Monday, February 14, 2011

Cruz Reader and Cruz Tablet

By Megan Greer is a retail project manager for OverDrive.

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for news about the Cruz Reader by Velocity Micro. I can confidently say that the Cruz Reader and Cruz Tablet are both considered compatible and are now listed on the OverDrive Device Resource Center. For this review though, I’m going to focus on the Cruz Reader.

Just like the PanDigital Novel, the Cruz Reader is more of a multifunctional device, not quite a tablet. I think I’m now going to start calling these types of devices ‘crossovers’, because they aren’t a dedicated eBook reader or a tablet (and mostly because multimedia device just seems like a mouthful). Besides being able to download EPUB eBooks and MP3 audiobooks from the library, you can enjoy media you’ve accessed from other websites. Just as with the Galaxy Tab and various smartphones, you have to install the OverDrive app to the device before you download a book.

Velocity Micro, mostly known for their high-end (not to mention expensive) computers, did a pretty decent job designing the Cruz Reader. One thing that makes the Cruz similar to other gadgets like the PanDigital Novel is that it is running an Android OS, 2.0 to be exact. After further investigation it looks to be a version of Android allowing you access to apps through ‘CruzMarket’ not Android Marketplace. What’s nice though is that you can connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi, no 3G network required.

The device feels substantial in your hands and the rubber backing makes it feel pricier than it is. Weighing just under a pound, it is one of the heavier devices I’ve reviewed. After reading a few chapters of Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, I needed to set it in my lap.

The Cruz uses a resistive touch screen which is different from what you have seen on the iPad or iPhone. I have noticed the screen is more responsive when using a stylus instead of the tip of a finger. For the most part it was quick to scroll through the pages of ‘Beautiful Darkness’. The color isn’t quite as sharp as I experienced with the NOOKcolor in December but it is acceptable for browsing the web or watching videos on YouTube. As for reading purposes, keep in mind the screen is backlit just like a tablet. If you prefer traditional E-Ink, this probably isn’t the device for you.

My main beef with the Cruz is that it takes a long time to boot up – almost an obnoxious amount of time. Now to me, an obnoxious amount of time for a gadget to boot up is about a minute. What can I say? I’m impatient and part of the ‘immediate gratification’ generation. Once it’s on, it’s not bad. The OverDrive app loads quickly and the response time of a page turn, as I mentioned before, is pretty good if you remember to use a stylus or your nail. The last negative point is that the storage space is fairly limited at 256 MB but it does come with a 4 GB micro SD card.

The bottom line is that for only $118 the Cruz Reader is an excellent deal. Not only can you enjoy EPUB eBooks and MP3 audiobooks but you can check email, surf the web, listen to music, and watch videos. It’ll give you a lot of bang for your buck if you are interested in a ‘crossover’. Now that I think about it, that word brings cars to mind…

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