MiGear eReader – One of a lot of new, cheap ereaders out there

IMPORTANT LATER ADDITIONS:

1:  Since writing this post, I have been overwhelmed by the interest and positive comments from so many of you about this device, that I have changed my views on it, and will shortly be writing a hands-on review of the device.

The bottom feeders have arrived!

On my arrival here in Australia, my Daughter in Law, Caro, shoved a flyer into my travel exhausted hand, which I peered at blearily, and saw it was a gaudy ad for $98 ereader, of a make I had never heard of.

It seems that we now have a whole plethora of cheap  ereaders available to us from the shops that work on the principle of “stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap”.    Once I realised what it was I was looking at, I set to and hunted around the net to see if this was a one off, or a new development in the ereader world.  I quickly discovered that without my noticing it, lots of similar stores, both high street and online are now offering what they blithely call ereaders for sale at well under $100 in Australia, America and at least one in Europe.

Backstreet things……..

What these ereaders all have in common is that they are cheaply made Chinese ereaders, not made by one of the large and reputable Chinese companies, but knocked out in the sort of back street “factories” I saw so many of while I was living in China, and thus they are really rather nasty devices, not something I would dream of recommending to anyone.

The particular one that Caro showed me is called the MiGear ereader, and is sold both online and in the stores of an Australian store, called BigW,and I shall discuss it as a typical example of this development.

Not surprisingly, given the unit price of a real e-Ink screen, this one has a TFT  screen (similar to the screen on a laptop) as these can be purchased at a very low unit price by such factories, which means it has all the normal problems associated with such screen technology, glare and short battery endurance between charges, on the other hand, it is colour, which some people prefer.

No DRM support… thus no copyrighted books work on it:

This screen is a pleasantly large 7 inch one, so that part of it is OK, and it supports all the normal formats for ebooks too, but, and this is a big but, it does not support DRM protected ebooks, which unless there is a work around to this (I shall look into this matter soon) means that one can not read any books one has paid for, but only use it for ebooks that are copyright free.

What I mean by a work around is not can you strip the DRM from your ebooks, I know you can do that, if you are reasonably nifty with a computer, but if it is possible to work legally with Adobe and this ereader.

I have waded through lots of threads on various Australian websites about this device, and the general finding was that it is  slow, almost no functions apart from being able to read your non-copyrighted ebooks on it and a whole litany of other complaints on just about every aspect of the thing.  Added to which, if you should buy it in the store, they mostly refuse to open the box and let you try it out in the store… so you have to buy the thing on the basis of the description on the outside of the box….     Whilst the handbook claims it gives you a 1 year warranty,  BigW only offer a 21 day return policy, and then only if the thing is defective…  So the fact that it is almost useless doesn’t count I would imagine.

Important correction:

I have just been told, both by MiGear themselves and by several readers of this blog, that it now supports DRM, and for those who bought their MiGear before 1st December, you can download the necessary software to enable DRM from this link: http://www.migear.biz

Avoid it….!

I feel very strongly that ereaders such as this one are to be avoided at all costs…….   They will give a completely wrong impression of the pleasure one can get from using an ereader, and turn people completely off the whole idea.

Given that one can buy a perfectly good, fully functional ereader for about $40 more, I see no point in buying such a device.

Not everyone hated it:

Having said that, I came across a number of comments by people who, recognizing the limitations of this device, were none the less perfectly happy with it, as they only wished to read out of copyright ebooks, which they felt it did perfectly well, or others who were computer savvy enough to know how to strip the DRM protection off ebooks, and thus could buy and read ebooks from any ebook sellers….   So, as with everything, if you know what you are doing, and don’t mind having to sort things out for yourself, this could be a useful device.

As a phenomena, it is interesting however, as it shows clearly that the concept of ereaders has definitely arrived, since shops like this never stock items they are not 100% sure they can sell, so shortly we shall see lots more of these cheap devices, piled up beside the MP3 players that are shaped like small pink dogs or whatever……

Anyhow, for what it is worth, here are the specifications of this particular example of this  development:

Price: $ 98

Colour:  Black

Product Height:  (CM) 23 cms

Product Weight (KG):  0.465

Product Width (CM):  15

Battery Life Up to 8hrs of constant reading.

