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Got my PocketBook Aqua new e-reader for about a week, now. I broke the last one while trying to avoid it falling on the ground. It didn’t like the knee shot in the screen. I’d got it for around three years.

First impressions :
– it’s a shame that it’s so hard to find it in Switzerland, even if the company is now based in Lugano, away from its native Ukraina. I’ve had to buy it in France, with an added cost of about 50 bucks in postal and custom fees.

– the body is rather ergonomic, a lot more than my old PocketBook Pro602, which was heavier and bigger in the hand. But of course, the sturdiness of my old e-reader is lost. Aqua is a bit like an Amazon Kindle, so I think I will probably break it in less than a month. My point of comparison would be my Samsung Galaxy Tab2 tablet – it’s very sturdy and physical keys are way easier to use.

– in addition to the excellent capacitive touchscreen, there are only 5 physical buttons ; four on the front (home, back, forward, options), and the last at the bottom (sleep/on-off). The front keys are very good, the bottom one is nearly useless. It’s so hard and it requires so much strength your hands probably won’t be able to activate it. Mine can’t. I have to use a hard surface or a tool to employ it, so I think I’ll probably destroy it rather quickly. I don’t understand why they didn’t use some kind of front keys combination, or a simple command in the touchscreen option menu.

– The other ergonomic error, for me, come from the excellence of the touchscreen. It’s sensitive, very sensitive. Like an emo kid very into dance, theater and Mylène Farmer. It’s really easy to give it strange orders or change pages involuntary, and that’s really annoying (a bit like the aforementioned emo kid). While reading my first book on it (the second volume of Pratchett’s Bromeliad), I think I’ve lost my page about once in every chapter, and I had to use the very good research tool to get back where I was. Yesterday, I discovered in switching it on that it was back at the configuration mode, but in Suomi. I don’t speak Suomi. Typically, not many people do. I would really like to get a mode where only the physical keys would be activated. Mostly because the touchscreen covers about 80 % of the front surface, and it’s easy to touch it while grabing the e-reader, causing chaos and mayhem in your reading experience.

– You can plug in a standard micro-USB cable (for files transfert and charging) in a little socket protected by a waterproof soft plastic bit. As its name could imply it, Aqua is waterproof and dustproof. It’s not like you can deepdive with it, but you can bring it to the pool without trouble. The good point is that you can really easily clean the screen, and that’s really good, since, as a touchscreen, it tends to get greasy/dirty in very little time. I’m still disapointed PocketBook wasn’t able to offer a strong, shockproof-waterproof Aqua with Gorillaglass screen and metallic frame. This could be really appreciated in Swiss Army, where officers may have to bring tens of kg of books with them in the woods. I know I would buy it at once. The PocketBook Pro 602 was maybe on the slow side (at the end, it was not uncommon to have two or three-second lags between two pages), but Aqua is really quick, its touchscreen very responsive, and it’s easy to write notes (or doing searches) with the screen-keyboard. And last but not least, it can be used daily for a month without needing any recharge. And since Swiss Army won’t have Gripen…

– Probably due to it’s waterproof nature, Aqua lacks any micro-SD slot. I think it’s a bit of a shame, since adding up to 32 Go of memory space was providing very versatile options for files storage. But it got an excellent Dropbox integration (through wifi) and you can also bring in books through emails. Since it got about 2.5 Go available for storing files, and ebooks size is usually on the small side, there is plenty of room for several weeks of reading material. I’d like to see the micro-SD slot back on future offers, it was really neat.

– There is no “reset” option that I’m aware of. I’m glad that PocketBook got its system so stable it didn’t need it anymore, but I’m maybe a bit optimistic about that. On the PocketBook 360, the reset button was hidden into the shell, near the battery, so I had to drill a hole with my Dremel to be able to access it. It may have void the warranty.

– It’s also lacking a 3.5mm audio jack, any control led or an internal light. I really don’t care. I’ve probably used once or twice the Pro602’s audio jack (once for listening to music, once for the synthetic reading of a book – the last one was buggy and awful), control leds are incredibly annoying most of the time and can be replaced by indications on the screen and internal light use a lot of power – and when battery runtime is one of your selling point, it’s kind of a false good idea.

– There are some gadgets that some may find useful (like an Amazon-like store integration, various apps like internet browser or rss-reader), but in general the system ergonomics are excellent, very swift, very clean. Some options gestion like Dropbox may be a little bit difficult for computer novices, but I can’t blame Pocketbook about it. It’s still able to open various files format, with or without DRM. So even if you have a huge legit library from B&N or Amazon, you won’t lose it by trading your Kindle to a PockeBook.

– One feature that I really like in PocketBook operating system is that you can select how to organize your files (i.e. by metadata or by file names). Since I’m not big on official releases, it’s very important to me to be able to have access to file names (and also I’ve got a strong organization for my personal files, and I like it that way). That was a thing that killed the Kindle for me (apart for its autodestructive tendencies).

For the moment, I’m giving it a note of 6 (over ten) [edit : 0/10]. I paid it €99 at the french shop (pocketbook.fr, with an additional €40 for postal and custom fee. For that price, you got a waterproof, Dropbox-integrated, well made e-reader, with a very responsive and legible touchscreen, rather good ergonomics, able to open most files formats. For me, it could be perfect if :
– it got rid of the stupidly hard on-off key in favor off a screen command or a front keys combination
– it got the micro-SD slot back (if you can waterproof the micro-USB, I think it’s possible)
– it would be a lot sturdier. Think Casio G-Shock toughness. Of course, it would be heavier and bigger, and would cost a lot more. But it’s not that cheap, and it’s better than any of its competitors, so I think a little increase of the price wouldn’t be a big trouble. And also, if I could bring it in my pocket since it’s so light and slim, I wouldn’t do it because I would probably break the screen in ten seconds. It’s a bit of a Catch-22.

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