The device can read PDF, HTML and TXT plain text documents, as well as showing images in the JPG, BMP, PNG formats. Thanks to a recent software update you can now also use it to read books in the PRC format, which are available via the Mobipocket online store. These books can be bought using the free Mobipocket software, which is very much like iTunes for ebooks. The books are priced at about the same level as a standard book. For example Stephen King's Salem's Lot will set you back $17.95 (£8.80).
There are, however, plenty of sources of free books online, including many from big name authors that are out of copyright. For example, on the Project Gutenberg site you'll find the entire works of Shakespeare, as well as seminal novels like A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and Emma by Jane Austen.
Battery life is astonishingly long. It takes about three hours to charge, but once the iLiad is topped up with juice it will keep running for around 12 hours -- enough for a week's usage when we tested it.
The screen includes Wacom Penabled technology, so you can use the stylus that's stored in a slot at the top of the ebook reader to amend documents with handwritten notes or to draw freehand diagrams.
Unfortunately, these notes and drawings are stored in a separate file alongside the original documents rather than being added straight into the document. You have to manually merge the two together once they're transferred to your computer using the iLiad Companion software. It's a clunky solution to something that should be transparent to the end users, but then there are plenty of such anomalies with the iLiad.
For example, even though the device has Wi-Fi, it can't update RSS feeds by itself. Instead you have to connect it to a computer via USB and re-sync it with the Mobipocket software to update it with the latest news. And when you want to sync all the documents on your device with your PC, you have to switch back to the iLiad Companion software again. Although the device can be synced with the Companion software over Wi-Fi, it's overly tricky to set up and isn't even covered well in the software's documentation that comes with the device.
The overall performance is also a tad sluggish. It takes about 40 seconds to start up, it's slow to load documents and when moving between pages there's a pause as it wipes the screen and redraws the new page.
These problem all contribute to an experience that isn't as polished as it should be, especially when you take into account that you can buy a laptop for the asking price.
The iLiad has some great features, such as the amazing screen and extremely long battery life -- it really is a delight to use for reading books or documents. The Wi-Fi functionality needs to be improved, though, and iRex needs to develop better PC software for managing the device. The price tag is also somewhat on the hefty side when you consider you can pop down to your local Tesco and pick up a full blown laptop for the same kind of money.
Although there were a lot of things we liked about the iLiad, unfortunately it still has some way to go before it'll have us chucking our books on the bonfire and cancelling our newspaper subscriptions.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield