capsule review

Foxit eSlick e-Book Reader

At a Glance
  • Foxit Software eSlick

    PCWorld Rating

    This e-book reader costs slightly less than an Amazon Kindle or a Sony Reader, but it's no match for them.

Foxit's eSlick e-book reader is curiously named because the device is decidedly unslick, with a utilitarian appearance that lacks the elegance of competing e-book readers. Ultimately, though, its looks are less of a concern than its limited functionality.

Foxit is best known for its software, Foxit Reader, a popular PDF viewer that is leaner and less resource-hungry than Adobe's PDF reader. It's no surprise, then, that the company's e-book device is built solely around the PDF format. The eSlick presents an interesting contrast to the industry-leading Amazon Kindle 2, whose Achilles heel is its inability to read PDFs without conversion (the larger Kindle DX does natively support PDF, however).

The eSlick reader is lightweight, small, and thin, but it feels plasticky and cheap. The bezel around the Kindle 2's screen is wide enough to permit you to rest your thumb comfortably on it, and Amazon positioned its page-turning buttons sensibly; in contrast, the eSlick is sometimes a bit hard to hold naturally, and turning pages involves moving your hand to the four-way controller in the lower right portion of the face. We couldn't change the font size of any of the PDF books we tried--in every instance, the menu option for font size was grayed out. (In order to change the font size on a PDF, the unit must be in Reflow Mode, a tidbit buried in the user manual.) Zooming in works; but after using it, you may have to scroll left and right to read across a line. You can shift most documents to landscape view and then zoom to the width of the device, which does ameliorate this problem.

The screen itself is clear and easy to read, and only a bit smaller than the Kindle 2's. It supports four shades of gray, so illustrations don't look quite as good as they do on the 16-grayscale screen of Amazon's device, but illustrations and artwork aren't the forte of any modern e-book device. Page refresh is sluggish, as in all other E Ink displays. You can listen to MP3s while you read, but the headphone jack accepts 2.5mm plugs rather than the standard 3.5mm plugs, so you'll have to use the included adapter to insert most headphones. Like most e-book readers, the eSlick's music player isn't great.

Getting books onto the device is unduly cumbersome. The eSlick doesn't support wireless of any kind--Wi-Fi or cellular--so you have to rely on the USB cable. The e-book reader's memory consists of 512MB built-in and 2GB on the included SD Card (you can swap this out for your own SD Card if you like). Books must be be formatted as plain-text (.txt) or .pdf files. Foxit includes the company's PDF creator software (which normally costs $29), so you can convert virtually any printable document into a PDF. As more books become available in PDF format, the eSlick's limited format-reading ability may cease to be an issue, but few current bestsellers are available as PDFs these days. Furthermore, some of the fancier PDFs we tried exhibited a few formatting problems. It does not support DRM-protected PDFs, but the eSlick can read password-protected PDFs.

Priced at $250, the eSlick costs almost as much as the Kindle 2. Unfortunately, the eSlick's hardware has no wireless capability and suffers from ergonomic problems, and Foxit has a long way to go to provide software and services that would make the device a desirable alternative to the Amazon and Sony frontrunners.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This e-book reader costs slightly less than an Amazon Kindle or a Sony Reader, but it's no match for them.

    Pros

    • Can handle free e-books saved as PDF files
    • Inexpensive and easy to read text on

    Cons

    • Only one font size on our model
    • No support for DRM-encrypted e-books
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