CES 2010 proved to be the half-week that ereaders tried to dominate the stage, with E Ink devices you can buy now or imminently vying for attention with next-gen screen technologies that will be video and/or color capable together with just as frugal. One of the more distinctive models is the Spring Design Alex, a dual-screen reader with 6-inch E Ink up top and 3.5-inch capacitive LCD below. We stopped by for a chat with Albert Teng, Spring Design's co-founder and CTO, who demonstrated the Alex on video for us together with showing us why he reckons it's better than Barnes & Noble's nook.
Video hands-on after the cut
One of the obvious benefits is the speed; where nook users have complained about the speed at which the touchscreen responds and the E Ink updates, we saw little to no lag in the Alex's system. Obviously there's the usual screen refresh delay any E Ink panel brings, but the Marvell ARMADA 166E SoC powering the Alex does a decent job of keeping the lag to one of the smallest we've seen on an ereader.
Since you're also getting full access to the underlying Android OS, you get to download from the 20,000+ titles in the Android Market. Basically, as long as the app doesn't require GPS or (voice) phone functionality, you can use it on the Alex, and Spring Design also promise that as Android is updated to support new formats the Alex will be able to read them too.
We're also impressed by the browser functionality, and how Spring Design have used both displays to their best advantage. The LCD touchscreen is used for general navigation (as well as text-entry with the standard Android on-screen keyboard) but at the touch of a button what's on that small display is instantly flipped up to the larger panel above. That way you can more easily read longer, text-based articles.
Spring Design will begin taking preorders for the Alex from February 22nd, while retailer Borders will sell the dual-screen device in-store later in the year. It's expected to be priced at around $399.
Spring Design Alex ereader hands-on: