Review: Laser's EB700 Is A Budget E-Reader With An Edge, But Is It Too Flimsy Up Against Kobo & Kindle?
By Matthew Lentini | Tuesday | 26/07/2011
Get a tablet, or just an eBook? If you're a bookworm who's keen on a read on a budget, the EB700 delivers and then some, even if it isn't the sexiest, sleekest device on the market.
By today's standard of tablet PCs taking on the book-sized form factor with eBook capabilities amongst a sea of functionality, the idea of buying an eBook reader seems ever more pointless. But if you're a bookworm who's keen on a read on a budget, the EB700 delivers and then some, even if it isn't the sexiest, sleekest device on the market.|
Where this Laser device skimps on fancy design and higher performance, it adds in extra functions and wider file format support to compensate.
For just under $100, the EB700 delivers video and music playback with a few esoteric extras like subtitle and karaoke-style lyric support, while throwing in 200 pre-loaded eBooks into the package.
You could alternatively go for a WiFi-enabled Amazon Kindle for $139, with the extra $40 getting you a better build, battery life (with its e-ink screen) and wireless connectivity but taking away music, video and portable storage capabilities.
The price tag suits this unit up to be a kind of 'no frills' device on the physical side. The lightweight device features a seven inch TFT colour screen with an underwhelming 800x480 resolution that makes text unclear at far zoom and doesn't do much to compliment image quality.
The buttons feels tacked on and are awkwardly placed under the screen in a criss-cross fashion between deceivingly similar squares that aren't buttons. Adding to the frustration is the button lettering marked in light grey atop the slightly darker grey buttons, turning invisible in dimmer light.
The user interface isn't the prettiest thing, but it's easy to navigate and a Browser History tab is especially handy for finding exactly where you were last up to in multiple books and files at a time. It tracks last viewed page numbers of books with dates of viewing in tow.
EBooks are easy on the eyes despite the colour screen, and the variable font size that can be viewed in landscape or portrait helps too. While I've given the buttons some flack, the directional buttons that sit next to the thumbs while you hold the device in portrait mode make navigation simple.
The added bonus with the EB700 is the music and video playback. While it'll slow down on larger video files and if you fast forward a little too much, it otherwise runs video well over a good range of formats including rm, rmvb, avi, 3gp, flv, mp4, vob, dat and mpeg.
Music can be played back while reading eBooks for those looking to set a mood, with supported file types including music: mp3, flac, wav, ogg, ape, aac and wma. The in-built speaker isn't the best quality, nor is it very loud, so your best bet is bringing your own earphones or using the ones supplied.
There's also image view that supports jpeg, bmp and gif files.
On the most important aspect - eBook reading - the EB700 supports files chained down by DRM and is compatible with Adobe's Digital Editions. It also supports range of similar files including txt, pdf, htm, rtf, fb2, epub, mobi, and small docs.
Uploading content onto the reader is as easy as drag and drop like a USB stick. When you plug the unit into the computer via the coupled USB connector (which you also use for charging), the device opens like any other external storage (also an added plus). While there is a folder structure, you can generally dump files anywhere and access them on the reader thanks to its 'Explorer' tab that views all your files together.
It sports a 4GB capacity, though can take an extra 16GB via microSD card.
It's not all smooth sailing though - the hardware is lacking for what it offers. With reading being the prime function, slow loading times for individual pages (sometimes a few seconds) and sporadic errors on some pages of the pre-loaded eBooks degrade the appeal of the unit. Even turning the unit on requires users to hold the on button down for about three seconds.
The battery life is decent, though could be better, with 15 hours of music playback, 5.5 hours of video and 7 hours of eBook reading time.
It isn't the flashiest device on the market, but it's one of the cheapest with the most functionality in its league. If you're just looking for something to read books on, you might want to look to some of the bigger names. But if you're on a budget or want something that goes a few steps further, the EB700 offers great added value.
The Laser EB700 eBook reader is available at Big W stores around Australia and Bing Lee stores in NSW, with an RRP of $99.95.
Apr/May 2011 issue
reviews the hot new iPhone attach device, the Zeppelin Air. And we look at what's going on in the tablet space...