Pandigital Novel preview

When the black model launches initially, it may be joined by the re-released white model at the same time, potentially with its software issues fully resolved..

Sure, Pandigital’s Novel may be delayed until next month because of some firmware issues — and we haven’t heard the most positive things about the 7-inch LCD based e-reader / tablet — but we had to check it out for ourselves. At $149, the all-plastic reader isn’t going to win any build quality awards (it’s also rather heavy for what it is), but the Android 2.1-powered gadget does have a pretty attractive user interface. In use, however, the resistive screen had to be pressed quite firmly to make selections and the software was noticeably sluggish.

Pandigital on Thursday explained a halt to sales of its Novel touchscreen e-reader. The company says the device will go back on sale in about a month, and the time will be used to review the firmware that’s preloaded onto the device, which was the reason for the delay. A spokesperson for the company also confirmed that a a black model will also be released that may have other features.

Fresh news out of Pandigital today, finally responding to the is-it-a-recall controversy of recent weeks, and who are now saying that the Novel touchscreen ereader won’t be back in stores for around a month.  The Digital Reader has been told by the company that they’ve using this opportunity to re-examine the firmware and make sure it’s really ready for public consumption this time around.

In going through the fix,” the unnamed spokesperson claims, “we’re taking extra time to make sure it’s absolutely final before we send it out.”  She also comments on the black hardware which was spotted crossing the FCC, and confirms that it is indeed another version of the Novel.  Apparently the initial plan had been to release the white first and then follow up with the black; however this new firmware delay has changed that somewhat.

The Pandigital Novel eReader wasn’t exactly a huge success when it was launched, since there were major firmware issues affecting it upon its release, but things do look as though they are being improved with a new firmware update for the device being released. This new firmware is touted to fix the previous problems that plagued the device, and it ought to translate to the Novel eReader making its way back to store shelves as well. Hopefully that most of the major flaws are fixed in this firmware update, as we’re sure users can be pretty forgiving at times if the company shows that it is sincere in making things work.

The new firmware is supposedly going to resolve all of the issues known so far, though customers or reviewers have not yet had the opportunity to say whether or not this actually happens. Of course, the matter of the weight will likely persist, but Pandigital likely hopes that the wide functionality and versatility will outweigh this issue. Those that already own the device may visit the official website, download the package and follow the update instructions there listed. No word yet on when Kohl is set to resume shipments.

Surprisingly, the device did play a standard definition video smoothly and it has an accelerometer — which is more than the Archos 7 Home Tablet can brag. Barnes & Noble’s Android app will be preloaded, and it also has a skinned Android browser of some sort. We’ve got a short hands-on video after the break, but you’ve got the picture here: the Novel isn’t what we’d call novel, you just get what you pay for.

Of course, the return policy that allows any buyers of the Novel is still in effect, which means that one may still decide to return it and get a full refund even after installing the update, should expectations not be met. Pandigital’s future plans in regards to the product are still unknown and, thus, it is hard to say whether a more lightweight model will ever make its appearance.


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