This is the final installment of my review of the Hanvon e920 (PLUS) - you can read Part 1 (my reasoning behind purchasing it) HERE and Part 2 (how I got it and changed the language mode) HERE. In this post I’ll discuss how I set it up, the features I really like, and some of the issues I have had to get used to. I’ve also embedded a video review here for those who want to watch a live demo. For further usage details, read on below the video.
Set Up - Navigation: After changing the language mode to English, I decided to look through the Home screen options. You can navigate to the ‘home’ screen at any point by selecting the house icon at the top left of the screen. The e920 has two modes: finger touch and stylus. The finger touch mode is not as responsive as the Kindle Paperwhite (check THIS article for possible reasons why), and I find that using the stylus gives a better response, however both modes work fine (registering over 80% of taps, impressionistically). The default setting is to automatically switch between the two modes, though this can be changed. The stylus is located in the device at the top right (back), and when it is removed the reader enters stylus mode - otherwise it is in touchscreen mode. There are more options while reading in stylus mode, but I’ll discuss that a bit later.
Along with touch navigation, there are several buttons on the lower part of the Hanvon, below the screen. These buttons can be used for navigation and are arranged in three parts: left, center, and right. The left button scrolls between pages, including menu pages (left=left, right=right). The right button scrolls between menu options (left=up, right=down). An underline (on menus) or an arrow (on files) identifies the current highlighted item. The center buttons include a ‘MENU’ key, an ‘OK’, and a ‘back/return’. As you would imagine, the menu key brings up menu options, the OK key selects the highlighted item/option, and the ‘back/return’ goes up a level to the previous menu/page.
Using the left button I was able to look through the Home screen options. A radial counter at the bottom right showed me which page of the Home screen I was on - so far, there are three pages of 19 total Home menu options. Selecting ‘Library’ allows you to view folders on your device’s internal storage. Selecting the ‘SD’ icon at the bottom of the screen allows you to view the contents of your Micro SD card. You can also use the web browser and visit the Hanvon bookstore, but since everything was in Chinese (and the browser defaults to the Hanvon site) and because they ask you to set up a Hanvon account, I gave up on that.
I wanted to set up a dictionary since I found it useful to have one on the Kindle. Unfortunately there are not very many options for English dictionaries on the Hanvon, that I’m aware of (perhaps if I set up a Hanvon bookstore account there would be more options). Setting up a dictionary is quite easy, however, and is simply a matter of selecting the ‘Dictionary’ Home menu option, on the second page of the Home menu. My English language options were the Longman Dictionary and Internet Glossary (which only works if you connect it to the internet via WiFi). Neither seemed to work terribly well while reading, and there is no way to highlight text while using Ebooks, which seems an oversight.
Wifi is relatively easy to set up, either by pushing the power button in the opposite direction, or selecting the WiFi icon in the top right of the screen. Again, buttons and sensitivity leave something to be desired, but with some patience it works. One issue is that there seems to be support only for networks that just require a password. When I tried to connect to my school network (which requires a domain\username and password) a logon authentication window popped up after a minute or two, but the onscreen keyboard did not, meaning there was no way to input the appropriate information. This seems like something that a firmware update could fix. Passwords and wireless networks are automatically saved.
Connecting to a computer is quite simple - either by using the included mini USB cable, or by using a micro SD card. More on the SD card later. When you connect via USB, your computer will recognize the drive as ‘Untitled’. I have no idea if there is any way to change this. There are several folders with Chinese names, some of which contain files and some of which do not. One folder contains images, another contains audio files - you can put your images and audio files in these folders, respectively. Images which you put into the folder within the images folder will be used for the lock screen background - for best results, crop any images you wish to use as backgrounds to 1200x1600 and place them in this folder, removing images you do not want to have displayed. The device will choose one of these images at random when you lock the device.
Using an SD card is simply a matter of treating it as you would a USB drive or any other storage device. Keep in mind that for best cross-platform results you should format it as FAT 32. You may also notice that if you copy files to the SD card (and to the internal memory, for that matter) from a Mac, some oddly-named files will be created on the card. These are tiny files which OS X creates for indexing and which are hidden on OSX but are clearly visible to the Hanvon’s Win CE environment. To keep this from becoming an issue, I use a program like CleanEject, which deletes these files from the SD card or device just before ejecting it from my Mac.
Reading PDFs is where this device is most useful (to me). With your finger you can select menu options for the text-to-speech mode, darkness, and display area along with a few others. However, with the stylus there are more options, namely annotation (with optional embedding) and highlighting/extracting text into a text file that corresponds to the name of your PDF document. The annotations are particularly useful for highlighting elements of PDFs that don’t have selectable text (i.e. scanned documents and/or PDFs created over 10 years ago). The extracted text is great for pulling out quotes for later incorporation into papers.
Reading ebooks is OK. Unfortunately, unlike with my Kindle Paperwhite (and unlike the PDF options just described for the Hanvon e920), there is no way to select text in Ebooks (i.e. highlight for dictionary or store it for later) neither in finger nor pen touch modes. This seems quite an oversight. There is also only a single font available for Ebooks, though the font size can be adjusted. Overall, I found ebook reading to be pleasant, but not as pleasant as the Paperwhite, which I will probably keep around for just that purpose.
All in all, I am very happy with my purchase of the Hanvon e920. It does everything I want for PDFs. The main issues that make the experience less than fully enjoyable are the slower response (and inconsistent registering) of the touch screen both in finger and pen modes, and the lack of dictionary support or fonts. However, after a week of acclimation, I have gotten used to the response time and am enjoying it much more. The audio player, expandable SD card slot, and other features are simply pluses to an already enjoyable and useful device. I’m sure I’ll discover more about it as I continue to use it.
As a final note, the Hanvon e920 uses Windows CE Core 5 as its operating system. However, I have not been able to figure out how to add fonts to the system (despite posts like THIS), which I think would give a better reading experience. Perhaps there is a hack which would allow such a thing, but there may also be some licensing restrictions.