iRiver Story Review

 

Introduction

The iRiver is a less well known ebook reader device, but it's certainly one reader that's worth considering. The iRiver Story is the origional iRiver reading device. There are several newer models that have been released since it came out which include the iRiver HD (a high res digital e-ink device) and the iRiver Cover story.

 

iriver story

 

Technical Specifications

Memory: 2GB in-built memory, Expandable up to 32GB – The memory in built into the device is enough to store eBooks, however if you want to store music too then the expandable memory is incredibly useful.

Colour Selection: White – There is not a wide range of colour options as seen in other readers however the white is clean and minimalistic and is attractive to all audiences.

Dimensions: 127 x 203.5 x 9.4 mm - The device isn't too bulky, however is bigger than some readers on the market such as the Kobo.
Weight: 284G – The device is fairly heavy, this could cause problems with the portability of the device.

Menu Languages: 15 Languages, Korean, English, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, Swedish, Czech, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), Dutch – One of the iRiver's strongest features is that the reader is designed for worldwide use, therefore there are a massive 15 languages available on the device.

Voice Recording: A feature not see on other reading devices that often, this could be extremely useful or just a gimmick, depending on the user.

Battery Life: Reading, Up to 9000 pages, Music, Up to 24 Hours, Recording, Up to 5 hours. – The battery life on the iRiver is very strong, allowing the reader to use all the features on the device without much worry about the battery going.

Screen: 6" eInk, 8 Shade grey scale display – The screen uses eInk technology, still the best around for eReaders offering no glare and the ability to read even in direct sunlight.

Supported Formats: PDF, EPUB, TXT, PPT, XLS, DOC, HWP, ZIP, PNG, MP3, WMA, OGG, - The supported formats on the iRiver are much wider than seen on some other devices and has a range of important formats supported.

Charging Time: Approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes
Additional Features: Diary, Notes

 

What's in the Box?

The packaging for the iRiver story is definitely the best I have seen out of any readers. The box is a pale beige colour and after taking the sleeve off opens like a book, which is a nice touch to the product. The first thing you see upon opening the box is another box concealed inside, this flips over as a page would in a book and behind it, still attached on to the spine to continue the 'book' effect is the getting started manual which folds out. When opening the box which is concealed on the inside there is a cardboard insert which can be slid out. This holds the device in the centre, which on first glance is a very nice looking reader. The white is nice and bright and the QWERTY keyboard looks space out enough. Once the reader is taken out of the hold, underneath there is a dip where there is the USB 2.0 cable and also a warranty. Massive positive for the iRiver and their packaging, it is very attractive and cleverly designed, in terms of accessories, the iRiver comes with the extreme basics which you would find with any other reader.

 

iRiver Story vs...

How does the iRiver compare to other readers in the market?

The iRiver's main competitor is the Kindle 3 as they both incorporate very similar features. Firstly the colour range for the Kindle 3 is slightly wider than the iRiver due to it being available in black, graphite and white. It's nice that Amazon have given their users the choice between the colours of their device. Not only this but my main concern with the iRiver is that the device overall, particularly the QWERTY keypad, will get extremely dirty after a lot of use. If this is a concern, at least with the Kindle 3 the user can choose the black or graphite, however with the iRiver there is no choice, just something to consider before actually purchasing the reader. Another similarity with the iRiver and the Kindle 3 is that they both use QWERTY keyboards to operate the device, rather than a touch screen, which most of the other readers on the market do now.

The QWERTY keyboard on the iRiver Story has the main QWERTY keyboard, with the main functions in a row above the expected keys and also has the directional keys built into the keyboard. This makes the device look very tidy and smart as there aren't buttons all over the place and it is all contained in the keyboard. Another aspect of the keyboard that is different for the iRiver Story and the Kindle 3 is the shape of the buttons, on the Kindle 3 the buttons are round, and fairly small, whereas the iRiver story's keys are square, they are slightly larger also, therefore if you have had problems with QWERTY keys being too small in the past, then the iRiver will be a better option. The reason this is so important is that tiny keys can lead to users constantly pushing the wrong keys down, meaning that searching for books and so on can be a pain and take much longer than necessary. The iRiver Story seems to have solved this problem as the change of shape is more suitable to users. I suggest trying QWERTY devices out in a store before you invest your money in them due to this problem.

