As one of the first successful eBook readers, the Kindle by Amazon swept most readers off their feet with its petite size and super slim body. Moreover, with the large selection of books in Amazon’s online store, users could buy anything they wanted without spending time searching for it. Everything from business and investing to spiritual books can be located with the click of a few buttons. Still, some people wonder what the appeal of ebooks is in the first place. But imagine you’re on holiday and reading The Lord of the Rings, for example, which is over 1,000 pages long and is a good 3-4 inches thick. Not only will it take up space but will also add to the weight of your luggage. This is where eBook readers fit in. They are small, compact and can accommodate hundreds of books without adding to the weight of your luggage when you’re traveling.

The keypad could have been better designed

An Indian company, EC Media International, has launched an eBook reader called the Wink XTS. This device isn’t here to replace the Kindle, but it is an initiative by an Indian company to bring e-reading content to our local market. To make this possible, Wink will offer consumers a one-stop e-store, where the user will have access to a large number of eBooks (; from history texts to career guides to Do It Yourself (DIY) manuals; the company promises you’ll find it all in the Wink store.

The Wink reader is as thin as an everyday cellphone and comes with a 6-inch E-Ink screen. A keyboard is placed just below the screen, while the buttons for navigating between pages are on the top left side of the device. However, unlike the Kindle, the Wink is devoid of navigational buttons on the right, so the user is forced to use only his left hand to hold the product. Moreover the keys are too small for comfort, so people with large fingers will definitely have issues using this device. Apart from its reading capabilities, the device is also capable of playing audio. You will find a pair of speakers on the rear of the device, which are capable of delivering audio quality that is surprising for its size.

It's got a power off switch and reset button at the rear

The rear is also home to a reset button along with a Power Off switch that is meant to be used when the Wink is not going to be used for a substantial period of time. Towards the bottom, you will find a standard USB port that is used to charge it and to transfer files to the device. A 3.5 mm headphone jack sits just beside it to let you connect headphones or desktop speakers. The SD card slot placed on top gives you the freedom to carry additional music and files. Another aspect to note is the rubberized back that provides good grip when held.

The Wink comes with a well laid out user interface designed to make navigating between menus easy. It’s quite self explanatory and gives you direct access to your music, library, Wi-Fi and system settings. However, what it lacks is operational speed. If there is anything that goes against the Wink it is the extreme sluggishness with which it operates. You’ll have to wait a few seconds for each button press to register. You also have direct access the Wink store site via the Wink Home menu, and this is where your patience with the product is tested even further. Navigating from one link to another takes more than a second, so browsing for books is a real hassle as you would need to wait to press the arrow keys as many times as it takes to actually get to a book. This is where a dedicated joystick and a faster screen refresh rate would have helped. Having said that, the Wink does come with two refresh modes – Full refresh and Quick refresh.

A 3.5mm earphone jack allows you to also hook it up to speakers

The Quick refresh mode is basically meant to make page transitions snappier, but it still doesn’t quite impress with its speed. While the increase in speed is barely noticeable, there is a definite lowering of the refresh rate, whereby contents of the previous are visible for a while even after switching to a new page. This could make reading quite uncomfortable over time.

The Wink’s internet connection can only be used to browse the Wink store, and not to browse the web at all. However, it does have an email client that allows you to sync and read your messages, though at a snail’s pace. The Applications section is home to just one game, Minesweeper. However, playing it is a pain, thanks to the Wink’s sluggish refresh rate and grain-sized keys. Performance is undoubtedly bad, but the overall usability is good thanks to the E-Ink screen. Text and pictures appear crisp – this is probably the only thing that the Wink really shines at delivering. Text can be reflown in case it is too small and unreadable, but as expected, this doesn’t happen very smoothly either. There is considerable amount of lag when zooming or switching between pages.

Plenty of standardized connectivity options

However, performance issues aside, the Wink is quite easy to work with. You also have a bookmark key that allows you to instantly mark important pages. You can also jump to any page by typing the page number into the ‘Go To’ dialog. Ebook readers in general are not intended for everyone. The Wink and Kindle are aimed more towards bookworms who love reading. Unlike tablets and laptops, they offer a much higher level of comfort when it comes to reading, mainly because of the E-Ink display technology that mimics real paper rather than LCD screens, which require light shining through them from the rear.

However, taking everything into account, the Wink is a difficult product to recommend mainly due to its frustrating performance, which actually detracts from the pleasure of reading, unlike the Kindle, its most obvious competitor. Having said that, however, one advantage that the Wink has over the Kindle is its ability to read EPUB files. In addition, the device comes with an SD card slot that supports an additional 16 GB of memory over the inbuilt 1.5 GB. Battery life is just about average and it fails to go beyond two days at a stretch. The Wink is a decent first attempt, but there many issues that need to be ironed out.

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