Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches

I had a great time last year with Sony’s catchily named DPT-RP1, an e-paper tablet that’s perfect for reading PDFs and other big documents, but one of my main issues was simply how big the thing is. Light and thin but 13 inches across, the tablet was just unwieldy. Heeding (I assume) my advice, Sony is putting out a smaller version and I can’t wait to try it out.
At the time, I was comparing the RP1 with the reMarkable, a crowdfunded rival that offers fantastic writing ability but isn’t without its flaws. Watch this great video I made:

The 10-inch DPT-CP1 has a couple small differences from its larger sibling. The screen has a slightly lower resolution but should be the same PPI — it’s more of a cutout of the original screen than a miniaturization. And it’s considerably lighter: 240 grams to the 13-inch version’s 350. Considering the latter already


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E-reader and tablet prices are getting amazingly low

If you’re looking for a cheap device on which to read those cheap e-books Amazon and others have on sale today, and $50 is still too much for you to pay, Amazon has a couple of used 7” Fire tablets available for about $30 each, with free Prime shipping. One of the least expensive e-readers you can get can now be had for even less. And a used Fire HD 6 can be had for about the same $50 price as a new 7” (or you can get a new one for just $20 more). And those are far from the only used Amazon devices available. (Add $20 to these prices to get rid of Special Offers, of course.) I don’t think these are one-day rates like the e-book listings, but they’re listed under the same “Gold Box deals” section.

When you get right down to it, Amazon has some great used and refurb deals even on its own competitors, such as the Nook Glowlight deal I mentioned yesterday. There are plenty of deals on Kobo readers, too—a $35 used N905, a $34 used Kobo Mini. I suppose it makes sense, since Borders isn’t around to sell them anymore. And I’ve discussed all the cheap non-Fire Android tablets you can find there in another post, though not all of them are necessarily any good.

There are plenty of other sources for cheap tablets, too. Groupon puts the Nexus 7 on sale from time to time. Ebay has some good prices on used kit, though you have to be careful and read the descriptions closely. Surplus and salvage places like GearXS have possible bargains, though they’re another caveat emptor case. Wal-Mart, Fry’s Electronics, Best Buy—there are lots of possibilities.

It honestly amazes me when I look at these prices just how cheap e-reader and tablet technology has gotten in just a few years. Even leaving aside all the off-brand and competitor stuff available, a $30 used Fire tablet might not be much of a tablet compared to more expensive Android devices, especially when you take into account the annoying restrictions on what software you can run. But it’s still a major-brand-name product that I’ve found to be pretty reliable.

It can still access the Internet, send or receive email, socially network, and so on. And, of course, it can read plenty of e-books and other material. (More so if you finagle the Google Play applications onto it.) Is an end to the digital divide just around the corner?

The post E-reader and tablet prices are getting amazingly low appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.


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Dell Venue 8 Pro 5855 is an attractive business tablet [Review]

Dell Venue 8 Pro front

The first generation of Dell’s Venue 8 tablet hit the market back in 2013. In January of this year the company launched the updated version that we have here, which comes with a faster Intel Atom X5 processor and 64-bit Windows 10 as standard.

So, how does this latest version measure up, and is it a good option for business users?

In the Box

The Venue 8 Pro is available as Wi-Fi only or you can have a mobile data connection too. It’s powered by a 2.4GHz Intel Atom X5 Z8500 — the old model had the 1.8GHz Z7340. You get 2GB of DDR3 RAM, a 64GB solid state hard drive and Wi-Fi as standard. Our review unit came with 4GB of RAM and the mobile data option, if you need more space, storage can be further expanded with a microSD card of up to 128GB. It’s worth noting that Dell uses eMMC storage — which is basically a built-in SD card — rather than a faster SSD disk.

The tablet measures 130 by 216mm and is only 9.45mm thick. At 377 g it gives an impression of solidity without feeling too weighty to carry around. The tablet has an 8-inch 1280 x 800 screen, a 5MP rear camera and 2MP front. The 5855 supports Miracast so you can wirelessly connect to compatible peripherals like screens and keyboards. The battery is a 19.5 WHr single cell unit.

Dell Venue 8 Pro back

You get a USB C cable and a mains adaptor in the package and, an attractive feature for business users, Microsoft Office Mobile is included in the price, and you can upgrade to the full version with an Office 365 subscription. Security is taken care of with the Dell Data Protection software.