The main difference between the Kindle 3 and the iRiver story is the inclusion of wireless connectivity. Amazon and the Kindle range are well known for the inclusion of Wi-Fi connectivity and the option for 3G connection, using the free whispernet service by Amazon. The iRiver Story is more of a traditional reader, therefore has not included wireless connectivity. A downside, as the iRiver has to be connected to a computer in order to transfer files on to the device, this can be limiting for users who do not use their computers a lot and the Kindle 3 may be a preference as it eliminates this problem. The iRiver story has a wider platform than the Kindle 3, supporting EPUB and PDF documents as well as documents from the Microsoft office suite. They have also promised users that in later firmware updates, more formats will be supported. It is the first reader on the market to support the OGG format (audio).

The one major area of the iRiver Story is beaten by the Kindle 3 is the user interface; due to the more extensive range of buttons on the Kindle 3 device it is much easier for the user to navigate the device with a single button push. However on the iRiver Story, changing menus, for example opening options, needs a sequence of button presses in order to access them and unfortunately the manual doesn't give the readers very clear instructions on how to do this. This has caused problems for readers and can be a pain when first using the reader. There is however a lot of support on online forums, giving users a much clearer understanding on how to access menus and options. After a lot of use the commands become second nature. The process of learning the sequences does take a fair amount of time and can be fairly tedious, it's just a case of playing around with the device in order to find out what works best within the reader.

The iRiver Story and the Sony readers have been compared a lot. Quite clearly the main difference between the two devices is that the Sony readers use a touch screen interface whereas the iRiver Story uses buttons and the QWERTY keyboard. Mainly this will be a preference for the user and may be the deciding factor, which neither of the devices can help, however the iRiver Story does offer a lot more features than the Sony and therefore this could make the difference. For comparison I will use the Sony PRS 650, the touch edition as, like the iRiver story it allows for the support of audio and does not include Wi-Fi connectivity. In terms of the MP3 player, the iRiver is more suited, this could be due to the fact that all products previously made by iRiver are music orientated, compared to Sony who seem to dabble in everything. The iRiver Story organises music sensibly by artist or album and can also support OGG and WMA files, therefore there is much more scope for the Story as a music device compared to the Sony 650 which only supports MP3. In addition to this the iRiver Story allows the user to control what is playing from the keypad, therefore changing songs doesn't interrupt reading as it does on the Sony.

In terms of display, the Sony PRS 650 also uses a 6 inch eInk screen, as is standard in the reader market at this moment in time, and I would expect has a foreseeable future in this industry. The only difference between the displays is the grey scale level, with the iRiver having 8 shades and the Sony PRS 650 giving 16. What the grey scale means is the amount of shades incorporated in the device for display, therefore the Sony has 16 different shades and the iRiver only has 8. The only times that this difference can be seen on the display is when viewing images, as the greater grey scale allows for greater detail. Other aspects of the two readers are very similar also, for example the battery life and also the inclusion of memory card slots, allowing expandable memory of up to 32GB.

The main differences between the Sony PRS 650 and the iRiver Story is the interface, as the Sony is touch screen, and the extras that iRiver have included in the Story device for example to facility to record voice or sound, and the inclusion of the diary. These are not detrimental in choosing a reader due to the fact that many other devices, phones for instance offer this to consumers, and therefore it is likely that they already have these options on a device they own. However I do feel the diary in particular is a nice touch, as it goes along with the whole theme that the reader is a book, why just be a book as in a novel when it can also act as a diary? It also gives the user an option to write stories on here as there are a lot of opportunities for everyday users to publish their work as an eBook, which could be a major benefit to some people and therefore I do like the idea of the built in diary. Not only this but the QWERTY interaction also means it is easy for users to type on the device, and the more it is used the faster and more competent they will get.

