Tried & Tested

Tried and Tested: The COOL-ER e-reader

2 Dec 2009 by AndrewGough

COOL-ERUK-based technology company Interead has entered its own contender in the growing e-reader melee. The COOL-ER goes head-to-head with giants such as Sony’s eBook range and the much anticipated Amazon Kindle. Indeed the COOL-ER uses similar if not the same monochrome electronic ink screen as its rivals.

As a relative newcomer, Interead is marketing itself as a “young British company” and its product reflects this very well. Whether this is a unique selling point remains to be seen. Looking more like an iPod with a giant screen and lacking the whizzy functionality of some of its more expensive rivals, the COOL-ER appears to be aimed at the less technically minded. Interead say the COOL-ER was designed with “ordinary book lovers” in mind, and its £189 price tag does reflect its lack of extra features to some extent, but not entirely.

The COOL-ER, compatible with both PCs and Macs, has space for more than 800 books with the option of additional storage on an SD card. Anyone that’s ever used an e-reader will know that they can all store entire libraries of books. In my opinion, while this is impressive prospect it’s almost an irrelevance. Unlike songs on an MP3 player, it can take weeks to read just one book, so why you would need so many on an e-reader is beyond me and something most people will come to realise. It is for this reason, I believe, that e-readers are advancing quickly to include additional functionality such as wifi and 3G connectivity, as with the Amazon Kindle, and hardware manufacturers are racing to create full colour electronic ink to widen their application. The COOL-ER doesn’t have internet connectivity, but it does have an inbuilt MP3 player, which I will come on to later.

It also comes in eight colours, including pink which would have been perfect for the more feminine e-reader user, but it wasn’t to my taste and did attract some funny looks on the tube. Anyway, the range of colours further gears the COOL-ER to the iPod generation, indeed its whole aesthetic smacks of the Apple music player. But ignoring comparisons with Apple’s iconic music player, the COOL-ER does have a larger screen than many of its rivals. The controls are also extremely simple, perfect again for the less technically inclined. The Kindle by comparison has a full QWERTY keyboard.

The COOL-ER is also extremely light, possibly at the expense of build quality and the buttons feel a little clunky, but even so you could barely feel this in your pocket. This is a very real consideration if you like to hold your books up and not on your lap, or on the tube when standing. One drawback is the lack of a case of any kind, but one in silicon is available to buy separately.

The electronic ink screen was very easy on the eyes, and an added benefit of the technology is its extraordinary power consumption, or rather lack of. In the few weeks that I had the COOL-ER, its battery never seemed to lose power. Electronic ink only uses power when going from page to page, but the COOL-ERs lack of any other kind of power hungry feature, such as wifi/3G or a touchscreen, also makes it extremely battery-life friendly and is another one in the Kindle’s eye.

I liked the COOL-ER a lot, its simplicity and ease of use endeared itself to me somewhat, but I feel duty bound to say that the MP3 let it down a little, and felt more like an afterthought and an attempt to cram in extra features. Unfortunately the COOL-ER is simply not powerful enough to play music at the same time as change from page to page, which is really the benefit of having an inbuilt MP3 player. The device can be used as a standalone MP3 player, but it is not designed for that as is evident from the controls. The +/- magnify buttons double as volume controls, but I couldn’t find any way of skipping through songs or seeing how far through one I was.

It’s also worth mentioning that the COOL-ER can handle most e-reader formats, but also RTF, TXT, HTML and image formats such as JPG, GIF and BMP. If you’re so inclined, you could use it as a USB drive and put anything you want on it.

Ignoring the poor MP3 player, the COOL-ER’s simple controls and aesthetics, large screen and ability to zoom to staggeringly large type make it ideal for children and the elderly. The COOL-ER is not going to win on the features-stakes, or even the cost side as the Kindle can be shipped from the US for just £10 all-in, but it has does have simplicity on its side. It is however about £60 cheaper than Sony's PRS-600 ebook, but then that has a touchscreen. A fairer comparison would be the Sony PRS-300 which beats the COOL-ER on price (at £150) but not on screen size, at five inches versus six.

Pros All round light-weight simplicity, long battery life, large screen

Cons Lack of features, no case as standard

Price £189


Andrew Gough

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