Google’s local ebookstore has the potential to change the landscape, and the iriver story HD has been the featured reader on that site (even though it supports most of the readers in this labs). Besides this Google support, its major point of difference is that it offers the world’s first 768 x 1024 resolution electronic ink screen.
Manufactured by LG, this 6in display compares well to the E Ink Pearl screens seen in most of the other readers this month. Contrast is comparable, as is refresh speed, with pages flicking by at a rate of one per second. The advantage of the extra pixels isn’t immediately obvious, but is clear with smaller text, such as in PDF files not formatted with ebook screens in mind.
The interface feels responsive, and looks elegant too. The keyboard makes taking short notes and searching by keyword simple. There’s a generous 2GB of internal storage, which can be supplemented by adding a standard, full-sized SD card. The problems arise, however, when you come to read, because the ergonomics of the iriver Story HD aren’t that good. Instead of placing buttons on the edge of the device for turning the page, iriver has decided a long, thin four-way D-pad is the way to go. This clicks loudly, which is annoying enough, but far worse is that its position beneath the screen forces you to hold the reader in the bottom-left or right corners.
File format compatibility is generally fine, with EPUB and PDF formats covered, but there’s no MOBI or HTML support and the lack of display options is disappointing. Font sizes can be changed, and there are eight sizes available, but you can’t change the font itself. PDF manipulation is awkward, with zoom operations taking an age, and panning (if you can call it that) using the cursor keys is painfully slow.
Even if this device had wireless and store integration (the next version will have both), its limited display options and questionable ergonomics just don’t add up. The fact that the price is rather high doesn’t help either.