Libre Air eBook Reader

Overview

The Libre Air has recently been released, with built in Wi-Fi the Libre Air is in keeping with current technologies, allowing the reader to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots at home or out and about. Unlike many other readers on the market the display is a reflective LCD screen, which offers a paper like experience without the need for a backlight, meaning that the display does not consume a lot of battery life and does not catch a glare, meaning it can be read even in direct sunlight. An extra perk to the Libre Air is that the device comes ready loaded with 100 free eBooks to get the user started on the device straight out of the box

Hardware and Features

libre air ebook reader

The device is very different in appearance to other readers that are on the market, the screen has a 5 inch display, slightly smaller than some readers on the market, the Kindle 3 and the Nook for example have 6 inch screens. The device is operated by button commands, featuring numbers, page turning keys and also a navigational pad. The device is fairly small meaning it is portable. The main features of the device are very impressive, especially considering the low cost of the device.
The LCD display means that there is no glare on the screen, allowing the reader to use the device even in direct sunlight. The text is displayed crisply and clearly making eBooks easy for the user to read. One of the lightest readers on the market the Libre Air is easily transportable and comfortable for users to hold for a long period of time. The battery life allows reading for up to two weeks on a single charge making the Libre Air reliable for its users. The built in Wi-Fi connectivity means that users can download eBooks on the move, without the need to connect the device to a computer.

The page turns are instant and unflashy, meaning that the user has a smooth read and does not get distracted from their text by flashy page turns. The Libre Air is supported by Kobo and therefore has access to the online Kobo store, meaning thousands of books are available to the user.  There is MP3 support so that the user can listen to background music whilst they are reading, a feature that is especially handy when reading in public places as it blocks out any noise that may distract the user from what they are reading. Local library support means that the Libre Air allows users to lend books from their local library and view them on their reader, meaning the user may not have to ever pay for a book as they can just lend when they please. The page turns can be timed and automatically changed, making the reader a great companion for users who may be at the gym or need hands free. The Libre Air also has a the feature of expandable memory by having in-built SD slots, allowing readers to buy an SD card for their device and expand the memory, this make sure that there is enough space on the device to save all the music and document files that the user wishes to have access to on their device.

Specifications

Display –5" (12.7 cm) monochrome TFT LCD, allows the Libre Air to be read in direct sunlight, this style of screen can however have some problems if it is not in direct light. The screen is still not backlit, and therefore there is no glare, however the style of the screen means that direct light is needed to the screen being reflective.

Weight – 6oz (170g)

Storage – Internal memory NAND 512MB, extended memory microSD memory slot. Expandable up to 32GB, the Libre Air has a huge capacity meaning the user can store all the files they need to, whether it is music or documents.

Battery Life – Quoted up to 2 weeks with Wi-Fi disabled, enabled the battery life of the device drops significantly, only lasting around 3-4 days.

Wi-Fi Connectivity - Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots.
Audio - 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, Allowing headphones to be used in order to listen to music whilst reading, this is particularly useful when reading in public as it may block out and disturbance noise.

Supported Formats - eBook formats: PDF, TXT, FB2, EPUB, MOBI, PRC, RTF, Picture format: JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG, Music format: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, and OGG. This is a good range of formats allowing the reader to cope with all the files that the user needs, this is particularly strong support in terms of audio files.

Included Accessories – 2.0 USB Cable, Adaptor to allow the device to be charged from the mains, headphones, a pouch to carry the device, a hand strap, quick start guide and a warranty/registration card.

What's in the Box?

The Libre Air comes packaged in a cardboard box featuring a plastic window so that the reader can be seen by the user before being removed from the box. When the box is opened a plastic is layer is pulled out with the reader being contained within this. To the left of the reader there is a dip where some accessories are kept. Within this tray is the USB 2.0 connection that will connect the device to the computer in order to transfer files on to the reader. There is also an AC adaptor to plug the USB into meaning that the device can be charged from the mains, this is a benefit which other readers on the market do not provide, it is especially handy for people who travel a lot, as it means that the device does not ever need to be connected to a computer as it can be charged from a mains outlet and the Wi-Fi means that content can be downloaded on the device. Once the reader is taken out there is a carrying pouch found underneath to put the reader in, making it easy to transport with no worry of damaging the product. There is also headphones meaning that the Libre Air is all set up and ready to go. The hand strap and the Warranty/Manuals are also stored under the reader. The great thing about the Libre Air is that the device comes with anything that you could possibly need to run it and the user can get started with the reader straight away, particularly due to the fact that the reader comes ready loaded with some classic reads.

