Hands On With The iRex DR800SG: An E-Reader, Unchained

As more and more companies roll out more and more e-readers, it's becoming clear that this isn't really a hardware game. Sure, the iRex DR800SG is a slim, minimalist 8.1-inch e-reader, but it's the software that'll make it great.

As far as hardware goes, iRex has gone for as simple a design as they could — a smart move, considering the inconsistent, early-90s look of iRex's last effort, the massive 1000s. The DR800SG is in all ways sleek: it's thin considering its 8.1-inch screen size, and consistently so — the edges are slightly tapered, but this thing is basically a box, with almost nothing in the way of curves or tapers.

The back of the device is near-featureless black plastic, while the front is matte grey. Controls come by way of a single rocker button on the left of the screen, which gets you around the iRex's unusually complex OS without much trouble, or through a stylus (to avoid glare issues, this touchscreen is based on Wacom tablet tech behind the screen, so fingers aren't an option) which gives you finer control over the device's buttons and menus, which can sometimes be very small. The screen is beautifully contrasty and glare-free, and the hallmark screen flashes you get during page turns on e-ink have been shortened beyond anything I've ever seen before, though not by much. They're still jarring.

As Wilson noticed with the 1000s, the DR800SG's software is more complex than your average eBook reader's, relying on Windows-like menus for most functions. As far as device usability, it's nothing revolutionary, but there's one feature that just might be:

The eBook Mall, which we couldn't access right now on account of the device's European configuration, is what makes this $US400 slab of e-ink more interesting than every other $US400 slab of e-ink on the market: At launch, it'll connect with the Barnes and Noble eBook store as well as eBook libraries for awesome free borrowing, a la Sony, and a few other sources, but it's open to anyone who cares to support iRex's generously wide format choices. That's what eBook readers were always meant to be, right? Devices that read books, wherever you want to get them. [iRex]

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