Laser EBOOK-EB7C-4G ebook reader
Laser EBOOK-EB7C-4G: An ebook reader that can also be used for watching videos and listening to music
- Decent all-round multimedia player
- Supports lots of file types
- Build quality
- Battery life
This is a relatively affordable ebook reader that can also be used for music and video playback. It's not a refined product and it feels as cheap as it costs, but it's a decent alternative for users who want something to entertain them while commuting or just lounging around at home.
Price$ 150.00 (AUD)
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Laser's EBOOK-EB7C-4G is more of a multimedia device than a dedicated ebook reader. It has a 7in LCD display that can be used to watch videos and listen to music in addition to being used as an ebook reader. All this functionality is great and it makes for a decent alternative to expensive tablet devices (even though you can't browse the Web on it and it doesn't have a touchscreen) but its build quality is bad enough to be frustrating.
Laser ships the EBOOK-EB7C-4G with a large number of pre-loaded books, which means you can start reading straight away. To load your own content, all you have to is connect the device to your PC (via USB) and drag-and-drop files onto it. It has 4GB of internal storage, but it also has a microSD card slot (it sits at the bottom of the unit next to the USB and headphone ports) and can read content off cards that are as large as 16GB. The resolution of the 7in colour screen is 800x480 and it's reasonably clear and easy to view, but it struggles with small text. With a 400MHz processor, the unit feels reasonably swift — although page turns can sometimes take a moment, and the unit can't display high-definition video content smoothly. It has no problems processing standard definition videos.
Lots of file formats are supported and the unit played back most of what we threw at it — it even displayed MKV video files. It's capable of playing MP3s and showing off JPEG images; it can display EPUB format books, as well as TXT, RTF, HTML and PDF formats, and it's also DRM-capable, meaning it can display copy-protected books. The reading experience on the LCD screen is not completely awful, but it's nowhere near as comfortable as an e-ink screen. In bright sunlight, the contrast of black text on a white background will allow you to continue reading, but you wouldn't want to use it at the beach or at the park — it works best indoors or in a well-shaded area. At night time, you can choose from five different brightness settings, but there are no dedicated buttons for this — you have to navigate to the unit's Settings page.
The interface of the EBOOK-EB7C-4G is not great. It has eight icons that allow you to access ebooks, music, photos and videos; it has a file explorer, an instruction manual, your reading and file history and device settings. To select an icon, you have to use the physical arrow keys on the device, and as you move from icon to icon, the icon changes. The change is so slight that you really can't tell what it selected or not selected unless you are paying close attention — you have to see the movement of the icon as you select it or you won't know if it's been selected. We could never really tell which icon was selected and mostly guessed our way through the unit's operation. The interface definitely looks and feels unpolished, and a lack of attention to detail is shown in the fact that some menu item names are not capitalised.
Our problems with the menu interface aside, it's easy to select and play files, but one thing we don't like is a lack of scrolling for long file names and book titles. For ebooks, there is no bookmark function, but the reader will remember the page you are on the next time you re-open any book that you have not yet finished. Text size can be zoomed and you can select from four levels: small, medium, large and extra large. We found the medium setting to be the easiest on the eyes. To zoom, you just have to press the button with the magnifying glass icon on it.
There are 11 buttons all up, and they sit just below the screen along two rows and in a zigzag-like pattern. They are not comfortable to press and the arrow buttons in particular feel too shallow — in fact, sometimes they feel like they can't be pressed at all, and this makes for a poor page-turning experience. The top row of buttons consist of the power and volume controls, while the bottom row has return, screen rotation, zoom and enter buttons. Up and down arrow buttons are on the right, while left and right arrow buttons are on the left. Using this array of buttons at night can be a challenge until you memorise the zigzag layout.
As for battery life, the EBOOK-EB7C-4G gave us around five hours of reading time on maximum brightness before it conked out. It took approximately the same time to fully charge again via USB. It's not a great running time, but it allows the unit to be used as a nice distraction on commutes. Because of the long charging time and relatively short return on life, we don't think it's an ideal holiday or travel companion. If you watch movies or listen to music while reading, then the battery will deplete quicker, but just like a laptop, it depends on the way you use it and the screen brightness that you select.
Despite the build quality, unpolished interface and relatively short battery life, the Laser EBOOK-EB7C-4G is a good alternative for those of you who don't want to spend a lot of money on a tablet, yet want a highly mobile multimedia solution that can be used while commuting to and from work, or even used around the home. At $150, it's not too much more expensive than a standard portable MP3/multimedia player, but it offers a better video-watching and book-reading experience.
Want an alternative? Read our NookColor vs. Kindle 3 article.
Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.
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