Augen The Book review

Overview

Augen is a small electrics company founded in Florida, normally Augen produced low price netbooks, MP3 and MP4 players however they have decided to dabble in the reader market by releasing 'The Book'. The device is mainly designed for being an e-reader although some of its features make The Book suitable as a multi-media device tablet device doubling as an ebook reader. The Augen brings to mind the Pandigital model or a much scaled down version of the Nook Color mated with the Kindle 3 body.

augen the book

Hardware and Features

The Book by Augen features a 7" color TFT screen, the resolution on the display is 800 x 430 making the reader much narrower than most readers on the market. The display allows the user to view graphics on the device in good quality, vibrant color and due to the lack of touch screen the display is not glossy and therefore there is not much reflection on the device, making ease of read better.

The Book features an adjustable brightness features which allows the reader to dull or brighten the display. This gives the user the choice to personalise the reader. The backlight means that the reader can be used in the darkness which is a benefit of using a backlit display rather than an eInk screen. The ability to dull the screen also makes the strain on the eyes less when reading for long periods of time as color screens can strain the user's eyes if they are being viewed for a long period of time.

Augen have included a range of features on the device meaning that the reader can also be used as a multi – media tablet. The inclusion of built in Wi-Fi, a web browser and the ability to support both video and audio playback the device can be used for many functions other than a reader.

The Book includes a text to speech feature which means that eBooks stored on the device can be read aloud, alongside the ability for the reader to playback audio this makes the device perfect for consumers who may be partially sighted.

With both a 2.5mm headphone jack and also built in stereo speakers there is the option for users to play music out loud or privately.

Technical Specifications

Display: 7" TFT color display, 800 x 480 pixel resolution – The color display on the reader is good quality, with a high resolution the Augen can display images to users in high quality and vibrant colors.

Memory: 2 GB internal memory, SD/MMC card slot (expandable up to 8GB), the internal memory is a fair size giving the user enough space to store a library of around 1500 books, with the added option of expandable memory the user doesn't have to worry about running out of space.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g – The built in wireless connection on the device means that the user has the ability to browse the web and download books straight to the reader.

Battery Life: Built – in Lithium ion battery, Up to 8 hours battery life – The device lasts up to 8 hours on a single charge, a fair length of time considering some of the features such as a color screen and Wi-Fi consume a lot of power.

Supported Formats: TXT, PDF, HTML, CHM, RTF, FB2, EPUB, PRC, MOBI, MP3, AAC, FLAC, WMA, JPEG, BMP, GIF, and PNG – The supported formats on the Augen show that the device can support documents, graphics, audio and video, making the device not only a reader but also a multi-media tablet.

What's in the Box?

Augen's The Book comes packaged in a simple red and black cardboard box featuring graphics of the reader and also the main features of the device on the front of the box. Once the box is opened the e-reader is displayed within plastic casing. The first thing to notice is the leather case that is included, which is surprisingly nice, especially as the reader is low cost and not even the premium products on the reader market come with a case. The case is simply black leather looking case with 'The Book' embossed in the bottom right corner. The reader is already stored in this case.

Once the case/device are removed from the box the accessories are stored underneath, The Book comes with an AC adaptor, a nice addition as normally readers do not come with an adaptor and they have to be purchased separately. There is also the USB 2.0 lead to connect the device to a computer for transferring files and a quick installation guide. On the whole the accessories that come with The Book are fairly varied; the one downside is the plastic cases on the inside of the packaging are not recyclable.

Connectivity

The Book by Augen has built in wireless connections via Wi-Fi, this is an up to date feature and makes the reader much more mobile. The Book can be connected to any Wi-Fi connection, this could be at home, via a Wi-Fi hotspot or even in some public places, and for example Starbucks give their customers the ability to access a Wi-Fi connection. This gives the user the ability to browse the web and download books straight to the device. This gives the reader a lot more freedom as The Book does not actually have to be connected to a computer in order to transfer files on to the device.

