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3G-ready e-book reader boasts 8.1-inch display

Sep 28, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Irex Technologies is readying a Linux-based electronic book (e-book) reader with an 8.1-inch, 1024 x 768 display. Based on Freescale's ARM11-based i.MX31, the Irex DR800SG communicates via the Verizon Wireless 3G network, supports the open ePub publishing standard, and offers built-in support for the Barnes & Noble eBookstore, says Irex.

Irex improves on the company's earlier e-book readers, starting with the iLiad, which was released in 2006 shortly after the Netherlands-based company spun off from Royal Philips Electronics in 2005. The WiFi-enabled iLiad offered a 6.3 x 4.8-inch display and ran Linux on an XScale processor clocked at 400MHz.

Irex DR800SG
(Click to enlarge)

The new Irex DR800SG instead uses Freescale Semiconductor's ARM11-based i.MX31 system-on-chip (SoC), the same processor adopted by Amazon's industry-leading, Linux-based Kindle 2, which has a six-inch display. Amazon now offers a Kindle DX e-book reader with a monster 9.7-inch display, but the Irex device offers an intermediate 8.1-inch size, which the company apparently considers the sweet-spot for e-book readers.

The clock rate for the DR800SG was not provided, but the i.MX31 typically clocks between 400MHz and 533MHz. The Irex device is equipped with 128MB internal memory (compared to only 32MB for the Kindle 2), 256MB internal NAND flash, and a 2GB microSD card for storage.

Irex DR800SG with leather case
(Click to enlarge)

Like both new Kindle models, the DR800SG offers E-Ink's latest electrophoretic gray-screen technology, which provides 16 shades of gray. The 8.1-inch, 1024 x 768 display offers 160-dpi dot resolution, and is designed for user input via a stylus.

There is no Kindle-like note-taking ability in the initial version, but the feature will arrive next year, says Irex. A flip bar for page turning is also provided, and users can enlarge or reduce text size and margin widths, and switch between portrait or landscape modes, says Irex.

Like the Kindle models, the Irex DR800SG appears to communicate solely by free 3G service, in this case available via Verizon Wireless's U.S.-based HSPA network. The device incorporates a multi-mode Qualcomm Gobi 3G module, says Irex, although it was not clear whether it was the Gobi1000 or new Gobi2000. The Gobi modules provide a software-defined configurable data modem supporting both EV-DO Rev. A and HSPA, thereby supporting "global connectivity enabling the device to be activated in any market," says Irex.

The Irex DR800SG does not appear to offer WiFi or Bluetooth, but the device is based on Irex's Ion hardware/software platform, which can support both technologies, as well as displays up to 10.1 inches with resolutions as high as 1280 x 1024 pixels. On the hardware side, the Ion platform is designed specifically for the i.MX31 with Irex's Delta display processor.

Irex Ion platform architecture
"(Click to enlarge)

The Ion architecture (above) shows a Linux-based distribution interacting with various document viewing and browser formats via D-Bus interprocess communications. The Ion platform runs a version of Linux 2.6.24 tuned for the i.MX31, with the GNU GCC 4.3.0 compiler, ARMv6 EABI with VFP support, the RedBoot boot-loader, and GTK 2.12 graphics. The Linux stack also features Glibc, Libstrdc++, HAL, GConf, and Busybox.

The Irex device supports the open ePub format, as well as multiple DRM solutions, and Adobe PDF support is expected to be available via a firmware upgrade in the fourth quarter, says the company. Although users are allowed to acquire books, newspapers, or magazines from a wide variety of sources, the device also ships with built-in support for the Barnes & Noble eBookstore, which is said to offer access to more than 750,000 titles.

Specifications listed for the Irex DR800SG include:

  • Processor — Freecale iMX31L (ARM11); iRex Delta display controller
  • Memory — 128MB Mobile DDR RAM
  • Flash — 256MB internal NAND flash
  • Flash expansion — 2GB microSD card included, expandable to larger format
  • Display — 8.1-inch, 768 x 1024, 160dpi, E-ink based electrophoretic display (16 grayscales)
  • 3G cellular — Qualcomm Gobi 2000 chipset
  • USB — Micro-USB port
  • Operating system — Linux 2.6.24

Stated Kevin Hamilton, North American CEO of Irex Technologies, "Consumers are ready for eReaders, but the device is only one piece of the equation. People want an enjoyable, easy reading experience with no‐hassle access to content. IREX's strategy — based on giving consumers choice — and the partnerships we have in place make it easier for them to purchase a device, access content and enjoy it wherever they are."


The Irex DR800SG, including a leather cover, will be available in October at select Best Buy locations for an MSRP of $400. Wireless access to download content is included in the cost of the DR800SG, and no contract is required. Irex plans a European launch of the device in the first half of 2010.

More information may be found on the Irex website, here.

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