Looking Back at the 8″ iRex DR-800 eBook Reader

iRex DR-800 eBook Reader

Ever since the rise of the tablet and the fall of ebook reader prices, innovation in the field of E Ink ebook readers has grown rather stale. Sure, being able to snag an ereader for under $100 is great, but that has essentially thwarted the growth of specialized ereaders and has destroyed the amount of choices we have be eliminating lesser-known brands.

The iRex DR-800 is a good example of this. It hit the US market almost exactly 2 years ago. And looking at it you see how little has changed in the field of ebook readers since then. About the only thing that has changed is that most newer ereaders use E Ink Pearl screens that have slightly better contrast than the Vizplex screens used a few years ago (the average person probably wouldn’t even notice the difference unless it was pointed out to them).

What made the iRex DR-800 unique was it’s screen size. It, along with its older brother the iRex Illiad, was the only E Ink ereader to have an 8-inch display. The resolution of the screen was 768 x 1024. And it even had a Wacom touchscreen.

The US-version of the iRex DR-800 also had free 3G wireless for downloading ebooks from Barnes and Noble, periodicals from NewspaperDirect, and it had a hidden web browser too.

Other features included an SD card slot, user replaceable battery, a crop margins feature, notes and highlights, it had a unique flip bar for turning pages and navigating menus, and a simplistic design a lot like the newer Kindles.

The iRex DR-800 was only out a couple of months before it got pulled because iRex went bankrupt and eventually turned into a different company called IRX, and has since disappeared into obscurity. Now the iRex DR-800 is pretty much impossible to find in the US. It still lives on as the Solid FX8 for use as a chart reader and cockpit organizer through Jeppesen, but it costs $495. That’s a huge discount actually. It used to be nearly $2000!

Looking back at the iRex DR-800, the biggest reason it failed was because of its price. Back at the start of 2010 ereaders were a lot more expensive. The Kindle 2 sold for $259 if you can believe that. The DR-800 sold for $399, as much as high-end tablets go for now.

I can’t help but think a device like the iRex DR-800 would do better in today’s market where virtually all ereaders have 6″ screens and there’s not much variety. It would have to be a lot cheaper than $399 though. At $199 I think something like it could be competitive.

I can’t help but think how cool an 8-inch or larger E Ink ereader that runs Android would be. But I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon, not unless B&N or Sony decides to surprise everyone with a larger E Ink ereader.

7 Responses to “Looking Back at the 8″ iRex DR-800 eBook Reader”

  1. Nathan, you’re right on this one. Considering that 300 dpi e-ink screens are in prototyping mode right now and if you could have 8-bit grey scale (256 shades of grey, not 16) and a 9.7 inch screen that had 1600 by 1200 resolution with standard features such as Android based, memory card reader (two slots would be nice) and wifi, priced at $199, you would have a very attractive e-reader.

    But one important thing has to occur which has not happened yet and that is to open up the Android based e-reader platform to third-party apps. You could have apps that could give you PDA style capabilities (to do lists, contacts and calendar with appointment reminders) as well as some form of note taking capability.

    With this configuration and open approach you would have devices that could sell and compete effectively with tablets at a price people would buy.

    If Sony executed a product like this they could get some serious traction in the market.

  2. Yes, I wanted a bigger than 6″ size ereader and my research found that for me 8″ to 9″ would be a very attractive page size. I would have liked an eink reader like this.
    My solution – I bought a Samsung 8.9″ tablet and find it is very good as an ereader now I have installed Mantano. Resolution is 170ppi (=Sony PRS650) and weight is that of a trade paperback.

  3. The ebook business has been riding a wave of commoditization for two years now. Ever since B&N set off the three hour price war, the design goal of the market has been growing the installed base for narrative-text readers. Until that wave has pettered out there is no commercial incentive to spending resources in developing product for other segments/niches; witness Sony trimming their product line and Amazon’s marginalization of the DX.
    Once sales of the paperback-class readers levels off, focus is going to shift to magazines, kids books, and other rich format color content; that is what KF8 and ePub3 are aiming at. The key there is a need for color.
    The next wave of readers will be bigger, color-based, and *not* cheap. Which may drive tablet/reader adoption for those segments. Once a baseline configuration emerges (probably bigger than the current 7in tablets, probably lighter than iPad) then we’ll see a new wave of commoditization.
    For now, the choices are 6in eink and tablets.
    Want something else? Wait a year.

  4. I have a IREX ILIAD& PRS T1&NOTIONINK ADAM PQ in my hand. UnTil now I still found iliad bought four or five years ago is my best pdf reading device,for its size and easy to organize drawed notations. But it definitely failed with its price and miserable battery capacity. 800 performed quite similar but with better screen and battery management,I missed that device either.

  5. I have one.

    For me it was the perfect e-reader before the PRS-T1 came out. It main reasons the iRex loses the match against the PRS-T1 are battery life (it’s horrible on the iRex), speed (it’s irritatingly slow compared to the PRS-T1) and customisation. The wacom touchscreen was nice, three years ago, but the sony touchscreen is a lot better.

    I agree that the market needs more 8″ e-readers, but please… let sony make one and not iRex.

  6. I was one of the few ones in Europe, Belgium, to buy an Irex DR-800. It cost 500€ at the time. It has a beautiful, quality screen and larger than most 5″ or 6″ readers but the battery only lasts 8 to 10 days, whether you read or not and it’s heavy 335g compared to my 6″ Pocketbook 301 (178g). The screen might be smaller and maybe a bit less in quality, it’s easy to take with you anywhere and the battery lasts at least 3 months, even with heavy reading. So, now, I don’t use the DR-800 that much anymore. For me, it was a waste of money, especially as Irex did nothing for their customers leaving us with a half-decent functioning reader.

  7. I’m one of the first users and I bought 2 of them. It’s the finest reader I had. Yes, battery it’s not great, but the rest is superb. Especially the screen size it’s for me important. Wish there would be more of these readers.