Built In Memory 2GB

Colour Screen:  Yes

Display Type:  TFT colour screen.

Expandable memory:   Micro SD card (not included).

Memory Card Slot :Yes

Playback Function: View your photos and play music.

Screen Size (Inches): 7

Supported Formats:  Supports eBook formats PDF, TXT, EPUB, CHM, RTF, HTML.

Zoom:   Zoom function to adjust text size for easy reading.

Battery Type:  Rechargable

Share with  us:

Any thoughts on this development?   Do share them with us here.

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212 thoughts on “MiGear eReader – One of a lot of new, cheap ereaders out there

  1. mike

    Are we talking about the same ereader? My Migear is a BSTE100 reader,2GB internal memory, adequate enough at ebooks, music and pics, but does not play videos of any sort. doesn’t know what to do with them although their name does show up in ‘explorer’. If yours is the same, how does it play avi’s? I wonder if they upgraded the firmware to do this?

    Reply
  2. Anne

    I have the same mishear as you. Does not play vids but there was another identical that did play them . Came out just
    After I bought mine.

    Reply
  3. mike

    By updating the firmware i did get it to play videos. Most if not all you need to know to do this is in the posts here on this site. The video player seems to have only basic functions, for example, no fast forward or starting from any point except the beginning or where you last stopped watching (like the remembering where you got to in a book). The quality of playback is OK. The opening screen now shows it as a Skytex SX-EB700.
    It also now shows a ‘record’ function where you can record your voice or whatever is happening around you – there must be an internal microphone although i can’t see it in the case, but i’ve tried it and it does work though what you might use it for i don’t know. If you want the details on how to do the upgrade let me know. It’s not too hard (now) although i had initial problems finding a driver for it.

    Reply
  4. mike

    No. at least, not my version, though the later version with a video player i don’t know about, but i doubt it – it’s a pretty basic unit. Even the calendar is just a calendar, not a diary or personal information manager. Also, text entry is even worse than the earliest primitive mobile phones where you pressed the ’1′ key three times to get a ‘c’, so entering a word to check spelling would be painful at best.

    Reply
  5. Keith

    Thought I’d add my 2 cents even though this is a pretty old device now… I bought it on special like some other posters above for under $30 in Aust recently (April 2012). And for that price, it is a pretty capable device for my purposes (mainly for traveling). It holds my travel guides in epub and pdf formats nicely, as well as a heap of ebooks, and videos and MP3s.

    I stumbled on this thread trying to find out more about this reader before I bought it, but since I’ve been using it for about 2 months now, things I should mention that may be contrary to what other previous posters have said:

    My model I expect is running the latest MiGear firmware with Adobe Reader Mobile already there. It doesn’t say anything other than V0.0.00 in the “System Information” tab in the “System Settings” though.

    Video capability – most video files I’ve put on it works fine. That’s MPG, MOV, MP4, AVI, MKV, (Flv files don’t appear to work). High Def files won’t play, but under 720p seems to work, and I most of the older encoding formats seem to work – H.264. encoded files seem to have trouble playing, as do some MP4 files from YouTube. I’ve tried lower resolution videos from my digital camera, and they work fine. I’ve tested the battery on playing videos and it lasts about 4 hours, so that seems ok to me (I’ve worked out a way to charge it by USB while using, but more below). You can navigate through the video by fast forwarding or rewinding by holding down the left and right arrows (both on the dial and on the side of the device). short pressing will skip to the next video. Pressing the “M” or OK button brings up a prompt that lets you skip to a time frame in the video file, adjust the screen to Full Screen or Original Frame, and adjust the brightness. The inbuilt speaker is pretty soft though, but with headphones or an external speaker it works great.

    File Management – its clunky but works ok. Under the “Explorer” tab you can actually DELETE files from the device on the fly without having to use a PC. Both from the TF Card (MicroSD Card Slot) or the onboard Flash memory. Just highlight the file you want, then click the “Play /Pause” button. You get a prompt something like “do you want to delete – Yes/NO”. You cannot use the “Search” function for files stored on the TF Card slot – only on the onboard memory, which is really annoying.

