This is Part 2 of my review of the Hanvon e920 e-reader (mine is the PLUS version, which I think is the second generation), Part 1 of which is HERE. When we left off I was describing my reasoning for purchasing the device, namely specs that were better than either the Kindle DX or the Icarus eXcel, and a lower price point. After purchasing the device for less than USD $300 (on AliExpress), all I had to do was wait for the delivery, which in Singapore took two weeks or so from China (since I chose the free shipping option). I checked the tracking number daily, but Singapore Post is notorious for not updating tracking (possibly it was on a ship from HK), and finally it went from 'shipped from Hong Kong' to 'delivered' (it's such a small country, after all).
The package was well-wrapped and the device arrived unharmed. Here's a picture of the box that it came in. All that was in the box was the reader, some documentation in Chinese, and a software CD (also in Chinese). Yup, no English-language support.
Turning the device on was straightforward using the power button on the lower left. For an unboxing video (of the first generation of the device), look HERE. The power button is a bit finicky, but I discovered that there is a small blue LED indicator on the front of the device which lights up when the reader's processor is active. When the processor is active (LED on) the use of buttons doesn't register, which is perhaps why the power button seems finicky. Sometimes when the device is off, the power button also requires a few tries before it registers (you know it has registered when you see the blue light).
When the device turns on it defaults to a welcome/home screen. Everything is in Chinese. At this point I was like "Uh oh, how do I figure out how to change the language to English?" Fortunately I have a bunch of Chinese-speaking friends (I live in Singapore after all) so I wasn't too worried about asking for help if I needed it, but I took another look at the device first. There are five icons at the top left of the screen: a house, a note, a play button, a gear, and a refresh sign. I tapped the gear icon (remember, this is a touch screen) and it brought me to what I assumed was the settings page. All the options were still in Chinese, but I simply selected the first option, and a little window popped up with a few selection possibilities: Chinese characters and the word 'English' (in English). Selecting the 'English' possibility transformed all the options into English, and... voila! English language mode entered - level up! *cue Atari video game music*
So far I have had the device for a week, and it works really well, though it takes some getting used to. In Part 3 of this review (which includes an embedded video review) I'll discuss how I set up the device, what my favorite features are so far, and what the challenges have been with getting used to the Hanvon e920 (plus).
The last year has been quite busy - I completed my PhD, got hired on a 1-year contract as a postdoctoral Research Fellow, and have since returned to India and done many other things. Needless to say, I haven't been updating my blog very regularly.
This post is intended to remedy the situation somewhat, in the form of a review of a device I recently purchased as a Christmas gift for myself - the Hanvon e920. There are no comprehensive English-language reviews of this device, which is a shame, since it is quite a useful e-reader, particularly for those academics like myself who read a lot of PDFs. Because of the lack of reviews I actually agonized for a bit over whether to purchase it, but when I thought about it for awhile and compared it with its only real competition (the Kindle DX and Icarus Excel), I finally bit the bullet.
The Kindle DX, Icarus eXcel, and Hanvon e920 are pretty much the only 9.7 inch e-readers on the market. There are larger e-readers, such as Sony's 13.3 inch reader, but currently there are drawbacks to such solutions: Sony's, for example, only handles PDFs and retails for around USD $1000 (currently on sale for $800). I've owned a Kindle Paperwhite since 2013 after my friend Eric got one and showed me how it handled PDFs. The main reason I got one was because I was on my way to North-East India to spend 5 months doing fieldwork and I wanted an easy way to read linguistic articles and textbooks while trying to learn the Pnar language - the Paperwhite can handle a large library, is extremely portable, and allowed me to bring along ebooks to read for pleasure when I got really stressed out by cross-cultural living. The backlit display and the 2-3 week battery life were also quite handy in a place where electricity was not always easy to come by.
While I found the Kindle Paperwhite useful, there were some drawbacks when it came to reading PDFs. The main issue was how small the fonts were. This could be dealt with to some extent by changing the orientation to landscape mode, but then navigating PDFs could be troublesome, as I would often have to re-find my place on the page when moving to the next section (further down the page). Whitespace was also not always handled well by the Paperwhite. Sometimes I could manually crop the pages on my computer, save the PDF, and then copy the files to the Paperwhite. But the majority of articles still had fonts that were much too small for easy reading. Fortunately I have pretty good eyesight, but it gets tiring after awhile.
Thus began my search for a large-screen e-reader that handles PDFs. Originally I planned to get a Kindle DX - a professor friend of mine had one and it looked like it was exactly what I wanted. Similar storage space as my Paperwhite, larger screen... but the drawback was that it had no touchscreen. One of the benefits of my Paperwhite was being able to highlight text and take notes, but the DX doesn't have that.
Then I found the Icarus eXcel. Same size as the Kindle DX, but with a touchscreen and multi-configurable (check out THIS video review). The Icarus eXcel also lets you set your page frame (viewable area), annotate PDFs, take notes, and has a ton of other functionality. But the price is a bit off-putting, and some people on forums said that it is simply a re-branded Onyx Boox M92.
After searching through a few other forums, I discovered the Chinese company Hanvon. Apparently they make e-readers for a few other brands, but their own brand of e-readers is sold to Chinese consumers. At first I wasn't sure if I could use their e920, as it seemed there was no English support. But the specs were quite staggering - 9.7 inch screen with 1600x1200 resolution (!!), PDF support and great zoom options, support for a variety of other formats, expandable storage, touch screen and stylus with the ability to take notes and annotate PDFs, an MP3 player and more. Honestly, it seemed almost too good to be true. And then I discovered that you could only buy them in China.
Fortunately, after quite a bit of searching and Google Translate, I found that some Chinese vendors were selling them online via TaoBao and AliExpress, with free shipping to Singapore. The English versions of their pages were a bit confusing, but being a Linguist I figured I could understand them well enough and decided that they weren't scams. And I managed to find one on sale for under USD $300. So, like I said, I bit the bullet and bought it.
This post is getting a bit long, so I'll continue it later in Part 2 (now HERE), which will also include a link to a live video review of the e920. For now, you can compare the specs of the Kindle DX and Hanvon e920 by clicking on THIS link.
I'm a linguist and singer-songwriter. I write about life, travel, language and technology.