Able to re-flow complex PDFs and great for simply reading a book, this cut-price and ultra-light EInk screen has a month-long battery
E-readers have gone up in the ‘must-have’ category ever since airlines relaxed their rules about what you can and can’t have switched-on during taxi and take-off, but until now it’s been a straight fight between Amazon’s Kindles and the lesser-known, often cheaper Kobo e-reading devices. France’s Bookeen changes all that with this bargain device.
Although it’s selling for under £80 – half the price of the Amazon Kindle Voyage and the Kobo Aura HD devices – it looks and feels almost identical, with an edge-to-edge glass screen that gives it the look of a tablet. The look, but not the weight; at 173g this is the lightest ebook reader we’ve ever tested, while its 155x116x8mm measurements make it one of the slimmest, too. The six-inch size also makes it easy to put in a pocket – something helped by the chiselled notch taken out of one of the bottom corners. Black, red, pink and orange protective covers are also available.
Touch or push?
Another highlight is the choice of using the touchscreen to flip pages, or the hard buttons on each side of the device. Recharging is done via a microUSB slot (the battery lasts a month), there’s a microSD card slot for expanding on the device’s 4GB (though that’s 1,000 books … how long is your trip?!).
The Muse’s 758×1024 pixels give it a resolution of 213 DPI, which is HD quality but not as much as the market leaders. No matter; the screen is bright, light (there are 20 levels of brightness – perfect for reading in a darkened airline cabin) and there are plenty of choices of different fonts, sizes and layout options.
Ebooks are coped with well (though it doesn’t play nicely with the MOBI format), though the Bookeen book store – accessed via WiFi – is weak, and mostly French language (this is a Euro-centric device). However, with a free sign-up to Adobe Digital Editions, and the creation of an Adobe ID *best done on a computer or tablet, and not on the Muse, which has a very slow virtual keyboard) means you can download books from any online ebook store and drag ‘n’ drop them to the Muse. However, that does mean you need access to a computer … though a dodgy PC in a far-flung Internet Cafe would do the job. Ebooks are such tiny files.
‘PDF reflow’ mode
Perhaps the best function for voracious readers is the PDF Reflow mode, which takes complex PDFs from myriad sources and extracts the text to display like any other ebook (though retaining the font). It’s clever stuff, though a little hit and miss.
A joy to travel with
Overall the Muse FrontLight’s software isn’t quite up to scratch with the big boys, but its hardware is spot-on; preloaded with a few ebooks, this is one e-reader that’s a joy to travel with.