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The Gadgets NOT to Buy This Christmas - LCD eBook readers

LCD eBook readers

Jack of all trades, master of none. LCD eBook readers will be a hot topic in 2012, but early products like the Kobo Vox show the pitfalls facing the sector.


Designed to be tablets but at a fraction of the cost and eBook readers but with vastly more functionality, LCD eBook readers are hugely appealing and seem like fine Christmas presents. The problem however lies in the name itself: LCD. Compared to e-ink screens, designed specifically to be kind of the eyes, LCD panels and their active display technology is far more wearing for most users when reading and reflects badly in sunlight. This is compounded by the cheap price tags of LCD eBook readers which see lower quality panels fitted, rendering them poor at their primary purpose.

In addition to their screens, price means weaker internal hardware which also makes LCD eBook readers second rate tablets with slow performance. Worse still, heavy customisation to optimise their (typically) Android cores for reading means the official Android Market has not been approved for any LCD eBook reader to date, curtailing their functionality and limiting users to proprietary app stores with small selections and inflated pricing.


Lastly, driving a nail in the coffin of these first generation devices is battery life. Again LCD is at the heart of it, with the technology using far more power than e-ink screens which can last months at a time. Instead LCD eBook reader battery life is measured in hours rather than days, hardly ideal for a holiday and once more cost cutting robs them of increased capacity batteries which would alleviate this problem.

Happily there is a shining light in the shape of the Amazon Kindle Fire which has a reasonable screen, improved hardware and a well stocked eBook library and app store. The Fire was still on the end of lukewarm reviews Stateside however and the fact it isn't released in the UK until after Christmas only further emphasised the need to wait. We have high hopes for future generations of LCD eBook readers, but until radical changes in power consumption, performance and the fundamental nature of LCD screens come to market there remains a lot of life left in e-ink.


December 20, 2011, 12:03 am

"If you must go down the tablet route the safest bet is the exceptional Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime." Well first it's not available yet and subject to delays - more Amazon and Best-Buy pre-orders were cancelled in the US today. No one knows for sure it if it'll be on sale in the UK in January. Second, just today Eric Schmidt (Google's chairman) talked about "an improved Google tablet coming within six months" ( http://www.theverge.com/2011/12/19/2646684/eric-schmidt-says ) With this plus the rumoured high resolution tablets from Samsung and Apple coming sometime around February/March, the excitement over this Asus will be very short lived.


December 20, 2011, 9:02 pm

Thanks Gk.pm they are some interesting points, but a little misplaced. First the Prime has a confirmed UK launch date: 12 January and major stores are taking pre-orders. Second I mention the Prime is not out for Christmas in the article. Third there has to be a reasonable timeframe when we're talking about Christmas. In that regard I'd say holding back on an iPad 2 with the iPad 3 due in a few months is reasonable, waiting six months is something else entirely. As for excitement over the Prime, with ICS coming to it soon it may have more shelf life than you think. Certainly Ardjuna was very excited when he reviewed it: http://www.trustedreviews.com/asus-eee-pad-transformer-prime_Laptop_review


December 21, 2011, 12:06 am

@Gordon394 I haven't had any confirmation that the launch date is actually 12 January. It's just an expected launch date, not set in stone. You might want to check your sources. Meanwhile just yesterday it was announced that pre-orders for the 64GB Transformer Prime were being cancelled in the UK as that model was pushed back to Q2 2012 (i.e. April-June) It may have some shelf life, but you can same of all existing tablets. The iPad 2 will surely still get a good year more of updates and even the somewhat lacklustre Motorola Xoom is looking better with ICS. However the Transformer and these will look pretty pale compared to alternatives coming right from February next year. The wise recommendation would be to hold off on any tablet purchases until then.


December 21, 2011, 4:34 pm

Interesting article, Gordon. I'd personally draw a distinction between products whose current iterations have serious shortcomings that future iterations will fix (e.g. 3D TVs)


December 21, 2011, 4:35 pm

and products whose current iterations are actually quite good, but just have future iterations that will be better (e.g. tablets). Is the fact that we know the product will only get better really a reason to hold off on buying it? I'm not sure it is. Anyway, this is probably just a difference of opinion. A good article!


December 21, 2011, 8:10 pm

confirmed to me by Dixons. Either way, my point remains the same. It's post Christmas, but only a little post.


December 21, 2011, 8:12 pm

Thanks. That's a good point and I think you're right but there are no certainties all Android tablets will get ICS, for example. And if so how well optimised will they be, how will the inevitable manufacturer skins affect it, etc. They could be great, but definitely a risk for Christmas.

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