The enTourage eDGe has been available since early spring and debuted amongst the eReader rabble at CES last winter, so why is it now gaining attention? It could be because the enTourage eDGe is actually closer to an Android tablet than a single-function eBook reader, which was made clear after we spent some hands-on time with the device at CES Line Shows this week.
Technically, enTourage is calling the eDGe the “world’s first dualbook,” a term they wisely trademarked. And despite an abundance of unnecessary product classes (smartbooks, netbooks, nettops, etc.), the new “dualbook” may be apt to describe this tablet/eReader hybrid.
The enTourage eDGe sports dual screens, one a 10.1-inch WXGA resistive touchscreen (1024×600) running the the Google Android OS (currently v1.6), the other a 9.7-inch eInk display (1200×825). And other than the low LCD resolution, it has all the specs you’d expect from a first-gen Android tablet.
This includes an ARM processor, SD/MMC slot, two USB ports, 802.11b/g WiFi, 3 megapixel webcam, stereo speakers, replaceable lithium ion battery with up to 6 hours of juice for the LCD and 4GB of internal memory. The eInk side even recognizes Wacom Penabled tech. Corey Podolsky, enTourage’s VP of Strategic Partnerships, also claims that cellular support is coming soon, though he couldn’t elaborate on which carrier would provide it. When pressed, he only said, “It’s with what I think is the best carrier.”
So why hasn’t the $500 eDGe caught on as a viable iPad alternative, considering it shares the same price point as the least expensive Apple offering?
For starters, the startup enTourage is not Apple. It lacks the marketing resources of the Mac maker. But more to the devices, the eDGe is fairly large. It weighs 3.2 pounds and measures 10.75 x 8.25 x 1 inches closed – or about the same as a small laptop. Also, despite the number of Android apps available for the eDGe, it doesn’t have the App Store.
Beyond that, the eDGe has only been available via the enTourage website. However, Podolsky claimed it would be arrive on stores shelves soon. Again, he demurred on specifics, only saying that it be on major store shelves and not hard to find.
Another factor in the eDGe’s low profile is the fact that enTourage is positioning the eBook reader/tablet not as a consumer device, but rather an educational tool for students. enTourage has already partnered with Encyclopedia Britannica, Elsevier, and others in the education industry for content.
Hands-on time reveals they may be on to something. The eInk screen is ideal for reading text while the LCD side works well for multimedia, like instructional videos. Students can scribble notes on the eInk side with a stylus. There is even an impressive functionality to set bookmarks in the eInk side that can cue multimedia content and web pages on the LCD touchscreen.
The question is can the eDGe handle the physical rigors of the schoolhouse? It has many moving parts, including two screens that open 360 degrees. Podolsky shrugged off the concern as he vigorously opened and closed the device, explaining that enTourage provides users cloud storage for daily backups, saving all the files, notes and bookmarks in case the device breaks. On that note, he declined to drop test the eDGe.
Average consumers looking to get a piece of the eDGe might not have to wait long. Podolsky claimed they were working on a consumer-oriented device (though, consumers are welcome to buy the current eDGe now), and he noted the pricing pressures brought on by the Amazon and Barnes & Noble eReader price war could lower the eDGe price down a few notches.
Until that day comes, keep checking TabletPCReview for a full review of the current enTourage eDGe dualbook.