updated 01:40 am EST, Fri January 8, 2010
QUE centers on its massive e-paper screen
Plastic Logic as expected used CES to launch the QUE proReader as its own entry into e-book readers. The device promises a very large 8.5- by 11-inch display, 3G, Wi-Fi and software that doesn't normally find its way into e-book devices. We had the opportunity to try the QUE this evening and have our own early opinion.
The screen is as much the centerpiece of attention as you would expect: besides feeling much more natural, it also displays a surprisingly large amount of content; we saw a whole article from USA Today displayed on a single page. It's a capacitive touchscreen as well and has a surprisingly natural interface: the front page is laid out almost magazine-style and makes for a more visual process of opening books, magazines and websites from the home screen. The one caveat is the lack of multi-touch, though it does support gestures even with the slow-to-draw e-paper slowing things down.
The ostensibly business-heavy focus of the QUE actually helps make a more convincing case for it as a home device simply because it can be used to open files you'd read anyways, like PDFs, presentations and spreadsheets. Internet features are still fairly basic like the Kindle and are largely limited to RSS feeds, though the extra size means you can see more of these at once.
We also have to give credit to Plastic Logic for a good first design. The QUE borrows a certain Apple-like quality as it's both extremely thin and very minimalist; the only button on the front is the home button. In practice, it's more like a very slim digital photo frame than an e-book reader, which we think will go a long way towards easing avid readers into digital books.
The only obstacles that we can see are ship dates and pricing. Although it goes on pre-order today, it won't ship until mid-April and will cost $649 just for a 4GB model with Wi-Fi, which puts it well over the prices of the Kindle and Nook; an 8GB model that adds 3G costs $799. But if you're an avid reader or even just want a companion device to review documents away from an LCD, the raw size and ease of use could be worth the price.