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eReaders drop in price, but what are you really getting?

By Leigh D. Stark | 1:59 pm 22/05/2012

This week, we were alerted to an unusually low price for an eBook reader, with just under thirty dollars for a Kindle competitor available locally. But as we tried to find a unit, we were reminded that you really can get what you pay for.

As we did our regular news browsing this week, a listing over at bargain searching website OzBargain pointed us to an interesting product Dick Smith was selling: a colour eBook reader for $29.98. The product in question is made by the relatively no-name brand MiGear, a company that produces accessories for phones and tablets, as well as small camera, eReaders, and gadgets for kids.

MiGear’s cheap electronic reader features a 7 inch LCD colour screen sporting 800×400 resolution, 2GB built-in memory, a microSD slot for more storage, and a battery capable of up to 8 hours reading. The reader can view PDF files, as well as the universal EPUB format, TXT, RTF, HTML, and play back JPEG images and MP3 audio files. No access to an eBook store is available from the device.

With a cheap price, it’s certainly worth a look, but good luck finding it. We had to run around Sydney in order to find a Dick Smith that still had stock of the bargain gadget. Some research has found an almost identical model (read: rebadged) sold by Big W under the Gear 2 Go brand.

While eBooks readers have been available for over two years, the technology hasn’t dropped far past the hundred dollar mark.

Most of the devices we’ve seen thus far rely on electronic ink, a screen technology doesn’t require as much electricity and looks more like paper than a standard LCD screen, making it easier on the eyes and more like the experience of reading a book.

This product, however, doesn’t use this well known technology, opting instead for an LCD screen that won’t offer the benefits electronic ink gains.

It’s not just the screen that has us concerned, though, as numerous reports on the web suggest that a simple firmware update from the company can break the device.

We found the WiFi Kobo at JB HiFi for $83, a reader that uses the better electronic ink technology. While there's obviously a difference in price, we'd take this model.

One of the Dick Smith stores we checked this week noted that while it did have three products in stock, all three needed to be repaired, suggesting that these devices probably don’t have the best quality behind them.

Meanwhile, retailers continue to sell some reasonably well known eBook readers, including variations of Amazon’s Kindle, the Kobo, and Sony’s own eReading devices. These devices all feature electronic ink, support mechanisms, and are generally seen as the reputable products in the marketplace, fetching at least $80 at retail, not too far above the $30 asking price of the MiGear 7 inch eReader.

There’s certainly no doubt that you can find a bargain when hunting for an eBook reader, but like always, you get what you pay for, so make sure to take that into consideration before you plonk down the dollars.


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“There’s certainly no doubt that you can find a bargain, but like always, you get what you pay for.”

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