The Cybook Orizon, from French company Bookeen, is a handsome e-reader. It has a pearly silver casefront, nicely contoured corners and edges, a very slender frame at only 7.6mm — slimmer than the Kindle — and a minimalist interface, with only a nav pad comfortably placed in the centre and indicator lights below the screen.
The back top of the device plays host to the power and reset buttons and a slot for microSD, and on the bottom edge is a micro-USB port for charging and computer connection. Everything is neatly out of the way and discreetly placed (except for the giant Bookeen logo on the front), and easy to keep clean and neat thanks to the included soft case.
Unfortunately, the Orizon has a strangely glossy screen. Other e-readers we've tested with touchscreens — the Sony Readers and the BeBook Neo — had lovely, glare-free matte screens. Not only is the glossy screen reflective and harder to read, it also registers each and every fingerprint. When the glare isn't irritating you, it will be the smudges; and there will be smudges.
The Cybook Orizon is loaded up with features. Probably the most notable of these is a capacitive touchscreen, which allows you to tap and swipe to navigate. "Brilliant!" you might be thinking. Certainly the first thing the majority of people do when handed an e-reader for the first time is prod at the screen wondering why it's not responding.
Touchscreens and E Ink are difficult together, though. E Ink is slow to respond even at the best of times, and you might find yourself accidentally poking too many times, thinking your touch hasn't registered, particularly in Wi-Fi mode.
Of course, the touchscreen allows you to do things you can't usually do very easily on an e-reader: make notes and highlight text. It also allows you to exit menus easily, just by tapping anywhere outside the menu box. Unfortunately, it can be a little unintuitive; sometimes you can't quite be sure whether you need to use the nav pad or the touchscreen for a particular command and can poke at the screen without effect before realising you need to actually press a button.
As we just mentioned, the Orizon also has Wi-Fi. It comes preloaded with five apps: the Bookeen ebook store, Google, Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg and Feedbooks. The latter four are very useful, but the first was ... odd. The only books available on the store are in German and French, with no English language titles at all. The Australian distributor has told us that it is looking for an appropriate Australian store to partner with, but, in the meantime, this is what we have.
Other bookstores can be accessed through the Google app or via the Orizon's browser, though, so all is not lost. However, as we said, using the touchscreen in Wi-Fi mode can be a bit slow, so you may find it quicker just to purchase your books on a computer and transfer them across using USB.
The Orizon does come preloaded with 150 books. Again, though, a good percentage of these are in French and German, so you may end up with three copies of the same novel in three different languages. A free book is a free book, but the number 150 is a mite misleading.
One very notable omission is a dictionary. According to the Bookeen Team on the Bookeen blog, a dictionary firmware update is in the works, but it could be quite a while before anything happens. You can download and install a separate dictionary in the meantime, but for some readers that may not be an adequate solution.
What we do like, in spite of the reflectiveness, is the screen. The SiPix e-paper is a bit darker than E Ink, so the contrast isn't as high as you might want it to be, but the page elements are very crisp and clear, easily legible. From time to time you will see some very faint ghosting — it's unavoidable — but it's barely noticeable.
Even though it can be a little slow to act, the touchscreen is quite responsive and does actually register pokes. We're still not quite sold on the online features of either this e-reader or e-readers in general; even with a QWERTY keyboard, like the Kindle, input is a ponderous undertaking. Nevertheless, it works as well as you could expect of the current technology. We don't like that there doesn't appear to be an option to turn it off; we can only assume that it turns off automatically, since battery life seems quite OK.
Although it is definitely not the standard, we have come to appreciate PDF reflow and it is a little disappointing when e-readers don't support it. However, the accelerometer — which when on orients the screen to a comfortable position — was a nice addition, as well as the fact that it's easy to turn off simply by entering the Settings menu.
We also have to give kudos to Cybook for easily Google-able solutions to common problems, such as accidentally setting the reader to the wrong language.
In fact, we quite like the Orizon. It feels good, works well and looks the business. The price tag is probably going to be the sticking point for most; at AU$319, it is around $200 more than the cheapest Kindle. However, if you are looking for a touchscreen reader, it is most certainly worth a look, especially since neither of the Sony Readers have Wi-Fi.
The Cybook Orizon is available in Australia from eReadersRus.