7-inch Android devices that blur the lines between a "color e-reader" and "budget tablet" are all the rage here in the US, bud purpose-built models are a bit thin on the ground elsewhere. Toshiba aims to change that, at least in its home country of Japan. The BookPlace DB50 combines a unique shape with a customized version of Gingerbread to create a device purpose-built for Toshiba's proprietary bookstore, which now serves up "about 50,000" Japanese books and periodicals.
The hardware isn't much, but then an ereader doesn't need to blast through benchmarks. The standard 7-inch, 1024x600 screen uses a TFT LCD screen, unlike the more readable IPS panels in the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Nook Tablet. a 1.0Ghz single-core processor is a little weak, but it combines with a full gigabyte of RAM, so performance should be more than enough for reading and basic web browsing. WiFi and Bluetooth take care of the communications side of things, while users will have to make due with just 8GB of storage space. An open MicroSD card slot allows for up to 32GB of extra storage.
The hardware design is unique, combining a sloping left side with exaggerated bevels on the right. Even more odd, all of the BookPlace DB50's controls are on the top - Home, Menu, Back, Continue and the volume rocker. The tablet will go on sale in Japan starting on February 10th, with a price of 22,000 yen (a little over $280). Buyers will get a coupon good for 5000 yen in credit for the BookPlace book store.