Connectivity 

Once the reader is connected to the computer, via the USB 2.0 cable, the connection needs to be confirmed, this is done by pressing down on the enter key located at the centre of the navigational pad. The main programme used to transfer files is a freeware called ‘Calibre’ which can be downloaded from the internet and installed on any computer. One of the great features of the programme is that you can edit the information for the books is that you can rename the book, and sort out the genuine details of the product meaning the user can correct it, or personalise it to how they will find it easier on the reader. This is the most commonly used software as the Libre Air does not have its own developed programme to manage files. If the user does not plan on downloading a software to work with the reader the Libre Air simply works as a USB mass file storage device, meaning that files can simply be dragged and dropped on to the reader, it is important to make sure the files have transferred however and I would suggest trying to open the files after you have disconnected the device to make sure they are on them as this has been seen as a problem in some cases.

In terms of connectivity to the internet the Libre Air matches with most of the readers on the market by offering Wi-Fi connections to the user. This includes personal Wi-Fi, say a connection at home, to hot spots which could be anywhere. Popular restaurants also offer free Wi-Fi in some cases, examples of this are Starbucks and MacDonald’s. The speed of the internet is fairly slow compared to some other readers on the market, the Kindle 3 for example allows for much quicker browsing and also offers users the option of 3G on the device, therefore if an internet connection is detrimental to your usage of the device you may need to be wary of this.

Supported File Formats

The Libre Air lists eBook formats: PDF, TXT, FB2, EPUB, MOBI, PRC, RTF, Picture format: JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG, Music format: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, and OGG. This is a very good range of supported files, as we can see the Libre Air supports not only document file formats, but also graphics and audio support. A definite strong feature on the Libre Air is that its music support is much wider than seen on some other devices, for example it has matched the iRiver Story by allowing the support for OGG, alongside a variety of other formats. The inclusion of PDF is expected amongst most readers, as is the support for EPUB files and TXT. The picture format is only there to support book covers although the Libre Air does have the facility to keep a photo album on the device, this is a nice feature however will not be that effective due to the black and white display.

Memory

The Libre Air has 512MB NAND memory in-built into the device. In terms of storing purely eBooks this is fairly generous and will allow the user to store a few hundred books on the reader. In that case the reader does well however the in-built memory is much less than on other devices on the market. One advantage of the Libre Air is that the device has an SD card slot included in the design, this allows the user to buy an SD memory card and expand their memory. In the case of the Libre Air the card can be any size up to 32GB, however if the user has a particularly large amount of data they wish to have access to on the device they can store more data on another card and simply swap them around for whatever they require at that moment in time. The major advantage of the Libre Air having expandable memory is down to the fact that the device can playback music, as although eBook would not fill up the internal memory, 512MB will not store a great deal of music files which are considerably larger, therefore with the exclusion of a memory card the Libre Air really is kitted out to be a good music player and will allow the reader to store a great deal of files on their device.

Battery Life

The battery life on the Libre Air is not the strongest feature of the device. Although Aluratek have stated it is a very long battery life, when looking at some other readers on the market, the Kindle 3 for instance which was discussed earlier, the battery life is actually very poor. Within the technical specifications Aluratek quoted the Libre Air to have a 2 week battery life. This is a decent battery life and does seem fairly strong, however this is with the wireless connectivity disabled and as a result, when the connections on the device are enabled the battery life is significantly different and rather than being a good, reliable two weeks, the life of the device drops to around three to four days. This may be a disappointment however it is well known that wireless connectivity really does drain devices of charge as can be seen with many other technological devices, for example iPod’s or phones. The one advantage of the Libre Air is that the device comes with an AC adaptor, allowing the user to plug the USB cable into this adaptor and be able to charge the device from any mains outlet. This means that charging the device is very convenient, even when on the move, as the device does not have to be connected to a computer to charge.

