Last time we reviewed a Kogan e-reader, it wasn't the best we'd seen. Now we have our hands on the new touchscreen reader and, while initial impressions were fairly positive, they didn't last. It genuinely is a shame, because the more competitive products available, the better the market has to be. Alackaday, the Kogan eBook Reader with e-Ink touchscreen isn't even the droids we are looking for in disguise.
The design is an improvement on the previous Kogan e-reader, with a sturdier feel and more streamlined interface. It seems that Kogan may have switched OEMs for its e-readers; certainly the touchscreen reader has a weightier heft, and the buttons don't feel like they're about to snap off.
The case is black soft-touch plastic, which has a matte finish. It is surprisingly much worse at picking up oil from your fingers than piano black, but, with its curved edges, it feels comfortable in the hand. Some people find the soft-touch finish a bit skin-crawling, though, so bear that in mind.
A small array of buttons tidily arranged below the screen lets you move back and forward; jump quickly to the home screen; view a pop-up menu; go back to the previous screen; and lock or unlock the device. In tactile contrast to the e-reader's case, these buttons are slightly textured; since they sit flush against the e-reader, it's a nice touch. An indented border hugs the lower edge of the buttons and swoops up around the sides of the screen. Visually, it adds a certain something, but we're not sure that its tendency to catch dust and grime is a good trade.
On the bottom edge of the device, you'll find a 3.5mm audio port, an SD card slot discreetly tucked away behind a closing flap, and a mini-USB port for charging and data transfer. The power button resides along the top. All in all, it's a lot more handsome and comfortable than the previous Kogan e-reader, with everything in a position that makes sense.
This Kogan e-reader introduces a capacitive touchscreen to the brand's line. We have tested several types of touchscreen by now, including capacitive, infrared and resistive; and, although capacitive is in general the most responsive, in e-readers, infrared seems to be king. Like resistive touchscreens, capacitive requires a layer that adds a heightened gloss to the E Ink screen; and, in this particular example at least, it responds mostly slowly and sometimes not at all. That could be a software issue; see the performance review below for more info.
But the Kogan is also bundled with a large range of cool features. You'll get 1500 public domain books (you can see a list of these titles here) from Project Gutenberg. Granted, these are all free titles and you probably won't end up reading most of them, but the experience of loading the device for the first time and wandering, dazed, through the catalogue, is almost like finding yourself in a second-hand bookstore and searching for the hidden gems. It won't be for everyone, and it's certainly a large list to wade through, but there's fun to be had there, if you want it.
You can also create collections; add titles to your favourites; sort by name, title or genre; and search for specific titles. These search and sort features are very useful, since there's 200-odd pages worth of titles there.
We like that the interface allows you to explore folders on the device, which means you can easily add folders, and you can edit, copy and rename your files from within the device.
The Kogan touchscreen reader supports a massive range of file types; as well as the standard ePub, PDF and TXT, you can also read HTML, RTF, MOBI, PRC and other document types (see the "Specs" tab above for the full list), as well as various image and audio file types, although you can't play audio files while reading (admittedly, not a problem for some, but others do like a little Nachtmusik from time to time).