    Formats – epub and mobi files seem to work ok. epub files look really good (with nice fonts etc), although the default font for mobi files and text files is horrible, and cannot be changed. PDFs work, but if the pages have many diagrams/photos, it can be terribly slow to load, and I’m not sure why, at least on my purchased PDF travel guides, the zoom option seems poor – but it is quite legible. If the PDF (or epub) has chapters, you can go to them buy pressing the M (Centre “OK” button) and then selecting “Catalog” this should bring up the chapters. I wish this was quicker to access, but it works. I have had intermittent problems with epubs and PDFs either giving me random errors but they are infrequent, and do not seem to be consistent when they occur.

    Photo viewer – Not many people I expect would use this function. But I use it to read manga comics. This reader does not read the mobile comic format, but extracting the images from the cbr or cbz files to JPG works nicely. The only gripe is that the zoom option is terrible, so if there is small text in the picture, the zoom doesn’t actually zoom in it just magnifies your view, leaving a nasty jaggy image that you can’t really use to read. And if you want to navigate around the zoomed image, its very slow and counter intuitive (the left button moves the screen right, and the up button moves the screen down).

    Settings quirks – I do like that you can set the screen to automatically turn off, and the device to automatically shut down with a period of not being used, but I have found that the device off function does not work everytime unless you go into “Settings” then “Auto Shut Time” EVERY TIME it’s turned on. Even if the time was previously set, once you open a book format, or watch a movie or open some picture photos and manually turn it off, the device seems to forget the Auto Shut Time (even if its still selected!!). This can be annoying as if left on, even with the screen off, the device will run flat.

    Battery and Charging issues – I didn’t expect this reader to have a decent sort of battery life, but reading ebooks on the lowest light setting (which is incidently still too bright!) I have gotten use for some 5-6 hours. As mentioned above, with the video playing I’ve gotten about 4 hours or so. A number of posts have addressed the fact that this device turns itself on when you plug in the USB cable to charge (even when doing it via AC or DC socket rather than a PC). The device LED blinks until it is charged, then stays a steady colour indicating it is charged. HOWEVER, once it is charged, the device doesn’t seem to turn OFF automatically as it is still connected to the USB so it seems the battery depletes and then the charging cycle starts again and the LED blinks. Seems silly to me. I have yet to buy an AC adapter with the correct plug to see if this happens when you use the AC plug instead.

    Another thing I don’t like about charging with the USB Cable, is that you are unable to use the device at the same time. As others have mentioned, I know about “disconnecting the device” when using a PC’s USB output, but I bought this to use when traveling and I have a number of portable lithium batteries with USB outputs that I can use to extend the life while I’m using it. I have come up with a way around this problem while watching Videos, but cannot use the same method for ebooks or other features on the device. In Video mode, if you are currently watching a video file, and plug in the USB to charge, the LED starts blinking, and as long as the video stays playing and you do not press the stop or back button, the video file continues playing while charging. I have tested this via USB plugged into a wall charger, from my portable backup batteries, and from PC.

    Turning the device on requires a long (5 secs) hold of the power button, but turning it off is a 1-2 sec hold. I’ve turned it off by mistake a few times, so this can be annoying, but at least the device will remember the page of the book you were last at if you go to “Browser History” and if watching a video, it seems to remember where you were last at (although a warning, if you do not click the Yes button to the “Continue Last Play” prompt within 7 seconds, it will disappear and you go back to the start screen.

    In summary, for under $30 this was a great unit for me. I’ve plugged in a 16GB memory card, and used it in my travels, with text files of my itinerary (hotel and transport details), a few travel guides in PDF and epub format, a heap of ebooks, some videos files, webcasts and MP3s. And the best part is that if it gets damaged or lost while I’m traveling I won’t be as upset as if it was my Sony or Kindle!

    Reply
  6. Tony Post author

    @ Keith,
    many thanks for this very detailed comment, which I am sure will help a lot of folk out there to get the best from their MiGear ereaders. You have discovered stuff that I didn’t notice when I was playing with my review example.

    Reply
  7. Michael

    As one whose family owns many PCs, iPads, Kindles, etc., etc., I was astounded by the versatility, functionality and ease of file transfer of this wee machine. Sound is adequate with good headphones, viedo quality is as good as my main desktop PC and powered speakers and, to top it all off, I can read a bok in bed with automatic page turning; try doing that on a Kindle Paperwhite or iPad 2!

    Reply

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