Screen Quality

For starters the screen on the Libre Air is unlike other readers on the market as it incorporates an LCD screen rather than the eInk display that has been popular with so many other readers on the market lately. The main features of a monochrome TFT LCD display is that the device can still be read even in direct sunlight, as there is no glare on the screen. Another benefit is that due to the lack of a backlight in the device the user can easily read without straining their eyes. Not only this but it also means that battery is conserved as the device is not constantly using power in order to light the display. The one problem with the display is that due to it being reflective, the screen is not very effective if the user is not using it in direct light, therefore it is important that you will always be reading in well-lit areas.

Build Quality and Design

libre air reader body

The Libre Air has a simple design. The aesthetics of the reader are okay, they do not look amazing however they are not bad to look at. The Libre Air uses plastic as the main material to the reader, this is a solid plastic and the reader feels fairly well made, which is always a benefit. Due to the materials used and also the smaller size of the screen the Libre Air is not only smaller than other readers but lighter, which means the device can be transported easily. The navigational pad on the reader is designed quite well and has a touch centre allowing the cursor to be navigated easily. The one downside of design on the Libre Air is that the number/text keypad that Aluratek have decided to use is fairly time consuming and takes the user a long time to get used to.

Libre Air vs.

How does the Libre Air compare to its competitors?

Libre Air vs. Kindle 3

libre air vs kindle 3

There are many other readers on the market and the Libre Air was one of the first readers launched on to the market by Aluratek. One of the main readers on the market is the Kindle 3, which is manufactured by Amazon. There are a few similarities between the two readers, however the Libre Air does have some big differences to all of the other readers. The main difference between the Kindle3 and the Libre Air is the display used. Like most other readers on the market the Kindle 3 uses an eInk pearl display. On the other hand the Libre Air uses a monochrome TFT LCD which isn’t common amongst readers. There are advantages and disadvantages of both the screens. The main features of the Kindle 3’s eInk pearl display is that the display is very clear and works on the contrast between colours to reflect the look of ink on paper as would be seen in a book. Another advantage of the eInk readers is that there is absolutely no strain on the user’s eyes and battery life is maximised by the readers display only using battery every time the page is refreshed. The monochrome TFT LCD used on the Libre Air has some of the same advantages, as it is not backlit it can also be read in direct sunlight, however as it is reflective the display is not very clear unless in direct light which does make the eInk pearl a stronger option which is why it is seen incorporated in most readers on the market.

Another advantage of the Kindle 3 is the fact that Amazon have also included 3G connectivity within the device on top of the Wi-Fi that the Libre Air has also included. Making the device even more accessible using the free internet connection provided by Amazon, the major downside to the connections, on both devices, is that it limits battery life significantly, and means the device only lasts around a quarter of the maximum battery. In general the Kindle 3 has a much stronger battery life than the Libre Air, meaning in some respects it is more of a reliable reader, although if the connectivity is managed sensibly then the battery life on the Air is still fairly decent. One aspect of the two readers where the Libre Air is much more superior is the audio support, the Kindle 3 only supports MP3 whereas the Libre Air caters for a range of audio files meaning that the user does not have to worry about the compatibility of their music files with their reader.

Libre Air vs. Sony PRS 650

Another reader that is greatly comparable is the Sony PRS 650, this is to look at the differences between the Libre Air which uses a button interface, or the Sony PRS 650 which uses a touch screen interface. As seen on the Libre Air the device is navigated by pushing buttons, with the number keys up the side, incorporating letters on the numbers. This is a good addition as it means that the user does have the option to search for a title or an author, however the keys work like texting on a mobile phone, which means it can be fairly slow, compared to the Sony PRS 650 which has an on screen touch keyboard, as this is QWERTY it makes it much easier and quicker to type on the device and search for documents/music. This is an advantage of having a touch screen, as is the ability to make notes and annotations on the device, which is particularly useful for users that are using the reader for educational purposes, say for example a text book.

