The iRex Digital Reader is the world's largest portable reading device, far more expensive than the rest of the market and with more capabilities than most users need, but it has a small, loyal following among business users. The latest Digital Reader model, the 1000SW, debuted in November 2008 and is produced by Dutch iRex company, a spinoff from Philips, which has worked with e-paper since 2006.
Like the other advanced readers, the Digital Reader reader uses e-paper to create a stable image, which, unlike a flickering computer screen, doesn't cause eyestrain.
Its main feature is a touchscreen (Integrated Wacom® Penabled® sensor board--the best in use in an eBook reader on the market today in our opinion) in lieu of buttons, accessed via a stylus, and the manufacturers emphasize its use as a writing tablet of sorts, for jotting notes, annotating documents, etc. It has been criticized for having a fiddly interface with many icons, but a long-term user will probably get used to that. With MyScript Notes, a PC application, you can convert the handwritten notes you make on the Digital Reader into digital text that can be used with text editors, spreadsheets and e-mail clients. It certainly does excel at these tasks, and we imagine would be very useful for business applications.
The Digital Reader is very good with file formats--iRex claims that anything you can print from your PC you can use on the Digital Reader. The memory capacity (already a generous 1 GB out of the box) can be increased simply by inserting a Compact Flash or MMC card. You can even insert your USB-stick into the Digital Reader to quickly read content. Interface languages are Dutch, English, German, French, and Spanish.
The battery is listed as 24 hours of reading and writing--far less than a Kindle 2's two weeks (with wireless off), though we believe they assume you are using it more than a passive reader, jotting things down and such, which is more energy intensive. Still for a lithium battery with five hours' charging time, and the low energy use of e-paper, we'd expect a better longevity. And on the list of minor pet peeves, we found the screen refresh rate, at 1.3 seconds, just that tick too long--the same with the 44 second boot time.
Connecting: The Digital Reader has a USB port for direct connection to a PC, and it also has wireless Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities. These are very useful, but it lacks the nearly countrywide coverage of the Kindle 2's cellular-based technology.
Users create a free MyiRex account which allows you to make use of the iRex Delivery service (iDS) to download your daily newspaper, RSS feeds, and such. The service mainly relies on the Mobipocket reader service for purchasing ebooks, and it does lists thousands of titles. However, the selection pales in comparison with the Sony PRS-700 or especially Amazon's Kindle 2, and unfortunately, you cannot use their content on the Digital Reader.
Accessories: A Digital Reader Cover of some sort is really essential (at a hefty $39-$59), as you don't want to damage the screen in transit. You can also buy spare USB cables, travel hubs, and AC power adapters, but these are all included in the original box.
Price: The Digital Reader 1000WS costs costs a whopping $895 (€599, £631). While this top end device is aimed at the business audience, iRex's smaller iLiad reader is also used for personal users.
Again, we think this Dutch reader is excellent, but its very large size and hefty price tag will deter most small business and personal buyers, and we do believe there are much better deals to be had elsewhere.