With all the buzz over the tiny LCD screen on the bottom of the Nook, I was excited to get some time with the Entourage Edge, a device that pairs a large e-ink screen with a 10-inch LCD touchscreen.
I got that chance on Monday when the company stopped by CNET with a prototype of the product, which is set to ship in February for $US490.
The goal of the Edge, the company says, is to offer a device that can replace the textbooks and notebooks carried around by typical high school students.
“We just thought here was a way to take technology and apply it to what they carry around,” said Entourage Systems Vice President Doug Atkinson. “The initial goal was to put a 30-pound [14kg]backpack in a device. I think we’ve achieved that.”
There are a lot of features to like about the 1.4kg device, although, it definitely has the look and feel of a first-generation product.
The Edge’s main selling point is, of course, the fact that it has two screens to do true work on. Unlike the Nook, which uses its colour screen only for navigating the ebook and as an on-screen keyboard, the Edge’s LCD can be used to run a variety of Android applications or to browse the Web.
The electronic ink side, meanwhile, can be used not only for reading books, but also for taking notes, using a stylus.
One of the Edge’s many neat tricks is letting you go back and forth between the two screens. In particular, one can draw a line over a diagram in an electronic-book and – assuming the graphics are actually stored in colour – see the same image in full colour on the LCD screen.
The Edge also lets users highlight or annotate text and then navigate between highlights by touching on the colour screen, using automatically created bookmarks. The device works with both ePub and PDF files and has USB ports and SD cards for moving data back and forth, as well as a built-in Wi-Fi connection. It’s also one of the first devices to sport a new chip from Marvell.
In addition to its book display abilities, the Edge also has two microphones for recording a lecture and blocking out background sounds with noise-cancellation (It doesn’t have is the ability to synchronise one’s class notes with the audio, a la Livescribe, but Atkinson said that is something that might be considered for future versions).
For all its cool features, there were a considerable amount of bugs yet to be worked out on the units I saw. Entourage still has a couple months to iron out the kinks, though.
Also, at three pounds and almost $US500, the Edge is floating up into netbook territory on both price and bulk. That, for me, raises my expectations on what the device should be able to do on the browsing and productivity front. I like the idea of a dual-screen ebook, but at that weight and price, it would have to really replace a laptop to earn its way into my already-packed carry-on.
Nonetheless, I look forward to checking out a production unit to see how much progress the company has made.