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The definitive Pandigital Novel review

8558 Views 33 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  davemonfl
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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iconoclast said:
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.
thanks for the clarification. so do we know we dont have root already on it? i seem to remember that the m001 seemed to be rooted from the getgo didnt it?

is it the consensus to wait for pantech to see where they go with firmware updates before pursuing rooting and modded roms? id contribute what i can in testing and donations via paypal if there was an interest maybe from ecotox or willow or others?
Ok, something must've been out-of-whack on my system yesterday, since today adb does seem to work when the device is up and running. The bad news is they've changed a few things around from the standard android, so many of the existing tools floating around for poking at android phones aren't going to work out of the box.

The recovery images have different headers, they seem to have a different process for flashing them from the update scripts, the partition layout is different, etc. They seem to have chosen some odd wheels to reinvent. Which just might be part of why some of the "standard" android features (market comes to mind) aren't debugged and ready yet, but promised for a possible future release?

I expect it won't be long before we're seeing custom roms from those with the talent to make such things, but figuring out some of the non-standard changes in the novel might just slow that process down by a couple hours.
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Somebody said they may be rolling the black out early, which will add ATT EDGE to the turd-stack too. Not well planned, this...
order cancelled today for me, ill try a raincheck route...dont think ill pay full retail for this device until i know its rooted and roms exist
Good plan. I can see them ignoring the rainchecks too though. The recall seems to have made this thing even hotter. I have the browser down enough that I'm checking the forum (And writing this) on it.
Ok, slight adb update. When everything's running normally, no adb response. When I was poking around in the adb shell on the device yesterday, logcat was showing some errors from surfaceflinger not being able to access a particular file, etc. It seems that under certain error conditions, it kicks on usb-debugging and thus adb starts working. The firmware also seems to be labeled as an engineering/test release, so there's no telling if this behavior will be the same or not after the recall/reload/re-release cycle.

Maybe this all just means that we'll have a rooted rom available by the time the devices reach the general public.

On one hand, if the black model is out soon I'll be bummed for having jumped on this one so quickly. On the other hand, I'd rather have a white one in my hands now than none at all.
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It's kohl's... we'll trade up if the new ones are blacks. It's starting to look like the black will just be cosmetically differrent though, if no edge, and the 2gb is just a micro sd card.
Anyone pushed this thing to see how much memory it can handle? Say a 8-16gb microSD internal and a 16-32gb SD in the slot? It would be flat out amazing if we could end up with 48gb of memory, even if it would cost half of what we paid for the device.
In the NFW department...

I got FW S10_06_07_PD_INX7E_ENG_6410POP working. On a whim I installed it 3x in a row and it just worked. Speeds things up, reduces the lag and freeze up issues, wireless is working. I don't know if they changed the version posted, but it works like a charm. It may be a quality control thing, but looks to me like the recall was pointless...

I like this thing more the more I play with it. My local BN's waypoint wouldn't let me log on, but it wouldn't let my laptop log on either...
One more thing... I asked in an email to CS, and they said they would forward my request for the root/kernel/source to the "appropriate department". Others might want to ask too. Wondergeek powers active, form of ... Deluge of requests to customer service.
lawman said:
One more thing... I asked in an email to CS and they said they would forward my request for the root/kernel/source to the "appropriate department". Others might want to ask too. Wondergeek powers active, form of ... Deluge of requests to customer service.
For those of us less technical, does this translate to asking for the kernel source code? Is there anything in addition could ask for that would help? I'll tack this onto my open CS request for the definitive CPU specs.
short answer, yes. I'm using all the words I could think of because I imagine the end-viewer will be chinese...
lawman said:
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.
No offense, but a 4 out of 5? Maybe a 1 out of 5 because the hardware has potential, but as a device that you can actually use, its just terrible.
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