My new Velocity Cruz Reader came Friday night, so I’ve had about a day to work with it before writing this review.
The Cruz Reader looks very similar to the Pandigital Novel, and appears to be based on the same hardware. The similarity ends once you power the Cruz up though, as it quickly leaves the Novel in the dust.
In the box with the Cruz Reader comes an AC adaptor, USB cable, a heavy plastic stand, user guide and a rather unsubstantial slipcover. The battery of the Cruz came charged and ready for use — a nice touch.
The Cruz Reader seems a little heavy for its size — about 13 1/2 ounces. Velocity Micro has added a rubberized coating on the back, which feels better in your hands than the smooth metal would otherwise.
First up, get connected. The Cruz Reader did this easily, finding and connecting to my Wi-Fi network quickly. Unfortunately I had to reconnect in a few minutes. So far I’ve only had to reconnect this one time. When waking the Cruz takes a few seconds to reconnect, but it has managed to do so successfully by itself to this point.
On my patio, which is downstairs from my router and outdoors, I was still able to stay connected and download some books from Borders.
Next I headed over to Velocity Micro’s Cruz Market to see what apps they are offering. No, sadly the Cruz Reader does not access the Android Market. There are currently 14 apps available at the Cruz Market. These include shopping apps for Best Buy and Newegg, Wattpad and FBReader reading apps, Facebook and more.
There is an app for the AndAppStore that will give you access to more Android apps, but the selection is still rather sparse.
The Cruz Reader connects to the Borders ebook store (powered by Kobo) for purchasing ebooks. The Wattpad and FBReader ereading apps are also available and good for finding indie books and free titles.
The Borders reading app, which is a rebranded Kobo app, has options for changing font sizes (there are five) and a night mode. Three different font styles are offered: Serif, sans serif and monospace. Page turning in the Borders app is accomplished by either a swipe or a tap on the edge of the screen, though taps seem to work better.
There is supposed to be an integrated dictionary, but all I have been able to find are trial versions of paid dictionary apps. Update: The “Dr Eye” app on the home screen is the dictionary — thanks to Josh from VM!
Web browsing works quite well. Of course panning and zooming around a web page is always easier with a multi-touch screen, but that would no doubt have made the Cruz Reader more expensive.
Entering information and logging in on websites has so far been painless. I was able to log into my Gmail and Hotmail accounts, but Yahoo would not let me sign in on the Cruz. Typical of Yahoo.
I was having trouble getting YouTube videos to play, but the Velocity Micro support site has a new YouTube app that needs to replace the one shipped on the first Cruz Readers. After I installed this YouTube is working fine.
Update: Velocity Micro has a new Support Hub that has all of the firmware updates and downloads for the Cruz reader and Cruz Tablet.
The Cruz Reader is faster and the touchscreen, which appears to be resistive, more responsive than other lower-priced Android tablets (such as the Novel) that we have seen to date. The viewing angle is also much better than I would have expected on a display priced at this level.
As is the case with LCD displays, the Cruz Reader is useless in the sun, but I could read on it in the shade outdoors, though the experience was not ideal. The screen is quite glossy, so there are reflections under bright lights. The display also gets covered in smudges, but these can be easily wiped off with a microfiber cloth.
It is not unheard of for lower priced devices to lag when changing screen orientation, and the Cruz does suffer occasionally from this problem, although it is not too bad and does not always happen.
I think the most disappointing thing for me about the Cruz Reader is the fact that there is no access to the Android Market. This would allow the installation of the Kindle and Barnes & Noble apps for Android and significantly broaden the content selection.
Battery life is supposed to be up to 10 hours (shorter when viewing videos). I had to charge after about 4-5 hours use, but the battery may not have been completely charged out of the box. The 10 hour estimate may not have taken leaving the Wi-Fi on into consideration either. In any case, this battery is still new, and sometimes that can result in some fluctuations in the time between charges.
My Take on the Cruz Reader
The Cruz Reader seems to fall somewhere between being an ereader and a tablet. It does not have all of the features of a full-blown tablet and yet has more multifunctionality than a dedicated ereader.
If you want an LCD-based ereader then I have no problem recommending the Cruz Reader — at least based on the amount of time I have spent with it. The Cruz is no iPad or Galaxy Tab, but seems a solid product for the price and is more functional than the other lower-priced Android LCD ereaders we have been seeing, such as the Pandigital Novel or Augen The Book. At $199 it is also more expensive, though the price will no doubt be discounted.
I have noted before that I much prefer reading on e-ink vs LCD because I do get eyestrain from reading on an LCD for any length of time. If you read for longer periods e-ink will be easier on your eyes. If you read for shorter periods LCD may be suitable for you. Both types of displays have their pros and cons. Obviously the color screen will be better for reading things like comics and magazines.
If you are primarily looking for an ereader to read normal ebooks with little graphical content, then I would recommend an e-ink device rather than an LCD ebook reader. The Kindle 3, Sony Pocket PRS-350 (new model) and the Barnes & Noble NOOK are all less expensive and are better suited for long-form reading of text. With the Kindle 3 you will have access to a much larger selection of contemporary ebooks as well.
Cruz Reader Covers
You might want to get a more substantial cover to protect the Cruz Reader — the slipcover that comes in the box doesn’t provide a lot of protection. There are several choices at the moment. These cases will also fit the Pandigital Novel ereader.
First there is the Ex Point Universal Leather Case. This one is black pebble grained leather with a zipper closure and felt lining for $35.00.
Body Glove also makes a universal style case that will fit. The E-Reader Travel Hard Shell Case costs $29.99. This one has a pull out stand and pockets for accessories.
The BookArmor High Impact Travel Case for the Pandigital Novel will work as well. The Cruz Reader and the Novel are almost exactly the same size. The BookArmor case has a zipper closure and costs $32.95.
The picture below shows the above three covers in order of mention, left to right.
There is also the Velocity Leather Portfolio, which is the official cover from Velocity Micro priced at $49.99.
If you want something more colorful, check out the Cruz reader covers from CaseCrown (There are Cruz Tablet covers mixed in, the tablet is the same size as the Cruz Reader).
DecalGirlnow has device skins for the Cruz Reader. I would recommend the matte finish; it costs a little more but looks and feels nicer. You can get a 10 percent discount at DecalGirl with promo code DECAL10.