What is it?
The Sungale Cyberus Smart Info Engine, an ebook reader/personal media player/digital photo frame. A seven-inch touchscreen device that can connect to the Internet for YouTube, email, streaming radio, and weather, as well as read ebooks, display photos and play videos. Retails for $249.
What’s in the box?
In the box you get the Sungale Cyberus itself, a pair of earbuds, a charger and a USB cable. The Cyberus itself comes in a nice leather case, and has a stylus built in.
The idea of the Cyberus is a good one. A 7-inch screen for watching video, displaying photos, and reading ebooks among other things. The display is nice, displays colors quite well. The leather case is also very nice, makes the device look good, and makes it so you don’t have to worry about scratching up the screen.
In terms of software, the wide range of supported media formats is a appreciated. Full color PDF viewing is definitely a good idea.
The touchscreen, though resistive, can generally be used by the stylus.
Unfortunately, most everything about the Cyberus fits in here. The first hint you’ll get is, when turning on the device two options appear “Link to Internet” and “Goto Main Menu,” which makes sense. When trying to connect to the Internet, however, you’re given possibly the strangest keyboard layout I’ve seen for inputting the network’s password (if any). The keyboard has all of the numbers symbols listed first, then in the middle of a line started with the alphabet, starting with “a.” It means you’ll be doing a lot of hunting and pecking at first, though it might become a bit easier to some given time.
The Cyberus runs into other UI issues as well. The home screen is laid out similar to the iPhone/iPod touch, though with much larger icons (and much uglier text). The top of the screen almost always has the Sungale logo, the word “Cyberus,” the battery icon, and the name of the screen you’re currently on. There is also an “x” in the top right corner, which is meant to be the back button.
Media playback on the Cyberus, to put it nicely, isn’t all that wonderful. The first thing I tried doing on the device was to load up an ebook and start to read it. I downloaded a .txt version of Cory Doctorow’s new “Makers” (The Cyberus, unfortunately does not support ePub) to begin reading. I quickly found out that reading was not a pleasant experience. Every so often, after pressing the next page button (the bottom button of the pair on the side of the device), the ebook would go forward two pages (I later figured out that, although the button needs to click to activate, keeping it slightly depressed seemed to cause this issue, so I had to learn to completely remove my finger from the button quickly every time). Not only that, but the last line of the previous page would appear as the first line in the new page, which was more than a bit frustrating. Combine that with the recurring ugly text, and my reading didn’t last very long.
As for video playback, I was excited to watch video on the full 7-inch screen. I was disappointed again to find out that videos don’t display in full screen (either from memory or on YouTube). The screen is instead mostly taken up by empty, black space, the title of the video on top, and a UI displaying the time elapsed, volume, and two speakers when not paused or muted. The videos display in and area only slightly larger than the screen on an iPod touch, and can choke when there is a lot going on (to be fair, the video was playing from an SD card, which may have caused that issue). Also, there was no way to scrub through the video, so if you start watching a movie of some sort of the device, hopefully you have time to watch the full thing before the extremely short battery runs out or you run out of time.
No multitasking, so no listening to Internet radio and reading an ebook.
The Internet apps work, not incredibly well, but not terribly bad. The UI can get in the way, but it doesn’t mean the apps themselves are bad.
The Sungale Cyberus is tough. I really wanted to like the device, but I just couldn’t. Your money is better used on an iPod touch or a netbook which can do the same things, only better.