Business Features

The Dell has a reassuringly solid feel and it should stand up well to the rigours of everyday business life. It comes with the Bamboo Paper digital notebook software that allows you to write and draw on the screen either with your finger or the optional stylus.

The fact that MS Office Mobile is included means you can start work almost as soon as you take it out of the box. You also get Dell’s Data Protection software which offers encryption and anti-malware features to keep your tablet and data secure. The Venue 8 Pro is also compatible with the Dell Client Command Suite, allowing IT departments to centrally manage BIOS and hardware configurations.

Dell Venue 8 Pro keyboard

In addition you get access to Dell ProSupport Plus as an option, which helps identify and resolve problems and keep your hardware running smoothly. There’s the option of Protected Workspace too, this opens applications likely to be targeted by malware in a sandbox environment to guard against attacks.

There are a number of accessories that will be attractive to business users too, including a docking, station that supports keyboard, mouse and dual displays, a case called “Folio” that converts into a hands free stand, plus an active pen stylus for writing and drawing on the screen. You can also get an adaptor that gives access to HDMI, VGA, Ethernet and USB 3.0 via the USB-C port. Software options include Adobe Create Cloud, Photoshop Elements and Acrobat.

In Use

There’s a power switch on the top along with a headphone socket. The bottom edge has a USB C socket and speaker grille. On the right are the volume control and a hard Windows button plus a slot for SIM and memory cards. Because it’s USB C it’s less fiddly to connect as you don’t have to get the plug the right way around, but you’ll need to get an adaptor if you want to attach a flash drive or other standard USB peripheral.

Dell Venue 8 Pro side

The back has a ridged finish which makes it pleasant to grip, though it does tend to show finger marks. While the Venue 8 is nicely weighty it isn’t too heavy to hold one-handed. The rear camera is in a slightly raised panel in the centre of the back towards the top. You do tend to place your fingers over this if you’re holding the tablet landscape, so you’ll need to wipe it clean before taking photos. The back of the machine does get warm in use, but not uncomfortably so. The performance of this tablet isn’t going to set the world on fire. but it’s perfectly adequate for everyday tasks.

The screen has quite a wide bezel — especially on the short edges — but the viewing area itself is a good size. The screen itself offer 283 ppi pixel density (an improvement on the 189 ppi of the previous generation). What this means in practice is that it has crisp colors, good contrast and delivers smooth video playback. Viewing angles are good too so its possible for two people to watch the screen at the same time. It isn’t quite bright enough to cope with outdoor use on sunny days but that’s a minor quibble. There’s only a single speaker but it delivers decent sound quality.

The number of megapixels doesn’t tell the whole story with the rear camera, as although it’s “only” 5MP it actually delivers pretty impressive results. There’s no flash, but it takes good pictures in both daylight and artificial light. It uses the standard Windows 10 Camera app which is basic but functional. The 2MP front camera is good enough for VoIP calling.

The most disappointing aspect of the Venue 8 Pro is its battery life. Even in relatively light use, like visiting websites or viewing documents you’ll struggle to get more than five or six hours on a charge. Watch videos or play games and you’ll eat through the power reserves much faster.

Conclusion

At £366 for the 64GB version with mobile data as tested — you can get the 2GB Wi-Fi only version for £259 — the Venue 8 Pro may seem a little pricey. As a business machine though it looks like an attractive package. It’s solidly constructed, has a good range of practical hardware and software options, and it looks smart in an understated way.

If you can live with the rather disappointing battery life and you value reliability over performance, it’s well worth considering.

Pros

  • Impressive display
  • USB C
  • Good range of business friendly features

Cons

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Non-SSD storage
  • Pricey

ITProPortal Review: 7/10

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.


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Seeking Alpha contributor: Barnes & Noble not doomed after all

Barnes-NobleJust how much trouble is Barnes & Noble really in?

It seems to be in a good deal of it. We haven’t covered it that much lately on TeleRead, but Nate mentioned on The Digital Reader in the last couple of weeks that its revenues and losses were down last quarter, and that while it claims it’s still “considering” closing stores, it actually is closing stores.

But not so fast. An article on investor-advice site Seeking Alpha suggests that looks can be deceiving. The author, who goes by the handle “12 Quarters,” states that he is long on Barnes & Noble (that is to say, he invests in favor of B&N gaining rather than losing money), and proceeds to explain why. (The article is behind a free-registration wall, but I’ve found Seeking Alpha to be worth the registration.)

