iRiver Story HD Review
The iriver Story HD is the third ebook reader from iriver and is the first ebook reader to tie in directly with the Google ebookstore. There's also a European model that doesn't have WiFi or Google eBooks, but is otherwise mostly the same.
This review comes about 1 week after the official release of the Story HD. It is likely that additional firmware updates will be released for it to add new features, so make sure to check the iriver Story section of the The eBook Reader Blog for the latest information and updates.
Hardware and Design
The iriver Story HD was clearly inspired by the Kindle. It is almost the exact same size and weight as the Kindle 3, and appears very similar with the full QWERTY keyboard below the screen, which includes arrows for navigating and turning pages, along with the silver 4-way nav bar, home, options, back, and enter buttons.
However, from a functionality standpoint, the Story HD is very different from the Kindle 3. It doesn't have the page-turn buttons on the sides of the screen, it doesn't have speakers or a headphone jack because audio is not supported, and it lacks advanced features, layout settings, notes, apps, etc.
In short, the Story HD is a lot more basic than the Kindle and most other ereaders on the current market, but it does bring one new feature that no other device currently offers: a higher resolution screen. Virtually all 6" ebook readers have a 800 x 600 pixel resolution screen. The iriver Story HD is the first to use a 1024 x 768 resolution 6" screen.
The higher resolution screen makes the text appear darker and more crisp. Compared to E Ink Pearl screens used on all the newer ebook readers, the difference is most noticeable with smaller text and detailed images. The background color is the same. In truth, the difference is hardly significant. A good analogy would be comparing 720p video with 1080p—you can't really tell the difference unless they are side by side.
The iriver Story HD comes with 2GB of internal memory, with about 1.4GB available, and an SD card slot for cards up to 32GB. It supports Adobe DRM for ebooks from a wide range sources other than Google as well as the following formats: EPUB, PDF, TXT, DOC, PPT, XLS, HWP, DJVU, FB2, JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, and Zip. I also got it to open a CBZ file even though that's not on the list.
Other features include a Cortex i.MX508 processor, WiFi for downloading ebooks from Google, and a built-in battery than is rated up to 6 weeks per charge, or about 14,000 page-turns.
iRiver Story HD Video Review
When first starting up the iriver Story HD, a setup Wizard guides you through the process of learning how to use the device and how to sync with a Google account for using the onboard Google ebookstore.
There's also a PDF user guide included for more details about using the Story HD. It's not obvious where to find it at first; you have to switch from the Google Library list to Recent.
The Homescreen shows a list of ebooks by title and author, with a small thumbnail of the latest read ebook. There are 5 separate lists for sorting by Google Library, Recent, Favorites, Title, and Author. In the settings menu there's an option to switch to folder view instead, which makes organizing collections and keeping track of a large number of ebooks a lot easier. You can search by title only.
When reading an ebook, you can adjust text size by 8 levels by hitting the Aa icon on the keyboard. Next to it there's a button to switch between portrait and landscape mode.
In the options menu, you can jump to a specific page, access the table of contents, which supports multiple levels, add bookmarks, view bookmarks list, and adjust text size and open the Collins English dictionary. The dictionary feature requires you to type the word into a search bar to get the definition rather than moving a cursor on-screen to a word.
Unfortunately the iriver Story HD lacks any advanced layout settings. There's no way to adjust margins, line spacing, font type, justification, or anything else. Margins are small by default so the letters go all the way to the edges. On top of that, there's no highlights, notes, or search functions within ebooks. You'd think there would be some kind of notepad application with the keyboard, but there's not. Hopefully a future firmware update will add more of these features, especially since most comparable ereaders have them.
The Google eBookstore
Google's approach to ebooks is to store them in the cloud and have them all tied to a Google account so that you can access them on any device that has a web browser, technically even the Kindle can display Google eBooks using its web browser. This requires a constant internet connection, however. With the iriver Story that is different. It downloads Google ebooks to the device so that they can be read offline, like the Android app.
The Google eBookstore is accessible from the homescreen. Opening it shows a list for the top selling ebooks, with a search bar on top, and a link to view categories. Typing on the keyboard will automatically fill the search bar. Selecting a book from the list brings up the description page. From there you can read the description of the book, download a sample, or buy it. It shows how many stars a book has, but you can't actually read the reviews.
The Google ebookstore offers a wide range of titles, including over 3 million freebies, but the store on the Story HD is stripped of most searching features. There are no sub-categories or advanced searching options to speak of. Even Google doesn't seem to think it's all that great because at the bottom of the screen it says: "Tip: For a richer browsing experience, buy ebooks for your device at http://books.google.com/ebooks". So essentially they are recommending you visit the full Google eBooks website instead.
When it comes to displaying PDF files, the iriver Story HD is below average. It works okay for re-flow and has landscape mode, but the zooming options only work in portrait mode and only offers 4 levels of zoom that doesn't zoom in very much; in effect it works more like a margin crop feature instead of zoom. Once zoomed in, you can use the arrows to scroll around the page, and once you lock the zoom in place it will remain when turning pages, but you cannot scroll unless you activate the zoom with each page.
As far as features go for PDF files, you can access the table of contents, which supports multiple levels, go to page, access the dictionary, and turn text re-flow on and off. As usual, re-flow works well enough for some text-based PDFs but is going to mess with the layout of anything using complex formatting.
On the positive side, it loads PDFs and turns pages rather quickly. I loaded up a 100MB PDF without any problem or extra delay in opening. Additionally, the higher definition screen helps make reading the smaller print on a PDF easier by making the text appear crisper and darker.
Technically the iriver Story HD has a web browser. It's not an official feature, and is rather difficult to find, but it does work to some degree. I tried downloading an ebook from Feedbooks with it but it would not work. Tapping the download link appears to work but then the download doesn't show up anywhere.
To find the web browser on the Story HD, open up the Google ebookstore and then scroll down to the bottom of the page and select "purchase history". From there, scroll down and select "Google Home". That directs to the Google.com homepage where you can enter searches.
The browser doesn't really have any features. Hitting options brings up a menu bar for forward, back, refresh, and stop. You use the silver nav bar to move around the page, selecting active hyperlinks.
The iriver Story HD comes with the latest cutting edge screen technology, but it has the feature-set of an ebook reader from yesteryear.
The best thing that iriver did was to get the name Google on their product, but that's not going to be enough when the the Nook Touch, Kobo Touch, Sony Readers, and Kindle all have more features to offer.
In short, it is a decent device with plenty of potential but it leaves much to be desired. The higher definition screen is nice, and so is having Google eBooks onboard, but that's not enough to counter the competition. Hopefully iriver will continue to develop the firmware to add to the functionality of the device. At this point it falls into the category of a good but basic ereader.
iRiver Story HD Specs
- 6-inch XGA E Ink screen
- 16 levels of grayscale
- 1024 x 768 resolution
- 800Mhz Cortex i.MX508 processor
- WiFi (802.11 b/g)
- Collins dictionary
- 2GB memory
- SD card slot for cards up to 32GB
- Battery Life: up to 6 weeks, 14,000 page-turns.
- Image formats: JPEG, BMP, PNG, and GIF
- Supported formats: Adobe DRM, EPUB, PDF, TXT, DOC, PPT, XLS, HWP, DJVU, FB2
- Dimensions: 7.5" x 5" x 0.37" (190.4 x 127.5 x 9.3mm)
- Weight: 7.3 ounces (207 grams)