Developer: Biolithic
Price: $7.99
Version Reviewed: 4.0.8
Device Reviewed On: iPad

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

The allure of comic books on my iPad is a strong, nigh irresistible one. Sure, there’s the Marvel app, the Comixology Comics app and a few others, but they are locked down to the content they provide and sell. What about all of those .CBR, .CBZ and .PDF comics languishing on my laptop’s hard drive? How can I read them on my iPad? Apps like app store favorite Goodreader can import the files, but not open them. Likewise, the newly released Dropbox app for the iPad provides instant access to my comics collection, but again, no way to open them, even with document sharing.

As it currently stands, there are not many options for comics fans like me. ComicBookLover, a great comic book reading/management application for Mac OSX, has a decent iPhone app, but its developers have yet to release an iPad update for it. Doubling the screen resolution helps some, but the program is still buggy on the iPad.

Fortunately, Comic Zeal 4 is available, and it’s actually a fairly slick and usable little app. Some of you may have tried Comic Zeal on the iPhone. That is still at version 3. Version 4, at this point at least, is iPad only, though the developers have commented that they will soon release an update to version 4 for the iPhone. Regardless, this is a solid app, and if you don’t mind spending the extra cash (more on that in a bit) you’ll find a solid app for storing, managing and reading your digital comics.

The first major hurdle in any app like this is getting your comics from the computer to the iPad. While even Comic Zeal’s method for doing this is needlessly complicated, this is not their fault. Apple’s method of transferring files is just plain clunky. I give credit to the developers of Comic Zeal for providing several options for transferring files; I just wish Apple would unchain them a little more. Method #1 is the tried-and-true wired syncing method. Connect your iPad to your computer via the sync cable, open iTunes, then use the document transfer function to send the comics files over to the iPad. Once this is accomplished, you still have to open the Comic Zeal app and let the program complete the import.

There is also a wireless method for transfer, using the ComicZeal sync program on your computer, but I found it to be inconsistent at best. I was able to transfer a few comics, but only after several attempts. The wireless transfer rate is also much, much slower than the wired transfer, so I suggest sticking to the wired method until the app can be updated.

Once they are on your iPad, the comics themselves look great. No, there’s no panel zooming function available, as in the Marvel app, but the individual pages look so good you really won’t miss it. The best way to view comics is in portrait mode, and the iPad screen is ideal for this, even if it isn’t exactly as large as a print comic. Double-page spreads can be viewed in landscape, or enlarged and scrolled through with your fingers. I cannot say enough about the quality of the viewing/reading experience in Comic Zeal 4.

Likewise, Comic Zeal 4 organizes imported comics effectively, even (optionally) displaying them in a virtual longbox or virtual mylar bag. These are small touches, to be certain, but they go a long way to improving the user experience of comic book reading software. It’s clear that the developers are also comic book fans.

If there’s a down side to this app it’s the price. Comic Zeal 4 is a much more refined version of the version 3 software currently seen on the iPhone, but it would have been nice to make version 4 a universal app for both devices. Having to buy an app twice (even admittedly one with greater functionality) leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Still, if you have a large number of DRM-less digital comics and want a way of viewing them on your iPad, your best bet right now is Comic Zeal 4.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Entertainment, Reviews

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