Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight review

Small size, small price, big benfits

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

Reading

A touch anywhere on the screen, other than the edge) while reading a book brings up an in-book menu that's surprisingly comprehensive.

There's a slick 'go to' option that presents a slider in-book to skip quickly to other pages and chapters; as you move the slider it gives you a real-time chapter/page read-out of where you've got to.

Annotations (bookmarks, highlights and notes) can be added, though here's where the software lacks intuition and polish.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

Font choices include Bookeen's specially developed Caecilia font

Pride of place goes to the text settings section. There's a choice of seven fonts (including the specially optimised default Caecilia font developed by Bookeen, a serif font that's easy on the eye and easy to read), 20 font sizes, and a lot of choice between line spacing, margins and alignment layouts.

The screen is pure white, clean and crisp at all times, suggesting that those after a higher DPI count are spending money on specs, not performance.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

Various layouts for book pages are available

The Cybook Muse refreshes the e-ink completely (via the usual 'black flash' on the screen) only every five page turns, but it does leave shadows in between. It's easily changed to every page turn if you want to keep things really clean.

Although the choice between touch and a hard button for page turns is nice, there is an oddity; use the button or touch the side of a page and the page turns quickly and cleanly, but gently swipe it and the same thing happens, but only after a full refresh.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

The backlight has 20 levels of brightness

Though the backlight is perfectly fit for purpose, it's not the finest around. While reading Call of The Wild in a total blackout I had to choose the very lowest setting to avoid glare, and I did notice some slightly uneven brightness.

It's not patchy, in fact the text is illuminated evenly and without streaks, but there is a noticeable fading towards the very bottom of the page and along both sides, which is to be expected.

Shop

The Cybook Muse has 100 books pre-loaded. That might sound great, but there's a lot there that's out of copyright anyway and freely available from websites like Project Gutenberg and Open Library. Besides, many are in French, German and Dutch. There are 36 pre-loaded English language books, with about 10 each provided for six other European languages.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

You'll need an AdobeID to create an account at the Bookeen shop

The Bookeen Shop is very poor. The first hurdle is having to create an account using a French language-only form, the second is the snail-like speed of the Cybook Muse's pop-up virtual keyboard, and the third is that the drop-down list of countries runs to over 10 pages … and is in French. Ah oui, Royaume-Uni … merci. So tedious.

Once that's done, it's then necessary to create or tie-in an Adobe Digital Editions account, for which you'll get an AdobeID necessary for downloading DRM-protected ebooks, which is normal procedure on non-Kindles. Trouble is, that defaults to France as country of residence, and it takes an age to change.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

The set-up process uses an unresponsive keyboard

Once done, it attaches your AdobeID account to the Cybook Muse and you're good to go. There are stacks of free ebooks to download, though many are in French, which makes a lot of the navigation rather needless for mono-linguists.

There's a 'less than €5' section, and a bestsellers tab, though during my test it was empty. Searching proved fruitless, too, with 'Girl With A Dragon Tattoo' and 'Gone Girl' – titles that are both in Amazon's top 10 – missing from the Bookeen shop. All books are on sale in Euros, too, which might incur exchange expense for UK and US users.

Battery

Inside the Cybook Muse is a rechargeable Li-Polymer battery with a capacity of 1,900mAh. That's about par for the course on an ereader, and with Wi-Fi switched-off Bookeen claims it will last an entire month.

Two weeks of rampant reading – often with that FrontLight activated and some Wi-Fi-based tests – saw it run down to about 40%, so I've no reason to doubt Bookeen's claims.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

The battery is rated at a month with Wi-Fi switched-off

Media

The Cybook Muse handles a plethora of ebook formats, but it's not exhaustive. The common EPUB, PDF, HTML and TXT files are handled as well as the rarer FB2 (FictionBook, a 'big in Russia' XML-based open format) and DJVU (used by some scanners) filetypes.

The one omission? There's no support for MOBI files, which are commonly used (though EPUB should cover 99% of purchased books). Photo file support comprises JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, ICO and even TIF and PSD, which should cover all bases.

However, photos are very slow to load, both in full-screen and in thumbnails although this won't be your primary reason for picking up the Cybook Muse.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

Photos are slow to load

Linked to an iMac via a microUSB cable, the Cybook Muse popped-up as a USB drive and I dragged-on a plethora of filetypes, which were sorted into photos and books, with all of the latter put into a virtual folder in the library marked 'new', with thumbnails of the front covers conveniently trailed on the home page, too.

Bookeen Cybook Muse FrontLight e-reader review

Text can be extracted from complex PDFs for easy reading

PDFs often prove a chore for ereaders, but here they're handled reasonably well. The 'fit to page' option does exactly that, while zooming-in on small text means scanning around the document purely by swiping the touchscreen.

It's a tad slow, but OK. However, the highlight for PDFs is 'reflow', which scrapes out the text and presents it without photos and graphics, just like a 'normal' ebook. It's a little hit-and-miss, but in our tests, largely brilliant and useful.

However, occasionally the always-on caption across the bottom of the PDF display software that contains the document's title and the zoom percentage actually blocks the visibility of a line or two of text.