IREX Digital Reader 800SG

IREX Digital Reader 800SG

While the name of this blog is I Love My Kindle, I do look at and write about other EBRs (E-Book Readers) as well. 

IREX has been in the EBR business for several years, but has recently (February 15th) released a new model.

Official Site

First, the basics:

It does download wirelessly, which I consider a minumum requirement for a modern EBR (as I also consider E Ink).  In the US, it will use Verizon 3G.   Many will consider that an advantage over the more recent Kindle models, which have switched to AT&T.  However, the switch to AT&T was precipitated by the desire to have wireless outside the US…the IREX says explicitly that 3G will only be available in the US.  You will be able to buy things using your computer and transferring with a cable…again, similar to the Kindle.   However, since the main content provider is the Barnes & Noble store, and the store is not available to nook (sic) users outside the US, I assume that’s the case here as well.

It has an 8.1 inch display (using the same Vizplex E Ink technology as the nook, Sony, and Kindle).   That’s between the Sony, nook, and basic Kindle (6″) and the Kindle DX (9.7 inches).  The iPad, which I don’t consider an EBR (although it will have the ability to read books on it…as computers do), is also 9.7″.

How is the cost?

It’s $399.99.  That’s the price at which it is available through the Best Buy website.  It’s reportedly not in stores yet, but only through the website.

That’s not too bad.  That’s $49.38 per inch of screen…that’s right in line with the Kindle DX. 

EBR Diagonal Dollars Dollars/inch
Kindle, nook 6  $ 259.00  $     43.17
Sony Daily 7.1  $ 399.00  $     56.20
IREX 800SG 8.1  $ 399.00  $     49.38
Kindle DX 9.7  $ 489.00  $     50.41

How you interact with it is a bit strange.  It does have a touchscreen, but you use a stylus for that.  That at least keeps the fingerprints off it, but it does mean that you have to keep track of that tool.   There is also a rocker bar kind of arrangement that you can use to change pages.

As to formats, this is where it gets interesting.  Once you get an EBR, I think the main concern is content…books and periodicals, mostly.

For books with Digital Rights Management (DRM), it supports EPUB, Adobe PDF, and Barnes and Noble’s Reader software.

No mobi, which is a bit odd, because I believe the previous two IREX EBR’s did support mobi.

The really strange thing is that it doesn’t say it supports any other non-DRM formats…no mobi, no text, no HTML…that’s going to cut out free books from a lot of third party sources.  It says you can read personal documents, but that seems to mean PDFs, mostly.

These are the file formats it says can be opened on your IREX:


The last five are all picture formats.

One of the big attractions of this device is going to be the available newspapers.  Users will be able to get content from

Newspaper Direct 



That’s supposed to be over 1000 titles…much, much more than the Kindle store (although Kindleers can use Press Display, those aren’t in the Kindle store).

Here’s another feature the Kindle doesn’t have…you can manually set the clock.  :)

It does not appear to have either the ability to play music or do text-to-speech.

It does allow for choosing different text sizes (there are four of them), and in a nice touch, it will remember the size you chose for a specific document.

You charge it through USB, which is one of my favorite things about my K2 (as opposed to my old K1).

You can change from landscape to portrait, similar to all Kindles except the K1.

It does have a micro SD memory card slot. 

There is a virtual keyboard that you can summon to the screen, and then use the stylus to click the keys.

It has an airplane mode, and it’s nice to call it that.  That means you’ll turn off the wireless while flying…may be more convincing to the flight crew to show them that it is in “airplane mode”. 

You can see a thumbnail of the cover in your Homescreen…you visually oriented folks will like that. 

You can sort by author, title, and recently read..similar to the Kindle.  However, you can also sort by recently added…it’s kind of nice to be able to separate those two.

No user-definable folders.

They did an interesting thing with page numbers.  If you increase the text size so that page 1 flows on to two pages, they will both be numbered Page 1.  Some people have suggested that for the Kindle as well. 

While they refer to the section as “Annotating”, it appears it is just bookmarking…not writing a note, such as can be done on the Kindle.