 

About the PC Software

The PC software used with the iRiver is an important feature as there is no wireless, therefore the only way to transfer books to the device and organise the library is through the PC software. However, the iRiver, fairly disappointingly, doesn't have any, there are many benefits and disadvantages to this unfortunately. For reference, the device connects to the computer just as a USB device does, although not quite as smoothly. There have been many complaints about users not being able to transfer books on to the story, and I wish that they had included a software with this device as there are a few hints and tricks needed in order to get files on to the device, these are not included in the manual though and the only way to seek help is online forums due to the iRiver support being fairly slow. If you are considering buying the iRiver then you should know before you do that to connect the device it is easier if the reader is turned on before you do, connect the device and two options will appear, this will be to charge or to make a connection, if you are transferring files then the connection option needs to be chosen else the file transfers will look as if they have worked when they haven't, and therefore when you come to read the book it won't actually open, and by this time it may be too late, for example if you have bought the device to take on holiday with you, there would be massive disappointment when your sat in the airport and your books don't actually work.

 

Supported File Formats

In terms of supported file formats the iRiver story has done very well and is amongst the top in the market supporting any EPUB and TXT files, in comparison to other readers by brands such as Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, whose devices limit the users to only storing publications bought from their own stores. This is better for users, particularly those who previously had a whole library of books on another reading device bought from another store. The iRiver allows people in this situation to easily transfer their whole library over to the iRiver Story without any restrictions. One of the strongest points for the iRiver Story is the support of music files, as although other readers have been known to support MP3, the iRiver Story also supports WMA and is the first reader on the market to support OGG audio files, meaning that the iRiver Story gives a much better support for playing music on the device. Furthermore, the reader supports PDF files alongside the inclusion of support for files created in any of the Microsoft Office programmes, for example excel, word and power point. The iRiver Story also supports graphics (JPG, GIF) as any other reader on the market now does.

 

Memory

The iRiver Sony comes with a generous 2GB in-built memory, this is enough to store hundreds of books, therefore will be sufficient for any avid reader. If the user is storing music on the reader this in built memory will be filled up very rapidly and the iRiver Story has compensated for this by incorporating SD card slots within the device, allowing memory to be expanded up to 32GB which is more than plenty for any files that need to be stored, including audio. To insert the SD cards they have to be pushed fairly far into the device which may be tricky for some users without long finger nails; however other things can be used to push the card in, just be gentle as you don't want to break it.

 

Battery Life

iRiver have given the most accurate idea of battery life that I have seen from any reader in particular. They have quoted up to 9000 pages, music up to 24 Hours and recording of up to 5 hours. The battery life on the iRiver is definitely a strong point of the device, allowing the reader to use all the features on the device without much worry about the battery going. To put these quotes into perspective, an average adult novel is around 500 pages, therefore the iRiver would allow the user to read up to 18 500 page books on a single charge. iRiver have stated that a singular full charge for the device will take 5 hours and 20 minutes, not bad bearing in mind the battery life that is given from this. As we can see from the quote given for just music use on the iRiver, playing audio files is going to cut the battery dramatically, however 24 hours of solid playback is still good and is comparable to many other devices that offer other functions as well as MP3 playback. With a mixture of using the MP3 and reading the battery will last a decent length of time, it really does depend on how the user plans to use the device. One thing that can be said for the iRiver is that it is worth investing in an adaptor so that the reader can be charged from the mains, therefore if the user is planning on using the reader every day for both music and reading, they can leave the device charging overnight just as they would a phone.

 

Screen Quality

The screen quality on the iRiver matches most of its competitors on the market by using an eInk screen. It is however, slightly behind in the technology as the iRiver uses an eInk Vizplex screen. Another reader that uses this screen is the Cybook Gen 3, however the Kindle and the Sony readers use the newer eInk pearl displays which offer a wider range of grey scale. The Vizplex has 8 shades to make up the display whereas the newer eInk pearl uses 16. There are advantages and disadvantages of both. The main advantage of having the 16 shade grey scale is that it gives a better display on graphics as it can show more detail than would be with 8 shade grey scale. Bearing this in mind, there have also been complaints that when a 16 shade grey scale shows very small fonts they can look unclear, for the simple fact that they use more than one shade, whereas the 8 shade just uses black. This isn't a major problem.

The main benefits of the iRiver Story using an eInk Vizplex screen is that rather than working with a backlight in order to be able to see what is being displayed, the screen uses contrast between black and white in order to display. The advantage of this is that the screen has the same properties of paper and can be read in direct sunlight, particularly useful if you read outside a lot or are taking the reader on holiday with you, as it means you can lie on the beach with the sun beaming on you and not have to worry about a glare on the screen. Another key advantage about eInk screens is that they conserve battery a lot, this is due to the fact that the eInk display only consumes battery when the page is refreshed, this translates to whenever a page is turned, therefore it does not use up battery when it is displaying the page, this means that no matter how slow you read, the battery will still last for the same amount of page turns.

