Hanvon is making a virtue of the lower cost of its WISEreader models compared with the competition. Given the £150 to £300 price tags on some of these devices, it's not a bad move: there's certainly plenty of interest in the idea of being able to have a library in your pocket.
The Hanvon WISEreader N516 has a 5in screen with 800x600 pixel resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio. It's a run-of-the-mill E-INK device that's lithium ion-powered and uses the usual EPUB and PDF formats. Doc, HTML, Jpeg, GIF and txt files can be displayed in either portrait or landscape fashion.
You get a 2GB Secure Digital card in the Hanvon WISEreader N516's box, but can substitute this for one of a capacity up to 32GB - a hugely unlikely scenario since each book takes up only a few megabytes and you're unlikely to want to trust a lowly, easily lost memory card with hundreds of pounds' worth of books. Of course, you can load it up with open source, non-copyright content, but the same principle applies.
The Hanvon WISEreader N516 sports a headphone jack and supports MP3 playback - there's even a small speaker on the base - but doesn't make a good fist of it. For now, audio on the Hanvon WISEreader N516 seems rather an afterthought. What we do like about Hanvon readers is their build. The slip- and scratch-resistant rear of the Hanvon WISEreader N516 is a far cry from the easily marked Cool-ER reader and the recent trio of white devices (the Amazon Kindle, iRiver Story and BeBook Neo).
While the overall look of the Hanvon WISEreader N516 is rather unassuming, we didn't have the too-flimsy concerns we did with the Cool-ER. Nor is it heavy like the does-everything iPad. If anything, though, the WISEreader is too sensibly sized - its 5in screen is just a touch too small. It fits in a handbag or pocket with ease, but reading a novel on it is rather a chore.
Open source books, in particular, tend to have unhelpful line breaks and inflexible formatting. On a small-sized screen you're forever pressing the page down key. To be fair the numerical keys running down the lefthand side make for easier navigation than on the navipad-only e-book readers. You can also zoom in and out of pages. A bookmark button is hidden at the bottom of the numerical stack. This useful button could have done with clearer labelling.
We weren’t smitten with the Hanvon WISEreader N516, but it’s a good example of the e-reader breed and a solid device that won’t weigh you down or fall apart in your hands. We’d have liked a larger screen and perhaps an attractive case to keep it in however.