Laser EB101 E-Book Reader

The EB101 is a portable media player dressed up like an ebook reader, and at the end of the day, it's not great at either task.


3.5
CNET Rating
4.0
User Rating

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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


With the Amazon Kindle championing the category, the ebook readers have fast become the must-have gadgets of the last 18 months or so. Though E Ink still looks like a computer monitor from the early 1980s, outstanding battery life and paper-like readability are the two factors that continue to propel the popularity of these single-purpose devices. Australian company Laser is bucking this trend, with its ebook reader, the EB101, having a full-colour TFT display, bringing with it as many negatives as positives.

Colour me bad

From a distance the EB101 probably looks exactly like the ebook reader you've been looking for. Its 5-inch display may be smaller than you'll find on the Kindle or the Kobo, but it's certainly large enough to read off, and the lack of additional keys, like the Kindle's full-QWERTY keyboard, gives the EB101 a smaller footprint overall, making it almost small enough to fit into a pocket.

Once you get some power behind this screen you may be pleasantly surprised to find a full colour display — ebook readers are always black on white due to limitations in E Ink technology. The EB101 is without such limitations, its TFT display is just like the screen you'd find on a mobile phone — except for the fact that this display is positively terrible to look at. The colours on-screen looked washed out, and though it sports a WVGA resolution (480x800 pixels) everything tends to look kind of blurry. We put this down to the screen's appalling viewing angle; even when you view it from very acute angles the screen starts to polarise, washing the screen in a glassy, purple hue.

Using a colour display also sacrifices the stellar battery life that you should expect from an ebook reader. While the Kindle might offer up to three weeks of use between charges (or an estimated 10,000 page turns), the EB101 runs for between five and six hours before powering down. The difference is that E Ink doesn't require power to maintain the display, it uses a tiny surge to change the image on screen, but no power thereafter. LCD screens are backlit, however, meaning they require power all the time to keep the picture on-screen, whether this picture is something complex like a video, or something simple like a text document or ebook.

A multitude of media

The truth is, the EB101 is being marketed as an ebook reader when it technically isn't one. When you combine its multiple functions (video playback, music playback, digital photo frame), the EB101 is more a portable media player than it is an ebook. As well as playing a range of ebook files (ePub, RTF, TXT, PDB, DOC, FB2) it is also capable of playing AVI, MP4, 3GP and MPG video files, as well as MP3 and WMA audio.

So how does it stack up against other portable media players? It certainly has all the right odds and ends; a 3.5mm headphone socket for plugging in your favourite headphones, and 2GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot for expanding this with cards up to 16GB.

Once again, the screen is the big letdown for multimedia too. It might be cheap, but that doesn't mean the screen needs to be of such bad quality. This is one of those products where we wished the manufacturer included better components and charged a little more for the product overall. A great example of a similar device is the JCMatthew MyMovie, a 9-inch media player with a brilliant screen selling for AU$249. For an extra hundred-dollars you get a much better product, even if the MyMovie isn't capable of playing some of the same ebook files.

User friendly?

It's funny that we should mention the JCMatthew MyMovie in the paragraph before, because both the MyMovie and the EB101 suffer from truly mind-boggling controls. The EB101 has eight buttons around its screen plus a four-way navigation pad, and to be honest, we're still not sure what some of them do. The nav-pad handles most of the basic cursor positioning, and in some instances you will press "right" to select a menu item, but in other instances you'll press "M", which stands for menu, to bring up a menu in times when its not being used to select objects — see what a mind-warp this can be?

Transferring files to the EB101 is a piece of cake, it's really just a matter of mounting the disk on your PC and dragging and dropping the files onto the device. Laser makes this seem a little more complex by calling the memory "U-Disk" and by giving you a few buttons to press when you connect the USB cable, but don't be put off, it's all very simple in the end.

Overall

There is fast becoming too many options for book lovers making the switch to the digital page, with every factory in Asia pumping out an ebook reader or three, and local distributors hungrily snapping them up. For such a simple task, like displaying words on a screen, you might be tempted to look at cheapo brands for your ebook reader to save a buck or two. Our advice is to stick with the big brands for now. At AU$150, the Laser EB101 is AU$50 cheaper than Border's Kobo and the last generation of Kindles, but it's leagues behind in offering the same excellent reading experience.



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novakor
7
Rating
 

"Good for the price"

novakor posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Easy to use, works with plenty of formats, upgradeable

The Bad:short battery, built to a price

This was the 1st ereader I bought for myself and it was the cheapest I could find at the time ($99). Worked well, easy to load and firmware upgrade so DRM formats were supported. Did not expect much and it was a great ereader until it died a little over 12minths after purchase. (Plenty of ereaders exactly like this one were on sale but just with different branding insores and online. Obviously the same Chinese factory supplied all).

LyndallA Facebook
5
Rating
 

"Overall functions are good but reliability is an issue"

LyndallA posted a review   

The Good:Good screen, relatively easy to use

The Bad:Difficult to upload new files to, reliability issues

We've had the EB101 for almost 12 mos now and initially they were great, did all that we expected of them but now we are experiencing issues with them. My hubby's one takes forever to accept an update of the files, he may have to start and re-start several times before it will recognise the new files and my one has started to switch itself off without any prior warning and before I can save a bookmark if I am reading a book at the time. We will both be looking for new readers, just got to decide which one? Or maybe get a tablet instead?

