The introduction of the Amazon Kindle has completely revolutionized the way people read and get their “hands on books”. I have been great fan of the Kindle reader from the initial release though for some unknown reason haven’t given into my temptation yet! Meanwhile the growing market for Kindle-like readers have exploded starting from the premium Sony ebook reader to almost nameless imports from China. Some of the these new devices are capable of functioning as cheap ebook readers as well as a portable media device for movies and music. The low-priced ebook readers available in Europe (or atleast Germany) include the Odys Media Book Scala and Trekstor Ebook Player. This review covers the Odys Media book Scala.
The 7 inch reader looked pleasing, felt a bit heavy in the hands but otherwise seems to have a decent to good build quality expected out of a sub 100€ product. The Media book Scala comes with a charger unit, manual, quick-start guide,USB cable and carrying case (a very handy list of accessories!)
Oh! Btw, here’s the unboxing
The Media Book Scala is a very targeted device, it does one thing only..that’s ebook reading (ofcourse there is the audio playback…but then its kind of standard on most ebook readers, thanks to the Kindle!) There are similar products available like the Archos 70b, Trekstor 7M which do a bit more! frankly I like my Ereader to be just a reading device. There is no Wi-Fi, which means no Email distraction nor the itch to check out your RSS subscriptions/Twitter updates. The device boots up directly into the library screen and shows you the available books ( 5 books come pre-loaded, nothing fancy just good old Gutenberg goodness). The Media Book Scala has 4Gb of built-in memory which means it can hold a lot! If you do put some Audiobooks in there, it might run short but the SD card slot allows expansion with card capacities upto 32 GB.
Specs in Brief
- Screen size – 17.8 cm (7″) 16:9
- Resolution – 800 x 480
- Screen type – TFT Display with LED backlighting
- Contrast – 400:1
- Brightness – 200 cd/m
- Supported file formats – Ebook: EPUB,TXT, PDF
- Music: MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, AAC
- Photo: JPG, BMP, GIF
- Supports Adobe DRM, Bookmarks, Zoom In/Out
- Internal Memory – 4 GB
- External Memory – upto 32 GB SD/MMC/SDHC
- Battery – Built-in rechargeable Li-Polymer Battery 2900 mAh
- Batterylife – Ebook reading 9 hrs, Audio 24 hrs
Usability & Design
As I’ve captioned in the Unboxing video, my first impression of the device was “its heavy”. Weighing in at about close to 900 gm the Media Book Scaleo is one of the heaviest ebook readers that I’ve come across! Although initially I did not notice any discomfort with the weight factor the more you tend to get into reading sessions the weight does become noticeable. As an average built male in my early thirties I generally have no problem carrying around a device close to almost a Kilogram, but for times where one expects to have a one-handed reading experience or better yet when one looks to fall asleep while reading the heaviness, (forgive the pun)the Media Book Scala “weighs” on one’s nerves and muscles! I’m sure the fairer sex are not going to opt in to this device based on just this disadvantage.
The power button for the unit is at the base of the device and at times a little difficult to get to when the unit is kept in its provided case. The buttons provide enough feedback when pressed, except the page turn buttons on either edges of the device. The page turn buttons somehow felt unsatisfactory when pressed and usually made some noise (depending on the location where they are pressed) that gets a bit annoying with time. The TFT backlight screen is just right for reading and allows for controlling its brightness as preferred by the reader. The device allows for both portrait and landscape use though the provided G sensor that makes this switch automatic is always off the mark and drives me nuts! As a handheld ebook reader the Media Book Scala is a well executed device. The media capabilities of the device as described on the provided information brochure and manufacturer’s website describes support for a handful of audio formats. My experience with mp3 files proved the device handled audiobooks well with resumable playback support. Although no information of video playback capabilities are advertised, the Media book Scala easily detected and played 720p mov videos on my memory card! the 800×480 TFT display does render some sharp imagery making it possible to use the device as a movie player in a pinch. The design decision to place the speaker at the rear makes it impossible to hear any audio if the device is held in the provided case. Though I would wonder why anyone would want to playback from the speaker as the provided headphone jack does the job very well. The screen viewing angles are decent and shouldn’t be a big problem for most users.
Reading on the Media Book Scala
Now coming to the most important part of the review, let me first start with the general experience of reading on the Media Book Scala. I’ve only managed to put in about an hour and a half worth of continuous reading time on the device (completely indoors) and its been quite comfortable. I’ve set the screen brightness at about 47% which seems to suit the lighting in my reading space. The buttons for the navigation are bit noisy and just don’t feel right when pressed. Page transitions are quick and smooth (exclude PDFs only epub & text files) but I did notice slight stutter occasionally. The screen is good for reading with its 800×480 resolution, it’s no retina display but I’m happy with it. The G sensor which allows for landscape or portrait reading modes is a pain and drove me crazy! I’ve just disabled the auto rotate feature and have not had any trouble with it again. File format support is not the Media Book Scala’s strong point, it supports text, PDF and epub. From my reading experience text and epub files have had no problems with scaling formatting, PDFs are an entirely different story. Complex PDFs are just simply painful on the Media Book Scala and don’t play well, large files similarly cause the device to crawl making reading impossible. Overall, if you really want to enjoy your reading experience then quit the PDFs and go with epub or text. Content display size adjustments on the device allow for comfortable reading and though as I’ve mentioned previously PDF files are always troublesome. It’s a pity though since I checked out some scientific papers (PDFs) on the reader and the (microscopy) images were really good-looking. Unlike the competing Trekstor Ebook Player the Media Book Scala has limited file format support. The three formats that the device does support are widespread support for additional formats wouldn’t hurt. From the user perspective, an application like Calibre can solve this multiple format problem easily as well as provide an iTunes like interface to manage one’s ebook collections.
The Odys Media Book Scala is a well built and functional device with a nominal price. The reading experience on the device has been decent though frequently interrupted by the inaccurate G sensor (which probably can be fixed with a firmware upgrade allowing one to switch it off completely!) and the weight of the reader. The Amazon Kindle weighs less than 250 gm and a direct competitor to Media Book Scala, the Trektsor Ebook Player comes in 400 gm lighter. At about 40€ cheaper than the Kindle reader the Odys Media Book Scala is a very capable device for the price if you can manage the weight!
- eBook Reader Central – The eReader Hub (portables.about.com)
- GrabMyBooks: A Firefox Add-On For HTML To ePub Conversions & Making Your Own eBooks (makeuseof.com)