support MP4 out of the box, it's the main video file type for Android.
 

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It still makes me want to step on someone's head. It would have taken, what, an hour of coding to add another format? WMV preferably?

Also, BTW, you can't register it yet. My box didn't have a mail in card, and their website isn't updated to include it as a model so you can register online. I emailed customer service about it, but got a response entirely in chinese. I called customer service and was told they'll look into it.
 

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Very carefully... 3/4 of the back (below the slit) slides down about 1/2 cm, then you pry up on the sides and it pops off. I wiggled one side, then the other down to loosen the tape, then popped each side a little and worked it off the tape. DO NOT USE A METAL TOOL. Be careful the first time, as there is 2 sided tape, and the tabs holding it on are all plastic. I removed the tape and used krud kutter to get rid of the leftover adhesive. Still sits pretty tight.
 

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Speaking of taking the back off. I did and noticed that the battery "says" 1600mah. There's no way, it's huge and maybe two 1600mah's packed together. I get really good life out of mine too. I've gotten 3+ hours with wifi on and 5+ reading with it off.
 

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ofacto said:
The Samsung Arm 11 chip that power this thing has native MP4 decoder so that is probably why the video files type are limited to that. Also many android devices only support MP4 out of the box it's the main video file type for Android.
So does that mean it has a DSP coprocessor like the rockchip in the chinese apad android tablets? Those only support 128 mb ram so theoretically the samsung shoud be faster then the rockchip cause it has 256 mb ram and I think they both run at 600hz? anyone know for sure?

I have a v.1 apad running android 1.5 and its way faster than the novel. If its just a matter of bad software slowing novel down and this samsung chip is as fast, or faster than the rockchip, the novel will be really nice, especially when it gets support for third party apps and eventually android 2.2 The hardware on novel is much nicer and more solid, better battery life too. Just sloooow, cluuunkkkyy software....
 

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I used a formatted 8gb. Any data you leave off will not be in the device. I lost the stock book covers, photos, crap like that. Once I made sure it worked, I formatted the 1gb and used it for firmware update. DO NOT USE THE FW UPDATE FROM PANDIGITAL!! Coldsun posted an earlier firmware that preserves wifi here on the board. Use that.

I am not at all sure about the mah on the battery. Seemed too big to me too, but the thickness could be an issue. I don't know that 5hrs is all that long. Then again, it compares to my blackberry. Someone will figure out how to improve battery life, and if this thing gets as popular as it could, rapidrepair or someone will develop a plug in improvement. I'd love for someone to find a better battery and have machined a custom back. I'll keep my eyes open.
 

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while i dont have mine yet and cant speak for much from a hands on I personally feel the only way well get real functionality from this unit is via some rooting & custom rom hacking much like is being done on the m001.

While im sure pandigital will release some fixed firmware for apparent wifi probs and obvious crashes and bugs im skeptical that it will be a polished device for the price point. I figure they have some commitment to BN to support their ebooks but i cant imagine BN wants the device to outsell their own Nook (strange partnership vs say Borders). Wonder if anyone has looked at rooting the device or hacking the rom update somehow and hoping this is the route to get to a really functional android device.
 

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I've actually found it more useful as I've gotten used to it. The ereader is very good. WAAAAAAY better than any dedicated ereader out there now, except in battery life. I've adjusted a little to the browser a little too. I think BN is in the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" mode. Amazon is cheaper on many titles than BN, and the kindle hit the ground running. Besides that, Pandigital makes money whether you buy BN books, or it gets a third party kindle app and people buy from Amazon. Oh, and I'm told Borders is working on an ebook too. Borders' Kobo eReader available for pre-order, ships June 17th -- Engadget Gonna get ROLLED by the novel, but still...

I imagine BN realizes the nook is underpowered, underfeatured, overpriced, and compares poorly to both the kindle and the Ipad. The Novel creates its own niche. I expect pandigital will do a lot of fixing - they have been VERY, VERY conscientious and responsive so far, and they have another related device greenlighted in just a few weeks. They have to dump time and resources into this thing now, or they will have tons of problems releasing the black later.

I haven't coded in a decade and a half, but am considering it. I haven't thought to ask pandigital for their source code or kernel, but was sort of hoping someone more skilled than me would start the rolling of that ball...
 

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yea i see where you are coming from with the BN 'alliance'. i did read about Border disaster of a device also...

maybe youre right and pandigital will evolve these devices some more with updates. anyone try to connect it to usb and use adb on it ADB - Android Wiki and see if they can talk to it from a pc?

anyone dare flashing a g1 or other arm11 based firmware on the device yet? seems like our options are a bit more open since we can return them locally if we fry them especially now with the 'recall'. im tempted to load the sdk with emulator to mess around some but im definately not versed in rooting and hacking android. hoping one of the eken m001 rommers jumps the wagon here.
 

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It's an open-topped wagon. They can get it while it's moving.

I haven't toyed with it yet because it's doing what I wanted it for. At some point I might. The other thing is that I haven't done much with connecting it because I can't find drivers for it, and the last thing I want to do is mess up the ability to connect it to a computer before I get the ability to connect it to a computer.

Pandigital HAS to evolve these things. That, or they just wasted a lot of money on development, design, distribution, then a recall....
 

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jamesd1343 said:
yea i see where you are coming from with the BN 'alliance'. i did read about Border disaster of a device also...

maybe youre right and pandigital will evolve these devices some more with updates. anyone try to connect it to usb and use adb on it ADB - Android Wiki and see if they can talk to it from a pc?

anyone dare flashing a g1 or other arm11 based firmware on the device yet? seems like our options are a bit more open since we can return them locally if we fry them especially now with the 'recall'. im tempted to load the sdk with emulator to mess around some but im definately not versed in rooting and hacking android. hoping one of the eken m001 rommers jumps the wagon here.
When it's booted normally adb won't see it. If you catch it in recovery mode adb will acknowledge it, but in recovery mode you'll only have a limited subset of the adb commands (e.g. no shell).

The firmware upgrade process checks the digital signature on the new firmware before flashing it, so you won't get it to load an alternate firmware without rooting it first. Once it's been rooted, the possibilities are wide open.
 
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