Cybook Odyssey Frontlight review
French firm Bookeen is attempting to beat Amazon at its own game with the Cybook Odyssey FrontLight, undercutting it on price. At a mere £77, its new front-lit e-reader is some 29% cheaper than the Kindle Paperwhite.
Features-wise, the Cybook Odyssey does well for its price. It comes with a generous 4GB of storage and a microSD card slot for up 32GB extra storage, a capacitative E Ink screen and an accelerometer for the option of horizontal use. It looks tasteful, too, measuring a diminutive at 120 x 9 x 166mm (WDH), with softly curving edges and a matte-black plastic chassis surrounding a dark grey, rubberised bezel.
However, once in your hands, those good first impressions are immediately dashed. Build quality is poor, with flimsy and creaky plastics all around. The menu button found at the bottom of the chassis is awkwardly recessed, and the curved corners of the grey bezel eat into the screen, sometimes obscuring text.
The display isn’t great, either. Text looks rough and pixellated on the 600 x 800 screen and, unilluminated by the reader’s front light, the background takes on an unhealthy grey hue that makes text hard to distinguish.
The light is bright, but that’s about all it has to recommend it. At higher levels of intensity, it bathes the screen in a cold blue light, but at lower levels it leaves the screen grey and murky. Despite its boasted “20 levels of lighting intensity”, we were unable to find a happy medium; the screen switched abruptly from grey to blue around the halfway mark.
The light’s illumination of the screen is uneven, too. Compared with the Kobo Aura, whose warmer front light is spread evenly across the display’s surface, the Cybook Odyssey’s light is patchy, bleeding from the bezels and reducing in intensity towards the middle.
As with all good non-Amazon e-readers, the Cybook Odyssey supports third-party EPUB files. A good thing too, since the proprietary Bookeen Store only stocks French-language titles. The UI itself is basic, its only extra features being a web browser that’s rendered difficult to use by the unresponsive touchscreen.
And it bears reiterating: the touchscreen is awful. It only registers the boldest of gestures, so page turning is an exercise in frustration, with three and sometimes four swipes of finger needed to get it to register. Even the most dexterous will struggle to enter text using the onscreen keyboard. We also clocked its page refresh rate at an abysmal 1.1 seconds, a full 0.4 seconds behind the Kobo Aura, which only makes things worse.
At £77, the Cybook Odyssey is low-cost, but it underperforms in every category. If you really must go this cheap, we’d recommend forsaking the front light and buying the basic £69 Kindle or – for an even cheaper alternative – the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch GlowLight, which offers better build quality, a more reliable touchscreen, and a better on-device bookstore for £49. Whatever your preference, though, the Bookeen Cybook Odyssey FrontLight is one to avoid.
|Resolution||600 x 800|
|eBook screen-refresh time||1.1 seconds|
|Dimensions||120 x 9 x 166mm (WDH)|
File format support