The Hanvon N518 is a touchscreen e-reader that packs a lot of function into a small space.

With the N518 Havon has taken a regular 5in electronic e-book reader and packed in a wealth of functionality. But is it a case of too much; too small? We take a close look at the Hanvon N518.

We've tested quite a few electronic book readers over the past couple of months, and the Hanvon N518 has some pretty stiff competition from the likes of Sony and Apple. Even so, the relatively little-known company has managed to produce an interesting device that packs a lot more into its frame than you'd imagine.

The display is a 5in eInk variation (the type that offers long battery life, up to 7,000 page turns). And it's a touchscreen, although it requires use of a stylus (that slots neatly into the top) rather than responding to finger pressure. Fortunately the Hanvon N518's screen lacks the glare that ruined the Sony touch reader, but it lacks the immediacy offered by finger responsive devices.

The Hanvon N518's touchscreen interface has been put to good use, you can doodle on the screen while reading books to recreate that school experience. It's also great for memo note taking, although the handwriting recognition is – to be fair – rubbish, the ability to scrawl notes and memos on to books is a great feature.

Inside is a Ingenic JZ4740 processor, clocked at 336MHz backed up by 64MB SDRAM. while this is adequate for the Hanvon N518's interface, we did find it a tad slow. Especially when looking at PDFs or large files.

It has a 3.5in audio output and a small built-in speaker with support for MP3, WAV, and WMVA audio files. You can use the Hanvon N518 to play music or audiobooks, but there is a better purpose. It has built-in electronic reading of text, so you can set it talking through a book while you flick through.

Like most electronic readers, the Hanvon N518 supports a wide range of text files, including TXT, HTXT, HTML, PDF, DOC, and EPUB and it has support for DRM (Adobe Content Management 4). It also has comprehensive image and audio support including JPG, TIF, BMP, PNG, GIF...

The Hanvon N518's memory is fairly small though, at 512MB. Not that it's a big deal for e-book readers, with files typically weighing in at a couple of MB each. But if you're looking to go beyond that you'll want to make use of the SD card slot.

While the black and chrome of the Hanvon N518 isn't the most stylish design, but there are nice design touches like the ridged right hand side. On the whole the look is 'executive' and the leather case goes some way towards complimenting this look. A particularly nice touch are the hooks and magnets that neatly hold the device in place.

The Hanvon N518 itself is just covered in too many buttons. There are the numerical buttons running down the side from the Sony reader, plus four control buttons (draw, text, audio, and search), then there are a page back and forward buttons (oddly named Up and Down) plus a Menu button, Okay button C button, refresh button and a four control buttons (up, down, left, and right). All of this on top of a comprehensive touchscreen interface.

You don't need this many buttons on a book reader. You don't need a touchscreen either. Heck, anything beyond page turn seems overkill to us. We've tested almost a dozen book readers now, and you need four buttons: up, down, back, forward. If you've implemented your touchscreen interface properly (such as on an Android device, or the iPad) you don't even need that. And if you need the buttons then, as is usually the case, it's because you don't need the touch screen.

The buttons aren't particularly well laid out either. To flip pages you press the Up and Down on the awkward to reach lefthand side, or the fiddly to use navigation controls which are surrounded by other buttons.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

See also: Hanvon WISEreader N516 review

Hanvon N518: Specs

  • 5in E-Ink 800×600 Gray Scale display
  • TXT, HTXT, HTML, PDF, DOC, EPUB
  • JPG, TIF, BMP, PNG, GIF
  • MP3
  • Rechargeable Lithium-Polymer battery, 3.7V, 1500mAh
  • Ingenic JZ4740, 336MHz
  • 64MB SDRAM
  • USB mini USB connector
  • SD memory card slot
  • 3.5in stereo audio out jack LED
  • 5in E-Ink 800×600 Gray Scale display
  • TXT, HTXT, HTML, PDF, DOC, EPUB
  • JPG, TIF, BMP, PNG, GIF
  • MP3
  • Rechargeable Lithium-Polymer battery, 3.7V, 1500mAh
  • Ingenic JZ4740, 336MHz
  • 64MB SDRAM
  • USB mini USB connector
  • SD memory card slot
  • 3.5in stereo audio out jack LED

OUR VERDICT

The Hanvon N518 is a good electronic book reader, and you have to credit Hanvon with packing a lot of functionality into such a small space. We're also impressed with the executive leather look of the device, which comes as a relief from many of the Apple-clones we've come across. Sadly the interface suffers from all the compression, with too many buttons in too small a space. But if you can live with a slightly awkward control scheme, you'll find a good e-book reader here.

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