iRiver Story with Wi-Fi review

12 Aug 2010

A decent eBook reader but, with the Amazon Kindle on its way, the Story struggles to make a compelling case

Price when reviewed: 
199(£199 inc VAT)
3

With Amazon finally officially launching the Kindle in the UK this month, iRiver is looking to steal some of its thunder: the latest version of its iRiver Story sports a Wi-Fi adapter and a direct link to the WHSmith online bookstore. What that means is you can download books directly to the device instead of having to go through the rigmarole of purchasing them on your PC and transferring it to the device via Adobe Digital Editions.

The success of the Story or otherwise, therefore, hinges mainly on the ease with which this is achieved, and the selection of titles on offer. And the Story doesn’t make a good start. Logging onto a Wi-Fi network is straightforward - registration can be done entirely on the device, without the need to visit your PC – and the process of purchasing and downloading is straightforward. The principle problem is the search facility, which seems unreliable in the extreme.

We entered “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (top of the WHSmith best sellers chart at the time of writing, and available from the online store for £5.19) and the search refused to find it. We tried the author name instead, “Larsson”, and got A Magnificent Catastrophe, by Edward J Larson. Using this search facility feels like hunting for the toilet in the dark, in a house you’ve never been in before.

iRiver Story with Wi-Fi

If you’re not into lucky-dip reading it’s probably best to use the category-based alphabetical listing, which is a more reliable way to find what you’re looking, but even here it falls short. The interface is clunky, making paging through long lists of authors and books a mind-numbingly tedious chore. It suffers from similar baffling inconsistency to the search, though to a slightly lesser extent. And, hammering the final rusty nail into an already decaying coffin, once you’ve found your author the likelihood of the book you want actually being available is pretty slim. Terry Pratchett, one of the UK’s most popular writers, is represented by a mere two titles.

It’s a shame, because the iRiver Story is a likeable device. It’s similar in format to the Kindle, with a 6in, 600 x 800 E Ink screen set into an attractively curvaceous matte-white case. Below the screen is a spacious, usable Qwerty keyboard, and to each side of it, flush with the edges of the case, are large page back and forward keys. Along the bottom edge is a plastic panel covering an SD card slot, mini-USB port and 3.5mm headphone socket. It comes with a leatherette slipcase too.

It’s an attractive piece of hardware and, aside from the horrible online interface, usable too. That screen isn’t as good as the Kindle International’s screen, the background looking greyer and text less inky, but it’s still perfectly readable. The Story’s own menu system is both intuitive and responsive; we noticed that, all-round, it feels quicker than the previous version. File format support is good too, taking in a good swathe of major formats (PDF, EPUB, TXT), even allowing you to load up Microsoft Word and Excel documents. You can take memos with the keyboard, load MP3 files to listen to via the 3.5mm headphone socket or the speaker on the rear, and record voice memos with the integrated microphone.

If you ignore the Wi-Fi and the store facility completely, then, the iRiver is a competent eBook reader. We can’t possibly recommend it, though, and the main reason is the new Amazon Kindle, which at launch will cost £50 less for the 3G version and £90 less for the Wi-Fi only model, will (presumably) boast a far broader selection of titles to choose from, and if the last Kindle is anything to go by it will have a nicer screen too. If you’re in the market for an eBook reader now, we recommend you hold onto your cash.

Details

Price ex VAT £169
Price inc VAT £199
Overall rating 3
Performance 3
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 2

Screen

Screen size 6.0in
Resolution 600 x 800
Colour screen no
Touchscreen no

Battery

Battery Life 9,000 page turns
Integrated memory 2.0GB
Memory-card type SD

Dimensions

Dimensions 127 x 9 x 203mm (WDH)
Weight 291g

File format support

Plain text yes
HTML no
RTF no
PDF yes
EPUB yes
BBeB no
AZW no
Microsoft Word yes