 

Build Quality and Design

iriver story picture

The design of the iRiver Story is probably one of its strongest points. It has been compared to the Kindle models greatly in terms of design as they both include the QWERTY keyboard, however the iRiver Story does it better and looks much better than the Kindle models. There are a few reasons for this, firstly the layout of the QWERTY keypad differs from the layout of the Kindle and other QWERTY devices. The buttons on the iRiver Story are square, making them look a lot more generic and tidy. Not only this but all of the buttons on the device are incorporated into the QWERTY section, with the functions laid out just above the letters, and the navigational buttons hidden within the bottom left of the QWERTY. Thanks to the square shape of the buttons, they are not too small and the QWERTY is easily functional as the keys are well spread apart. In terms of build, the iRiver Story feels solid and well-made. The ergonomics of the product are well thought out with the sides being tapered, all bar the bottom where it is flat, containing the USB slot, headphone jack and SD card slots. This gives a ledge on the sides making the device easy for the reader to grip. It is a nice touch that the SD slots are covered, keeping them protected and also making the device look more minimalistic.

 

The Good

There are many good points to the iRiver Story. The most appraisable features on the reader are definitely the design, the music player and the supported formats. The design is very clean cut and minimalistic, with the white giving the whole reader a nice clean and simplistic finish. The QWERTY keyboard is ergonomically designed to allow the user to use it at ease without accidently hitting other buttons and the inclusion of the function keys within the same area stops the reader from looking too crowded. As is the ledge that runs around the device, making the reader easy for the user to hold when reading. The music player on the device is fairly superior to others seen on similar readers on the market, having a sophisticated organisational feature, organising the music by artist or album, rather than just a random mash of tracks that the user has to sift through. To add to this, the music can be controlled from the keyboard without having to exit a book they may be reading, meaning tracks can be skipped or paused without interrupting readers. Lastly the range of supported formats on the reader is far greater than I have seen on many others, supporting documents from all eBook stores in comparison to some readers that block files bought from other online stores. Not only this but the reader supports all files created in Microsoft Office programmes such as word, excel and power point in additional to the fairly standard PDF documents. Not only this but the iRiver is the first reader on the market to support OGG audio files.

 

The Bad

There are also some major downsides to the iRiver Story. I feel the main let downs are the user interface alongside the lack of guidance in manuals, the lack of PC software for the device and the lack of wireless connectivity within the device. As iRiver have designed the Story device to have all the functions above the keypad it has resulted in them developing a sequence of actions that the user must do to use some functions on the device, unfortunately the manual that iRiver have included doesn't do a very good job of describing these to the reader, therefore it means the user may not have to understand and look for further, luckily the online community has strong support for this which means the user can usually find more simple instructions online from other owners of the device. This interface will become much easier for the user as they become more accustomed to using the device. Another major problem with the iRiver is that it works as a mass USB when connected to a computer rather than having a computer software and library, this may be standard however it isn't as straight forward and has to be connected in a certain way for the files to transfer properly, yet another problem, however yet again this should be solved with familiarity of the device, Lastly unlike the Kindle the iRiver Story does not offer Wireless connectivity to its users, limiting the download of books to whenever they can connect to the computer. It also means there is no option for web browsing on the device. This isn't particularly a problem however it is a feature that many other readers on the market offer, perhaps with this inclusion the iRiver Story would leap far ahead of its competitors in the market without any fear of being overtaken.

The Bottom Line

The iRiver story has a good little device, particularly bearing in mind their lack of experience in this area of technology (iRiver usually produce MP3 players). Although there are some downsides to the device, they are mostly solved within time and familiarity of the product and therefore are not a massive problem with the reader. In terms of price the iRiver is at the lower end of the market at around £120, in comparison to the Sony readers being up to £220. The iRiver Story will be best suited to users who are after a traditional reader that focuses on supporting files over any other features. The lack of Wi-Fi has meant that the focus is really on the reading side of the device, which has proven successful with the iRiver Story having the widest range of supported formats on the market and also with the potential to add more to the list with future firmware updates.

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Iriver Story

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