Pocketbook Ultra 650 eReader Review (long read)

I bought my first ever e-book reader last week. It took my mom less time to catch up on the Facebook fever than me – on the whole e-book thing. And that’s saying something.

To me actual books made of actual paper will always be preferable, but I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve wished to be able to fit my currently-reading in my purse and failed. Or did not fail and got neck-ache for days, meh 😦

So here it finally is – my PocketBook Ultra 650 in super pretty teal green.

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The ridiculous part is that I spent a lot of time picking a model, but somehow failed to read any actual reviews. I just looked at the re-seller sites  (doh! like anyone ever got any real info from an ad) and a few YouTube videos. It’s amazing how sometimes you could just forget about the wonders of a Google search.

If I had remembered, I would have seen at least one of the horrible reviews for this e-reader. After I had already bought and received the Ultra (and paid an above-the-average price for an e-reader) I did remember to Google it and – oh, my. Most reviews start with ‘Never buy this ever!’ in all-caps. The moderate ones admit the Ultra is disappointing, but kind of OK. Not a single one sings praises. 

So, yeah, this model gets slammed a lot. My mood was definitely dampened reading about all the software problems, imperfect performance, inferior screen… But you know what? After a week using it I am pretty happy with my PocketBook Ultra and if I never get the horrible bugs like frozen screen and half-refreshed page and what not, I am prepared to profess true love for it!IMG_8548

The set up and the sign up for all services you need (I had to sign up to Send-To-PocketBook, Adobe Digital Editions, BookLand and Kobo, where I think I will be buying most of my e-books) is quite tedious, yes, but I guess it’s so for other e-readers as well.

For those of you who do not know – if you have a PocketBook and want to buy books from sites other than BookLand (and you probably do), you should download Adobe Digital Editions on your computer and authorize it (by signing in with an Adobe Id). This way you can read Adobe DRM-protected books on your PocketBook as well by signing in again with you Adobe Id. Honestly, I had no idea about the whole DRM thing and sighed with relief realizing PocketBook e-readers have that covered (but not Amazon DRM, so I guess I won’t be buying e-books from Amazon).

Honestly, why had I not researched that before?

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This guy has a lot of features – some cool, some nice and some totally useless.

The wifi, the Send-To-PocketBook option, the mp3 player and the turning off when you close the case cover are definitely cool. The DropBox integration is probably cool, too, but I am not a DropBox user. The dictionary, the Sudoku, and the BookLand integration are nice. 

The camera is freaking useless! Why do I need it?

If you know of any sensible reason for the existence of this camera, please, please enlighten me. I am still trying to figure it out. It’s a b&w screen and a super slow one at that. I uploaded one pic to my computer to see how it looks in color and the answer is – awful (see it here and bear in mind I snapped it with the flash on).

The camera is needed for using the ‘scan’ option, of course, but I doubt I will have the patience to scan anything with an e-reader.
Also, there is a basic OCR included in the Ultra, which I have not tried yet. By popular opinion it sucks.

The screen gets a lot of bad reviews for not being crisp and clear and white enough, which is maybe true, but since this is my first e-reader I have nothing better to compare it to. I like it. The pages look like book pages, the text as well. The frontlight also gets bad reviews. I admit I prefer reading without it.

What concerns me is battery life. I was under the impression I will have to charge my e-reader once every two months or, I don’t know – twice a year? I’ve been using it heavily for a week with sporadic use of frontlight and wifi and the battery is at 43%. I have zero clue if this is OK for a PocketBook.

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Last, but not least, I’d like to mention my favorite software bug. 

With the Ultra, you have three options for navigating to the next/previous page – the side buttons, the touchscreen and the buttons at the front. Well, at least in theory.
In practice I can only go back using the back button at the front. The left side button and the left side of the screen work just like the right ones – they go forward.
I did Google this issue right away and voila – it’s a common PocketBook software problem. Awesome! At least I have a functioning back button at the front. I read some people have had to type page numbers to go back.

Buut… it turns out there is more. The lower corners of the screen, both sides, do not go forward. They take you back. This is where the defect becomes an effect. I can hold the PocketBook with one hand and navigate back and forth just by slightly adjusting the position of my thumb. That one is completely fine by me 🙂

In conclusion: I do not recommend to you this e-reader. People who have better idea of what is available on the market vouch for its inferiority and ridiculously high price.

That said, I am happy I got mine and I have the feeling we two will have amazing bookish time together!

What e-reader are you using? What are its pros and cons? Do you have any advice for me? E-book stores suggestions? 

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3 Replies to “Pocketbook Ultra 650 eReader Review (long read)”

  1. Hi! I have a kindle paperwhite 2 and I am satisfied with the device but I have no access to the ebooks of my country. Currently looking into other things. That’s how I ran into your review!

    The battery thing is normal. It lasts months only if you barely use it! (It’s in the fine letters…) With heavy usage, it’s normal to charge it once every week or 2. Still plenty of battery independence.

    And don’t worry about the bad reviews! It seems the model got a lot of attention when first released but things have changed since then. I ran into ONE review where they included what is happening after all the firmware updates and it seems the only remaining complaint is the one about the quality of the display! And that doesn’t seem to be too bad anyway. Enjoy!

    1. Thank you so much for this comment – def makes me less anxious now. I’ve been using it quite a lot and I am pretty happy with it actually, but I keep on expecting something apocalyptic happening, like my pages freezing midway or the device just totally going totally dead.
      One question (probably quite dumb ) – do you regularly update the software? Should I?

      1. With the kindle paperwhite, I get fussy with installing the new update only when something is not working well after the last update. When it’s working well, I don’t care if I miss an update or 2. But it’s generally a good idea to keep it relatively up-to-date. And with pocketbook ultra, they keep using the updates to fix the issues it used to have!

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