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Viewsonic may be a name that’s most readily associated with computer monitors, but the company has in fact tried its hand at a number of different types of products over the years including media players, all-in-one PCs, projectors and more recently laptops. With lots of hype surrounding ebooks in general and especially products like the Kindle from Amazon, the company has decided to have a crack at creating an electronic reader too. The result is the VEB612, but by pricing the reader at around £250 Viewsonic has set itself a tough tasks if it is to beat off competition from products like the impressive PRS-300 from Sony, especially as that reader can be picked up for just £160 now. So the question is, does the VEB612 provide you with any reason to go for it over Sony’s model?
The VEB612 doesn’t look all that different to most ebook readers currently on the market. Rather than the aluminium finish used on Sony’s recent models, the VEB612 is finished in a white plastic that reminded us a little bit of early iPods. At 127 x 203 x 9mm it’s quite small and the plastic construction means it's light too weighing just 180g. As a result it’s quite comfortable to hold even for prolonged periods of reading. We also like the fact that Viewsonic has included a white leather-effect carrying case with a magnetic clasp on the front to protect the reader when you’re carrying it around in a bag or rucksack.
Naturally the screen takes up most of the front face of the reader, but on the bottom right hand corner there’s also a four way direction pad that has a select button in its centre. Viewsonic has added a further four buttons down the left hand side of the device. These are used to start the MP3 player, switch the screen orientation from portrait to landscape, call up context sensitive menus and move back through menus. The only other buttons are the power switch located on the top edge of the reader and the volume controls that are positioned on the right hand side.
On the bottom of the player you’ll find the MiniUSB port which is used for charging the reader and syncing it with a computer. Viewsonic doesn’t provide any syncing software with the reader, so instead it appears as a mass storage device on your computer and you simply copy files across. Next to the USB port there’s the headphone socket, but unfortunately this is a non standard 2.5mm jack. However, Viewsonic does provide a short adaptor in the box so you can use it with a normal pair of headphone. You’ll probably make good use of this adaptor as the included headphones are very cheap and nasty.
The top of the VEB612 is home to an SD card slot. Though the 512MB of onboard memory is enough to store thousands of books, you’ll probably want to add an SD card if you’re planning on loading it up with lots of music or graphics heavy PDFs. The slot only supports cards of up to 4GB in size so it's unlikely to replace your dedicated mp3 player but it's enough for adding a few dozen of your favourite albums.