Two of the biggest and most exciting device categories emerging from CES this year are tablets and eReaders. Some companies are focused on bringing out one or the other, but Entourage set out to create a device that synergizes both categories into something new. The Entourage eDGe is a little bit netbook, a little bit tablet, and a little bit eReader. Unlike many convergence devices, the eDGe manages to combine the best aspects of these categories instead of not doing any one thing particularly well.
The eDGe is a bit smaller than a piece of paper and just under an inch thick when closed. It weighs 3 pounds, which is 0.2 pounds more than the majority of 10-inch netbooks on the market, but doesn’t feel heavy or bulky.
Inside the device has two screens, a 10.1-inch WXGA color screen and a 9.7-inch e-Ink screen. Between them sits a hinge that allows users to fold the device completely flat or bend it all the way back for working on one screen at a time. Along the edges of both screens are a typical spread of ports for a netbook-esque device: USB, miniUSB, Memory Card slot, headphone jack. There’s also an embedded webcam and microphones for recording chats or meetings.
Inside there’s a Marvell processor, 4GB of RAM, b/g wireless and Bluetooth 2.1. An EVDO or HSPA mobile broadband modem is optional. The promised battery life is 16 hours using the eReader screen and 6 hours using the color display.
The coolest thing about the two screens other than their coupling in one device is that they’re both touchscreen. So on the color side users can use a finger or the included stylus to browse the web, type on the on-screen keyboard, and scroll through menus and apps. On the e-Ink side users can draw or write handwritten notes on eBooks or in a journal application.
The eDGe runs on Android, and both screens are integrated into the same system. The e-Ink side is strictly for documents supported by the eReader application (which includes EPUB and PDF docs) and the journal. The color side handles everything else, including other documents not yet supported by the eReader. This integration means that links or media embedded in eBooks (commonly found in EPUB format as well as PDF) will launch on the other screen in the appropriate apps.
Another great feature is that both screens will rotate in every direction, so both left and right-handed users can operate the eDGe any way they like. That includes sitting the unit like a traditional notebook with one screen up and the other lying on a flat surface.
The device has obvious appeal for the education market, particularly those students who found the Kindle DX wanting. It’s also good for people who like e-Ink screens for reading eBooks but don’t want a unitasking device.
However, the eDGe’s strength — being an Android tablet as well as an eReader — is also a drawback. As we’ve seen with several tablet devices running the OS, users won’t have access to the same Android Marketplace that phone users do. The vendors create app stores of their own and try to entice developers, and users can install Android apps if they can find the .apk file on the developer’s website or elsewhere. Still, you can’t install many core Google apps, and early adopters will have to struggle through some lean times until the device takes off and therefore attracts more attention.
Entourage already has some apps on the device and they’re wooing developers as we speak. The device will work from the outset, but users hoping for the ultimate Android tablet will probably have to spend time tweaking and exploring on their own.
Check out our video hands on of the Entourage eDGe below. We’ll get a review unit later this month and the device will start shipping in February. Entourage is taking pre-orders now and the tablets start at $490.
Wondering how the eDGe compares to the size of a netbook? We compared it to the Samsung NC10 and the Acer Aspire 1410.