The one area of the Libre Air that is much stronger than the Sony PRS range as a whole is it’s portability, with the screen being only five inches, the Libre Air tends to be much smaller than most of the other readers, with the only other popular five inch screen being the Sony Pocket Edition. The one problem with the Sony pocket edition is that Sony really didn’t make a massive effort on the feature side and left the device as a very simple reader. Unlike the Libre Air the Sony does not have and Wi-Fi connectivity, limiting to the device being used only when there is a computer round in terms of charging or transferring books on to the device. One advantage of the Libre Air over the Sony Pocket Edition is also that as the screen is a monochrome TFT LCD rather than an eInk screen, the page turns do not have any flashing or flickering. This is a major benefit as this was the biggest problem with the eInk screens and the monochrome TFT LCD really is the solution, however there are some downsides. The biggest advantage of a flickerless page turn is the fact that the reader does not get distracted from what they are reading by the flashing.

The Sony Pocket Edition does not have any audio file support and therefore cannot playback music for the reader, not only this but it also has a very limited memory as, unlike the Libre Air, there is no SD card slots on the Sony, therefore the memory cannot be expanded as is seen on some other readers.

The Good

The advantages of the Libre Air are strong, firstly the audio playback on the device is well designed as a result of the wide range of audio files that the device can handle. Not only this but with the expandable memory the device can store a vast range of music, allowing the reader to have an extensive music library alongside a large book library. Another advantage of the Libre Air is that the device has Wi-Fi meaning that the reader can access the internet to download books without having to connect the device to a computer meaning that the user has the option to download more books when they are travelling for example. This leads me on to another feature of the Libre Air reader that I particularly like, the fact that Aluratek include an AC adaptor for the USB to plug into a mains outlet. This is a useful accessory and many other companies such as Sony for example offer the adaptor however the user has to pay for this on top of the reader, and also has to go through the hassle of ordering the adaptor separately. The use of this means that the device can be charged from any outlet, rather than having to be connected to a computer. Particularly useful for users who are traveling regularly.  The fact that the Libre Air comes already loaded with 100 classic titles is a major benefit as not only is it free books for the users library, which is always an advantage. It is also a positive for the Libre Air as it means as soon as the user receives the reader they can get straight into the usage of the device without having to set it up for hours.

The Bad

What really lets the Libre Air down is the fact that other readers on the market offer the same sought of features. In most cases the features such as wireless connectivity are much more sophisticated than that of the Libre Air, simply due to the fact that other companies have been producing them much longer and are therefore more equipped to handle this. For example the Kindle range offers the users to also have 3G connections on the device which means that the reader is even more flexible with its connectivity. Not only this but the actual web browsing on the Libre Air is fairly slow, which can be extremely frustrating for users, and in respects there is no need for this as other devices manage it. Another downside of the Libre Air is that rather than using a QWERTY keyboard or a touch screen facility to enable an on screen keyboard the guys at Aluratek decided to include number buttons up the side of the device which also have the functionality of text, as seen on early models of mobile phones. This can be a very slow way to interact with the device and may also be frustrating for some users who may not have used this method before. With a lot of use the process of searching for titles and authors on the device will become much easier, however it will still be more time consuming than some other options on the market.

The Bottom Line

The Libre Air is a good, solid reader. Not only have Aluratek covered the basics with the Libre Air but they have also added many other more advanced features to the reader for example Wi-Fi connectivity. The smaller screen is great if you are planning to carry the device around with you as the option to enlarge fonts won’t have any effect on the ease of read for the user. Therefore the fact the product is much smaller and lighter would be more important than the device being able to display more words on the screen. However if you never plan on taking the reader anywhere then a device with a larger screen may be preferred. The Libre Air probable isn’t the best use for a non tech savvy user due to the fact that there is no official software and as a result the user will have to find their own or simply struggle through without any. This isn’t too hard if you know what you are doing, although for people who do not this may even stop them using the device, certainly to its full capability. Another problem is the keypad, which can be difficult for some users to function. My suggestion is that if you are planning on buying the Libre Air, that you try the product before you invest your money in it to ensure that the keypad and size is not a problem. Other than that the reader does what most other devices on the market do and therefore will not disappoint.

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Libre Air eBook Reader

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