The Book does not have any official software developed to be used with the reader in order to organise files or transfer purchases. The reader is simply connected to the computer and is picked up as a mass storage device meaning it is simply a case of dragging and dropping the desired files on to the device. In terms of organising files there are two ways around the lack of software, firstly there is the process of perhaps making a separate file for each genre or author, or however the user wants to sought there books. There is also a range of freeware that can be downloaded and used with e-readers with the best software being the freeware known as Calibre which can easily be downloaded from the internet.

One of the problems reported with the connectivity on The Book is the fact that every time the device is powered off, the Wi-Fi connection is stopped and therefore when the user turns the reader back on the Wi-Fi has to be manually connected. This can be a pain for some people however it does help with the battery life on the device as people aren't going to make the effort to turn the wireless on if they are not using it and disabling connections when they are not in use, bumps the battery life of the product up significantly.

Supported File Formats

The range of supported files on the reader is impressively large with the technical specifications of the device listing TXT, PDF, HTML, CHM, RTF, FB2, EPUB, PRC, MOBI, MP3, AAC, FLAC, WMA, JPEG, BMP, GIF, WMV and MP4 meaning that The Book can support document files as well as video, audio and graphics, making the reader also function as a multi-media device, a definite benefit which also utilises the inclusion of a color screen.

The fact that The Book supports both MOBI publications and also EPUB is a major advantage as usually readers only come with one of these two options, this means that there is a much wider range of titles available for the reader as formats used by a variety of online stores can be supported on the reader. The inclusion of video is also a very new format to be seen on readers and the fact that it has been included on a lower price reader is very impressive although the playback can be quite slow and also lag a lot.

Memory

The memory on The Book is okay, the internal memory is 2GB which would be sufficient if the user was just going to store books on the reader however this would fill up very quickly if video and other media files are being stored on the device. There is a card slot on the device so that the memory can be expanded, the memory is only expandable up to 8GB which is still fairly small in comparison with media files however more than one memory card can be purchased and they can easily be swapped around when the information is needed.

Battery Life

The battery life on a color screen reader is never the strong point of the device although The Book's battery life seems to match up to other readers on the market at 6 hours. This is much lower than the battery life seen on eInk readers and this is due to the color screen. An eInk reader will only consume battery every time the page is refreshed whereas a color screen is backlit and therefore consumes battery the whole time that the device is turned on. This means that the battery life is fairly low, not only this but some of the features on The Book such as media playback and Wi-Fi run the battery flat quickly on the device.

Screen Quality

The display on The Book is fairly average with the color display being a decent resolution and therefore displaying colours vibrantly and allowing for media to be streamed on the device. Although the display is fairly strong it is not as good quality as seen on some color tablets on the market, for instance the iPad has a much higher resolution and has a much better clarity when it comes to displaying graphics and also videos.

The one problem with the screen is that The Book is actually designed to be an e-reading device however the fact that a color screen requires a backlight means that when the user is reading off the display for a long period of time the eyes can become strained. The one benefit of The Book is that the brightness of the display can be adjusted, not only will this help save battery if the brightness is reduced but it will also cause less strain on the users eyes

Build Quality and Design

augen

The build quality of The Book is fairly strong; the device is made from a solid plastic which feels strong when the reader is held. The ergonomics of the product are also a positive, for example Augen have included page turns on both sides of the device making usage easy for both left and right handed users. The Book is only available in black so there is not much choice for the user although the black looks smart and cases can be found for The Book which can allow the user to make a personal preference.

The aesthetics of the reader are okay, the overall design seems to resemble the Kindle by Amazon however this may be simply due to the inclusion of a QWERTY keyboard. The screen on the reader is much narrower than on most readers but due to the page turn buttons the reader is around the same dimensions as any other on the market. The reader looks like any basic reader and this is not a particularly bad thing, it is just what it needs to be.

Augen The Book vs.

How does The Book compare to other readers on the market?

The Book is the only reader that Augen have released (as of 2011) and therefore all its competition is with the rest of the manufacturers rather than previous generations.

Augen vs. Literati

Released around the same time as The Book was the Literati reader price wise the two readers are very similar with The Book retailing at $99 and the Literati retailing at $109, so how do they match up in terms of features?

