The Cybook Opus would have to be the cutest e-reader we've ever reviewed. It has a rounded, glossy case in metallic plastic in a variety of cheerful colours (even the black manages to look less sombre) and a compact size. One of the smaller e-readers on the Australian market, it measures a screen size of just 5 inches and clocks in at the lightest weight for an E Ink reader in Australia at just 150g — although it's still a little physically bigger than its closest competitor, the Sony Reader Pocket Edition.
Buttons the same colour as the chassis are arranged neatly around the face: a nav pad and menu and home buttons along the bottom, and two long, thin buttons down the right-hand side of the screen for turning pages. These are actually quite nicely placed for thumb navigation, and can even be used comfortably with the left hand thanks to the Opus' accelerometer. This allows you to orient the screen by turning the device.
While a plastic chassis shaves five grams off the weight of the Sony Pocket, though, it's not without problems. It can look cheap, especially since it scratches easily: if you pop the e-reader in a bag without a case, it's going to get scratched up. It probably will anyway, but the included slipcase will protect it to an extent.
Even though it's the same price as the Sony Reader Pocket Edition, the Opus is relatively light on features. It has, as mentioned, an accelerometer so that you can easily orient the screen position to whatever is most comfortable for you, and Go To page and bookmarking functions — which is good because it has a tendency to forget which page you were on when it shuts itself down.
Aside from that, it's lacking a few things; a built-in dictionary, for one, and audio support. There is also no search, and the sort functions of the device leave a little to be desired; you can only, for example, sort books by title, not author — this can be irksome if, for example, you're reading a series.
Of lesser concern are the absence of a search function and PDF reflow.
All of these absences can be worked around, but when devices that cost the same or less can manage to include them, one is forced to wonder wherein lays the difficulty.
We were really hoping the Cybook Opus would be it: the smaller company e-reader that could take on the big guys. Unfortunately, it displays too many problems.
First, the good. For an older model (the Opus was first released in Europe in 2009), it's really quite zippy, taking very little time to either boot up, load a book or turn a page. It can certainly hold its own in terms of processing speed against newer e-reader models.
We also like how lightweight it is; its 150g frame is super comfortable to hold for long reading sessions, and it's shaped well for one-handed operation.
Now for the not-so-good.
The accelerometer can be a little on the over-sensitive side; for example, lying in bed on your side will set it off; and it can be tricky to figure out how to turn it off if you're not savvy with device settings. The flip side of this is that once you're comfortable with the navigation, configuring the Opus to the most comfortable orientation for you — or putting it into landscape mode for PDFs — allows you to customise your device.
We also thought the screen quality varied. While most of the time it is clear, occasionally there would be washed-out areas, and significant ghosting is visible from time to time. It's also quite dark, with a relatively low contrast. While not enough to mar the experience to a great extent, it is clear that the Vizplex E Ink screen isn't on a par with other e-readers; even the Kobo, which is touted as the affordable choice, manages a better job.
The battery life is quite good: it can last a fortnight on full charge, although you do have to remember to hit the power button when you are done reading, otherwise the battery will drain. Because of the fast start-up time, this isn't really a problem, but if the battery drains, the Opus will forget which page you were up to. This can be worked around too: there's a Go To page function that allows you to estimate where you were and go directly to that page number; or you can bookmark every time you turn the device off; or you could just be more careful with keeping it charged. This one might be tricky, though: twice the battery drained dead in sleep mode.
By far the fiddliest thing was the navigation. While not quite as bad as the Orizon — there is a dedicated menu button and back button for getting around — it's not always intuitive. However, after a few days with the device, you should find yourself confident enough to get where you need to go. No, the biggest gripe is with the library itself; alas, you can't sort your books by author or skip to a certain letter of the alphabet, so if you want to read The Zombie Survival Guide, for example, you have to scroll through your entire library to get to it.
Again, there's a work-around: open the e-reader on your computer as external storage and put your ebook files into folders. It might get a bit fiddly, but it's preferable to scrolling through 30 pages of ebooks at the Opus' refresh rate.
Australia has long lagged behind the rest of the world in the ebook market and it's nice to see that we're starting to catch up. If you're looking for an alternative to the big cats, however, the Opus may be an option. It's still just not as good as the Sony Reader Pocket Edition or the Kobo, never mind the Kindle, which definitely give more bang for your buck.
The Cybook Opus is available in Australia from eReadersRus.