One of the clunky things seems to be setting up the device.  You need to have an Adobe account, a MYIREX account, and I think a Barnes and Noble account.  You may already have some of these, but if you don’t, they say you can register your device in under fifteen minutes.  That sounds like getting a bicycle for a birthday with “some assembly required”.  :) 

You can adjust the margins.

You can choose whether you turn pages from left to right or right to left.  That could be helpful, if you are reading the books in certain languages.

It appears to me that you only get one device license at a time.  In other words, if you have two devices in the family, you can’t read a DRM protected PDF or EPUB on both of them. 

The device comes with 128MB of onboard memory…that’s not much!  Even the Kindle 1 had 180MB.   However, since you can use an SD card, and you can’t play sound files (including audiobooks), you don’t need as much memory…onboard.

Here was a fascinating limitation buried in the FAQs:

I can’t open books from 
This is due to the fact that the majority of the books on are composed of scanned images which are converted into an A4 sized PDF. This means that the iLiad has to re-scale and render all these images for the smaller iLiad screen and this consumes a lot of memory which is not available on the iLiad. So the iLiad runs out of memory and stops the operation 


That’s something a lot of people don’t understand.  Having EPUB or PDF capability doesn’t mean you can read everything in those formats.


For people who mostly want to read newspapers and magazines, this may be a reasonable choice.  That’s also true for people who want to read the Barnes and Noble books on a larger screen. 

However, my guess is that people will find using the stylus a bother.  You want to look for a word in a document?  You need the stylus.  No web surfing, no music…not key reading functions, but fun to have.  More important for other people will be the lack of text-to-speech and no audiobooks. 

The bigger problem may be the competition that is coming.  The iPad is clearly going to compete with this, even with its lack of E Ink.  The iPad will actually have a larger screen.  A bigger head-to-head problem may be the Skiff.  11.5 inch E Ink screen, 4GB of memory, audio…they’d better sell as many iRexes as they can before the Skiff comes out later this year.

Further information

Knowledge Base 

Download the manual and the quickstart guide

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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2 Responses to “IREX Digital Reader 800SG”

  1. Dave Says:

    I don’t understand. You’ll review, in-depth, a product that doesn’t have text-to-speech for any book, ever, but you won’t review (or even read!) a book, or support an author, published by a company that for whatever reason has decided to block text-to-speech? Seems a tad on the hypocritical side.

    (Your quote from a previous post: I’m going to miss buying and reading books from those publishers. I’ll miss telling you about those books.)

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Dave!

      That’s a reasonable observation. Let me tell you why I think it’s different.

      I don’t think anyone is obligated to give you text-to-speech. I have no problem with paperbooks not having it. :) I have no problem with people making e-book readers that don’t have it.

      It’s different to me when someone takes it away. That’s what’s happening with what Random House, Penguin, the Hachette Group, and Simon & Schuster are doing with at least some of their books. The capability exists, given to people by Amazon (developed by Nuance). If those publishers do nothing, you have it. They have to take an action to block it.

      I’ll agree that’s sort of subtle, but I don’t think it’s hypocritical. If there is a hungry person near you in a restaurant, I don’t think you are obligated to give them some of your food (although that would be nice). If someone else tries to give them food, and you stand between the hungry person and the food and stop them from getting it (even though they want it and the other person gave it to them), I think that’s different.

      So, I won’t buy books (or other things) from publishers that block text-to-speech. I won’t knowingly promote those books. I know it usually isn’t the author’s decision. If an author has books with companies that do block and companies that don’t block (some have that situation…I know Stephen King used to have it), I don’t mind telling you about the books they have from the company that isn’t blocking the access.

      I’m not big on “Good Samaritan” laws…I don’t think you should compel people to help people. However, I also don’t think you should block somebody from getting help.

      I’d be more than happy to hear more from you on this. I’m pretty open-minded, and I can be convinced to change my opinion on something. I just wanted to explain in this reply what my logic is…it does seem sound to me (no pun intended) :), but I’ve been wrong before…

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