The Book and the Literati both feature wireless connection via Wi-Fi and the ability to download books straight on to the device, eliminating any need for a computer. The Wi-Fi is used to its full capability in The Book as Augen have included a web browser within the readers device whereas the Literati can only download books and doesn't give the user the option to use the reader to browse the web, a small feature however it does give The Book a slight upper hand with the internet being such a rich source of information.

Both of the readers have a button interface and feature a full QWERTY keyboard although the Literati does not have any use for the keyboard and it seems redundant, which questions as to why it was included as it just makes the device bulkier. The QWERTY keyboard is particularly useful on The Book as it makes it quick and easy to input text to the reader making it easy to take advantage of the notes feature and to also browse the web.

The internal memory on The Book is far superior to the Literati featuring 2GB in comparison to 256MB. The Book allows the reader to store around 1500 books on the reader without the need for a memory card in comparison with the Literati that can only store a couple of hundred books. Both of the readers have built in memory card slots meaning that the user has the choice to expand the storage on the device if they feel they need to or want a larger library stored on the device.

The Book has a much larger range of supported files than the Literati and for me this is certainly the area that makes the reader a much better value than the Literati. The technical specifications for The Book lists TXT, PDF, HTML, CHM, RTF, FB2, EPUB, PRC, MOBI, MP3, AAC, FLAC, WMA, JPEG, BMP, GIF, and PNG making the reader perfect for displaying documents and also a range of media files. The Literati only supports document files and graphic files, with the supported formats for documents being much narrower than on The Book with only EPUB, TXT and PDF being supported on the Literati.

With built in speakers and headphone jack alongside The Book's ability to support audio files the device is perfect for music playback giving the user an option to listen out loud or privately. It also allows for the reader to support audio books and there is also a text to speech function on The Book which the Literati does not have. The Literati has no support for audio whatsoever and therefore this is definitely a benefit for The Book.

Augen vs. Nook Color

The main leader in the color e-reader market is the Nook Color; these models are very different in terms of cost with The Book being a much cheaper alternative than the $249 Nook. The price difference seems justified by the user interface on the device with the Nook Color having an up to date touch screen display which allows the user to interact with the device much easier. This allows for users to also make good use of the apps that can be downloaded such as Angry Birds, which require a touch screen interface.

The major benefit of buying the Nook Color over the Book is the fact that the Nook is manufactured by the bookstore Barnes and Noble, as a result of this they have a massive online store where users can choose from over 2 million titles which can be downloaded straight to the device meaning that the user is most likely going to be able to fins all the books they wish to have on their reader on one store.

The memory on the Nook Color is also another feature that is stronger than The Book, with 8 GB internal memory on the Nook Color the user can store a great range of files on the device, this is much larger than the 2GB seen on The Book, although the Nook Color does have its memory limited due to the fact that only a third of the memory is accessible for any content and the rest is reserved for purchases from Barnes and Noble only. They both have expandable memory.

In terms of features The Book is impressively similar to the Nook Color as the major price difference would normally mean a lot of features would be excluded, however it does seem that in this case Augen should have worked on quality not quantity with The Book. The firmware is not complete and this has led to a great deal of complaints due to the fact that the features on the device do not actually work very well, this is hoped to improve in future firmware updates however so far nothing has been done.

Augen vs. Cruz Reader

Another reader that has been compared to The Book a lot is the Cruz Reader, this is also a color screen display and in terms of screen quality the two devices are the same except for the fact that the Cruz Reader includes a touch screen interface on the reader, this allows the user to interact with the device easily with the added feature of an on-screen virtual keyboard and also the ability to annotate texts. The touch screen interface can be a personal preference, not only that but the touch screen can be fairly unresponsive on the Cruz Reader at times.

The two readers retail at a similar price with The Book being retailed at $99 and the Cruz Reader retailing at $119. In terms of size the Cruz reader is much more compact than The Book due to the touch screen interface which eliminates the need for a QWERTY keyboard. The memory on the Augen is significantly larger than that of the Cruz with an internal memory of 2GB compared to the Cruz's readers 256MB, there is also a 2GB memory card included with the Cruz reader however the potential storage space on The Book is much larger.