LeeM3 Facebook
6
Rating
 

"A good value simple little multi-function E-Reader"

LeeM3 posted a review   

The Good:Great screen, good price and simple to use

The Bad:A little slow on load-up

Well people not what sure what you expected from the B101, but as a tech I think you all expected waytoo much probably didnt look aound and paid way too much. I paid $39.95 AUD. I use the 101 all the time, the battery lasts "3 hours " when reading a book. The biggest issue is making certain that you actually turn it off and not just place it into standby, which is where the greatest battery issue lies. Most people dont shut it off proprly with the result that it goes flat sitting there! Try reading a book off your smartphone and it wont last much longer. Media files take a while to load but are spot on if you consider what the devie acually is. I have not had an issue with reading .pdf files and most of what I read are .pdf files. As a simple E-Reader with a good screen its great value. If you want more buy a tablet thereare two other options; 1: Buy a kindle and be locked with Kindle/Amazon or 2: Buy an IPad and be "tied to the Apple Tree". One more thing. Jut one small flash and his little E-Bookchanges fom Linux to Pc and morphs into a much more powerful device. Either way whilst it is a little slow to turn on, its undrated and people expected too much.

Becz
1
Rating
 

Becz posted a review   

The Good:NO

The Bad:Definitely

I got one of these for Christmas, its absolutely dreadful, besides the fact that it’s slow to start and then even slower to open up a book. The battery life on it, like most have said is atrocious. The first time I used it, I charged it, placed it in my bag so that when I arrived at work early I could read. Well that was wishful thinking, I turned the machine on and within less then a minute a warning appeared advising me it was going to shut down due to a low battery. I ended up going and buying a book from a book store. The reason I'm annoyed is because that was the first time I had turned it on since charging it. It has to be the biggest waste of money. An Amazon Kindle or a Borders Kobo, will only set you back between $150-$170, The laser was purchased for $99 but has cost me more than that because I have spent over $80 in paperbacks since I got the thing because the battery doesn't last. If someone was thinking about buying one, I would advise putting your money into something worth while (a kindle or kobo) because while the laser is cheap now you will end up having to replace it in a short period of time.

 

lkc posted a comment   

Be smart people dont waste your money! it has taken me 2 hours to get a book onto it just to find out that after 25 minutes of loading that it dose not support EPUB and other formats that are listed are not supported!
NOT HAPPY JAN!!!!!!
the better be giving me my money back!!

Magic
1
Rating
 

Magic posted a review   

The Good:Eventually got a full refund.

The Bad:Delivered broken

Bought this from BigW Online for $98. When it was delivered it arrived broken. One set of the buttons had slipped below the case exposing the electronics inside. I was unable to move the buttons back and returned it to BigW for a refund. They had me post it back after the courier they organised failed to turn up. Finally got my money back nearly a month later after posting the device back then ringing up BigW asking where the refund was.

 

JJ posted a comment   

I can't even get my pc to recognise it. I can't get the thing to turn off either, I have to let it run flat.

Sucks, I can't give a review seeing as I can't get it to work..

Teleost
7
Rating
 

Teleost posted a review   

The Good:Does exactly what it says on the box

The Bad:Slow on Big PDFs

I have been using this unit for a few weeks. Yes, it's got a fairly short battery life. Big deal, it's not exactly a difficult task to plug it in now and then.

The size of the unit IMHO is almost perfect. It gives a nice sized page while remaining compact. Other ebook readers I've looked at have all be large enough to be ungainly to hold with one hand. The page turn button isn't in the best spot for comfortable one handed use though.

The display is quite good. I loaded a couple of video files and the display was crisp and colours quite acceptable. It doesn't give you a HD viewing experience - but the documentation says that from the get go.

The interface is simple and intuitive to navigate. I have heard suggestions it's running a Linux OS so there may be a possibility to increase it's functionality down the track.

Using it as an Ebook reader it performs quite adequately. It does help to turn the screen brightness down to its lowest setting. It's easier on the eyes and the batteries.

It is particularly slow when it comes to opening large PDFs. At a guess it's got fairly limited RAM - which is a completely different thing to the 2GB internal Flash memory.

On the whole, It's a product made to meet a budget. And that budget is significantly lower than its competitors. It's certainly not the best product on the market. But at the price of $150 or less(I got mine for $99) you can accept that it's going to have limitations and live with them..

I don't intend to trade mine in for a more expensive unit any time soon.

jf3000
1
Rating
 

jf3000 posted a review   

The Good:lol

The Bad:Oh Yeah

Honestly this device is the worst reader on the market, first of all half the time the drivers wont install, to even get a file to play back on this device is just a joke, slow as and when it comes to video if it plays badly, Lasers options says convert the file to a lesser definition and bit rate. Even though I can play different formats, forget opening a pdf, even there user manual sucks and is deadly slow to open and navigate through the pages. Laser you certainly know how to make a product that has FAILED!!! I had to choose 1 for rating, 0 is a better rating though cos your product FAILS in all areas.




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User Reviews / Comments  Laser EB101 E-Book Reader

  • novakor

    novakor

    Rating7

    "This was the 1st ereader I bought for myself and it was the cheapest I could find at the time ($99). Worked well, easy to load and firmware upgrade so DRM formats were supported. Did not expect muc..."

  • LyndallA

    LyndallA

    Rating5

    "We've had the EB101 for almost 12 mos now and initially they were great, did all that we expected of them but now we are experiencing issues with them. My hubby's one takes forever to accept an up..."

  • LeeM3

    LeeM3

    Rating6

    "Well people not what sure what you expected from the B101, but as a tech I think you all expected waytoo much probably didnt look aound and paid way too much. I paid $39.95 AUD. I use the 101 all t..."

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