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Bookeen Cybook Odyssey eReader Hands-On: Fastest Page-Turning Ever

LAS VEGAS -- We'd been looking forward to getting our hands on Bookeen's Cybook Odyssey eReader ever since we found out it was coming to CES 2012. Touting High Speed Ink System, the newest product from the French eReader maker purportedly had iPad-snappy responsiveness along with the venerated E Ink technology analog book readers know and love.

After spending some time with the Cybook Odyssey at Bookeen's booth on the showroom floor, we weren't disappointed by its page turn speeds. This is indeed the fastest page-turning animation we've ever seen, even faster than the Nook Simple Touch—we counted 12 pages in five seconds from our hands-on video. It's simply the best feature the eReader has to offer.

As for the rest of the product, well, there was good and bad. (Don't worry, we'll walk you through it.) The 6-inch Cybook Odyssey eReader sports a 600x800 pixel display with a resolution of 167 dpi. It's powered by a 800-MHz Cortex AB TI OMAP3611 CPU, with 128MB RAM and 2GB of internal memory (about 2,000 eBooks), expandable up to 32 GB. And lifespan should be fantastic on the device, since the Odyssey has a 1650 mAh battery which bears up to 25,000 page flips on eBooks total.

Speaking of eBooks, how do you get them on there? There's the built-in bookstore, as usual, but apparently you can also sideload as many as the Odyssey's memory will allow you, in various eBook formats: ePub, PDF, Adobe DRM, HTML, txt, FB2. The eReader even supports images that come in JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, ICO, TIF and PSD. Additionally, Wi-Fi and a web browser are present on the device, but we weren't able to test these in the convention center (because of terrible connections). Configuring the device shows you that it comes with 23 languages and 20 font sizes. 

At 166 x 120 x 9 mm and 6.87 ounces, the Cybook Odyssey felt small and light when we picked it up. It had a pleasing glossy finish and an aluminum back casing, which felt sturdy in our hands. The bottom edge of the eReader houses a headphone jack, microUSB and microSD ports and a power button off to the bottom right side. Physical buttons on the right and left edges provide tactile options for those who prefer to scroll that way.

Fire up the Cybook Odyssey, and you'll discover a startup animation on the screen, which is supposed to show off just how fast animation can work on the eReader's display. However, we actually noticed a little bit of lag from the time we pressed the On button to the time the screen activated.

The main interface of the eReader is divided into three sections, arranged by row: Currently Reading, Library and Internet. In terms of navigation software, the Cybook Odyssey supports pinch to zoom, multitouch rotate and scrolling (along with a satisfying "inertia" effect). To access more items on each row, you swipe through the screen, and the picture beneath follows your finger. Here we found another thing to be slightly dismayed about: While scrolling is moderately fast for an E Ink eReader, the picture exhibited lag, too. It wasn't moving as fast as our finger, and proved rumors wrong—the Cybook Odyssey eReader definitely isn't as touch-responsive as an iPad.

On the upside, we found that Bookeen added in a nice detail when we launched a book. After tapping on a title, the book cover expands on the screen and flashes, reminding you that this is still simply a digital simulation of an actual physical tome. The feature would certainly be counted as a plus for more traditional bookworms who still stand by the serendipitous value of a cover.

We asked the booth exhibitors whether this was the official launch of the Bookeen Cybook Odyssey in the US, but sadly we got a negative. But the good thing, we were told, was that they were at CES to gauge the interest of partners willing to bring the product Stateside (and they had come across a few options). If the super-speedy Bookeen Cybook Odyssey eReader ever does make it our way, it'll cost a maximum of $159 (or less, if subsidized by partners). We're keeping our fingers crossed.