Both of the devices have Wi-Fi connectivity which means that they can both surf the web and also have files downloaded straight on to the readers, the Cruz Reader is slightly faster in terms of connectivity with web pages loading slightly faster and downloads also being more rapid than on The Book. The Book is renowned for being extremely slow when it comes to downloading files or browsing the web and requires a lot of patience from the user, if this would annoy you then the Book is not the best option as it tends to be very slow at times.

The firmware on the Cruz Reader is also fairly poor as some applications won't install and video playback can be fairly poor, taking this into consideration the reader is not the best although the reports are much more positive than those of The Book which in some cases completely slate the reader as barely any of its features work. The Cruz Reader tends to be minor problems in comparison to the mighty problems seen on The Book.

The battery life on the Cruz Reader is slightly longer than the 6 hours on The Book with the possibility of an extra 2 hours battery life however it all depends on what features are running on the reader at the time as some aspects such as video and wireless connectivity will run the battery down extremely fast, this is the case with both readers and should be considered when making the choice to buy a color screen reader.

Augen vs. Kindle 3

In comparison to an eInk reader, the Amazon Kindle is fairly comparable due to the QWERTY input in oppose to a touch screen interface. In fact on first glance, the Augen looks sort of like a Kindle 3 but with a color screen.

Hence, the main difference between The Book and the Kindle is the screen, with the Kindle having an eInk screen the display cannot handle color and is completely black and white. There are benefits of an eInk screen which the color screen does not have and also vice versa, with it all depending on how the user plans to use the reading device.

One of the main benefits of the color screen seen on The Book means that the user can browse the web and view any web pages as they would on a computer screen, the color also allows for books which require color to be read on The Book for example magazines, children's books and cookbooks. The eInk screen however is more suited to novel reading and gives the reader a much longer battery life than a color display and also the lack of a backlight means that the display does not strain the user's eyes as much; it does however mean that the reader cannot be read in the dark.

The Kindle has a much better Wi-Fi capability than The Book with the download speed being much faster and the web browser more developed, simply due to the fact that Amazon are much more experienced in this area. The Book however has a major advantage in terms of storage as the Kindle does not have expandable memory, limiting the reader to 4GB memory and with audio also being supported on the reader this memory will fill up very quickly.

The audio player on the Kindle is also superior to the audio player seen on The Book however the Kindle cannot support any media such as videos, which does mean the Kindle is for use only as a reader in oppose to The Book by Augen which can be used as a multi-media device.

The Good

One of the definite benefits of The Book by Augen is the price, at only $99 the reader is a fraction of the price of some other readers on the market. For the low price the device features an extremely large range of functions and features, more than expected of this price of reader in fact. Another positive for the Augen is the color display being fairly bright and being able to display color web pages and graphics unlike many other readers which use eInk screens.

The Bad

A major negative of The Book is how basic all of the features on the device are. This is probably due to the low cost of the device meaning that the technology that is needed to make all of the features on the device run properly are not included, by keeping costs low Augen really have limited the quality of the product. It would have been a much better option for Augen to focus on only including a few features on the device and working on these to make them good quality and effective rather than trying to cram in a whole range of features that the device clearly can't handle.

Another downside of The Book is that due to it being the only reader released on to the market by Augen, who are a fairly small company anyway, is that the customer service is fairly poor and therefore if the user does have a problem with the device then it is hard for them to get in contact with anyone to get any advice or support. There are now a few forums online which allow users to offer other people advice on The Book.

The Bottom Line

For a $99 reader, consumers cannot expect too much out of The Book by Augen, this is only to be expected however, for the price the reader came with a huge range of features, which seemed too good to be true, and unfortunately this is the case. With Augen cramming the device with features that the reader cannot deal with, the quality of the reader is severely compromised, it is said that the firmware is unfinished although there has been no talk of any updates since the product has been released and therefore I doubt there will be any further changes to the software. Even with a firmware update I doubt that The Book would be able to deal with the features that have been listed in the technical specifications simply because the hardware that the reader has is not strong enough to deal with the features. As a cheap, multi-functional reader, it's not bad for the price. But if you want a color tablet, you are better off paying a bit more for something like the Nook Color which does a great job as a multimedia tablet and ebook reader.

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