Flip the VEB612 over and you’ll find the reset button hidden in a pin-hole plus the battery cover which is held in place by a tiny Philips headed screw. Opening this reveals the removable Li-Polymer 100Mah battery. As with all ebook readers, battery life for the VEB612 is measured in page turns as the device only draws power when it’s redrawing pages on the screen (or playing music of course). Viewsonic says that the battery on the VEB612 is good for around 8,000 page turns, which in real life usage means it’ll keep running for around two weeks. This compares well against the likes of the Sony PRS-300, which has a quoted battery life of 6,800 page turns.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of any reader is its screen. The VEB612 has a six-inch screen with a resolution of 800x600 pixels that’s capable of showing eight levels of grey scale. Text and images look reasonably sharp, but due to only being able to display 8 levels of grey, images aren’t rendered as nicely as on other models that support 16 levels. As with other ebook readers the display uses E-Ink technology. This is much easier on the eye than traditional LCD technology due to its lack of backlighting and static display (once drawn, the image stays perfectly still) The result is a display that’s probably as close to the printed page as you can get, in terms of readability. However, E-Ink displays do have draw backs as they are quite slow to refresh as you turn a page. Like all E-Ink based readers the VEB612 takes around a second or two to turn a page as it first has to blank the screen and then draw in the new image of the page. Overall, though we have few complains about the display as it’s very easy to read, even outdoors under direct sunlight.
Unfortunately the VEB612 starts to lose the plot when it comes to its user interface and software. As the device relies almost totally on its direction pad for user input moving through long menu lists (and there are plenty of them!) can quickly become tedious, especially given the E-Ink display’s relatively slow refresh rate. It’s a shame, as if Viewsonic had added numbered buttons to the edge of the screen, as Sony did on the PRS505, it would have alleviated part of the problem because these buttons allow you to jump directly to individual menu entries.
Also the device’s format support isn’t great. It can only deal with TXT, PDF, HTML, ePub, HTML and PRC formats, whereas many of its rivals also support the RTF, Word and BBeB formats. But this isn’t the only issue, as the software is also quite buggy. The layout on PDFs tended to go a bit skew with the device rendering text at the wrong size or randomly shifting images to the wrong place in the layout. The bookmaking feature didn’t always work properly either and the MP3 player was particularly troublesome often skipping over parts of tracks. Worse still, when music is playing the reader slows to a crawl.
There’s no denying that the VEB612 looks quite attractive, has a good E-Ink display and impressive battery life. However, the buggy software and relatively high £250 asking price mean you’d need to be one sandwich short of a picnic to opt for this over something like Sony’s cheaper, but more much more impressive PRS-300.