The explanation is a bit overfull of financial jargon, but given that it’s used mainly in supporting his contentions, you can get the gist from context without worrying too much about it. If there’s some term you want to know more about, I suggest checking a financial encyclopedia like Investopedia for definitions.

12 Quarters thinks that the profitability of the B&N stores is still very good. B&N has closed some of its weaker stores, which has served to cut into revenue, but it’s also increased its cash flow, which is what really matters. And 12 Quarters notes that the number of all brick and mortar bookstores has actually increased over the last 5 years, suggesting that people aren’t through with paper books just yet. This bodes well for B&N’s future, as it’s basically the only major nationwide bookstore chain left. Amazon might be king of the hill digitally, but B&N still has the real-world catbird seat.

The weaker part of the B&N business is the Nook division, which has been a money sink over the last few years. But B&N has been acting to rationalize that division—that is, reorganize it to increase efficiency and cut the money loss—with moves such as shifting Nook from a hardware to a software business and outsourcing it to third parties rather than try to make tablets itself. But 12 Quarters’s more interesting contention is still to come.

Secondly, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that there is no reason to be in the e-book business at all.

For example, as mentioned previously, independent bookstores have been growing in recent years, and they don’t have digital platforms. Secondly, consumer research indicates that popularity of e-books peaked several years ago and has been trending down. People are simply over-screened, and they prefer a physical book during their leisure time.

I think Mr. or Ms. Quarters is oversimplifying the point here. It’s not that e-books’ popularity has been “trending down.” It’s that the amount of popularity they’re gaining has slowed. Their popularity isn’t increasing as fast as it was, but it’s still increasing. More people are still adopting e-books every day, it’s just that not as many more of them are doing so as before. Even if some publishers reported a percentage point or two decrease in e-book revenue last year, that doesn’t necessarily bespeak a downward trend. There’s certainly no sign that there’s a mass movement to give e-books up, which is what would be necessary for their popularity to “trend down” even if no new users were picking them up!

But we can let that pass. Whether more or fewer people are adopting e-books is largely beside the point, because if more of them are, most of them are doing it via Amazon, and Barnes & Noble’s best attempts to compete for e-book share with Amazon have obviously not been good enough. (And its weird decisions on matters like changing up its DRM and cutting off downloading and sideloading e-books haven’t helped.) So it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other, and we’ll cede 12 the points that the Nook division’s performance has been rotten so far, and people are still interested enough in paper books to come out to the paper bookstores.

It’s interesting to contrast this with Mike Shatzkin’s recent discussion of the problems with Barnes & Noble and the Nook. Shatzkin thinks the biggest problem is that B&N simply hasn’t been using its dot-com and Nook knowledge to benefit the stores the way it could have. For example, it could use its customer database to look up and email customers who’ve bought books by a given author and let them know the author will be doing a signing in their area, and perhaps get some promotional money from the publisher in return for doing that kind of thing.

12 Quarters thinks that, as an ostensibly “rational actor,” B&N owner Len Riggio will not continue to throw bad money after good, especially after he just bought another million shares in the open market. Therefore, 12 Quarters predicts, the Nook division will either find some way to break even or be eliminated altogether within the next couple of years.

The rest of 12 Quarters’s arguments don’t have as much to do with e-books. He brings up various opportunities members of B&N’s board have had to be influenced by investors who make copious use of stock buybacks, and thinks that such a buyback could be a recipe for recovery for the bookstore side of B&N’s business if it can deal with the Nook money pit. He notes that such buybacks have rescued companies such as Best Buy, GameStop, and Outerwall that were previously thought to be goners but have since doubled in price.

12 Quarters concludes with several paragraphs of financial jargon to suggest that a buyback would be relatively easy and could drive stock price as high as $30 a share. He sums up:

If that seems aggressive, that is fine. The point here is that the margin of safety is HUGE for patient investors. At this point, an investment in BKS is not an investment in a struggling bookstore chain, but rather an investment in human nature. All that needs to happen is that the owner operator wants to maximize his own wealth through buybacks. That is a bet that I make with a smile.

Now, sometimes these investment sites’ advice articles aren’t worth the electrons they’re printed on. If I had a nickel for every “short Amazon and sooner or later you’ll be right” article I’ve seen on Seeking Alpha, I would be independently wealthy. And I lack the financial expertise necessary to evaluate 12 Quarters’s contentions with the fullness they deserve. Still, the non-jargonistic sides of his arguments make some sense. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do with the Nook division in years to come.


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