The Samsung E60 is no ordinary ebook reader. Samsung describes it as an electronic reading and writing device, as it's capable not only of showing books, but also of working as a notepad, Outlook calendar, dictionary, music player and an image viewer. It's available to buy now for £199.
Books the part
The E60 has a slightly smaller footprint than a typical paperback book and is as thin as a magazine, so it's pretty portable, though we can't help thinking it looks like an enormous Samsung mobile phone. Its appearance divided opinion in the office. The E60's glossy ivory finish with chrome edging is inoffensive, but the tasteless faux leather back, which clips off to reveal a rechargeable battery pack and microSD card, is something of an eyesore.
The E60 has an electronic ink display with a panel measuring a very decent 6 inches. Unlike ordinary LCD displays, which are glossy, backlit and difficult to read for long periods, the electronic ink technology on the E60 is easy on the eye, as it makes the screen look almost exactly like the pages of a book. Sadly, its contrast level is a little on the low side, so text looks more grey than black.
The E60 is a pain in the backside to use. Firstly, it requires a stylus for almost all of its functions, which is pretty unforgiveable in this day and age. When you lose the stylus (it's inevitable because it's not tethered to the device), the only way of controlling the E60 is by the four-way control pad tucked away under the E60's sliding screen. Sadly, this pad only works on the main menu -- it's absolutely impossible to scroll through the WHSmith online book store using anything other than the stylus.
Held to account
The E60's problems don't end with its input systems -- it also has considerable issues where usability is concerned. The device connects to the wider world and the WHSmith book store using a Wi-Fi connection rather than a go-anywhere 3G connection. When using one for the first time, you're required to sign up for an Adobe ID, but this is not possible on the device itself -- you'll need to use a separate Internet-connected PC to get the job done. Once that's sorted, you'll need to sign up to yet another account, this time to become a member of WHSmith's online book store. It's an enormous, unnecessary faff.
Sneak peak cheek
Once you've expended the energy and time required to log into the two separate accounts and gained access to the WHSmith online book store, you'll probably want to browse a few books. You can do so by genre or author, but once you've found a book you like the look of, it's not possible to preview the first few pages. That means you're essentially judging books based on their covers, or a recommendation from a review website.
Sing a song of sixpence
The E60 has a set of built-in speakers and a 3.5mm audio jack, both of which let you enjoy a spot of audio while you read. You can connect a microSD card filled with your own music, though Samsung has thoughtfully included a few demo tracks on the 2GB of internal storage, most of which are designed to soothe you as you settle down with your favourite book. It's not an essential feature, but it adds another dimension to the device.
Odds and sods
In addition to the superfluous music playback feature, the E60 has a superfluous calendar feature, which lets you see your daily, weekly or monthly tasks -- all synchronised with your Microsoft Outlook calendar. It also has an image viewer, which is pretty rubbish given the display is monochrome. That said, it's possible to show the contents of the screen on an external display such as a big-screen Samsung TV using the AllShare feature.
You also get notepad functionality, meaning you can scribble your thoughts on the E60 with the stylus; plus a dictionary, which lets you look up the meaning of words you don't understand while reading.
The Samsung E60 is a pretty capable ebook reader with a few extra features, some of which are useful, some of which are not. Sadly, it's let down by its average display quality, rubbish control system, ludicrous price tag and the fact it really isn't as good as the market-leading Amazon Kindle.
Edited by Emma Bayly