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Wireless Electronic Reading Aid
Model # DR-400
From Carson Optical

Please note: This product is no longer being manufactured! Reviewed by Auggie Moore - July 8, 2011

The ezRead Pro (DR-400) is a wireless electronic, digital reading aid. This means that this is an electronic magnifier that allows you to project the magnified image onto your PC computer screen or television screen. The size of the magnifications is dependent upon the size of the screen, for example if you have a 20" monitor, you can magnify an image up to 20x which is the equivalent to the ability to enlarge the text to such a degree that only a few letters will appear on the screen at one time. (According to the packaging, the 20x magnification is equal to up to 70x digitally.) The magnification rate depends upon the size of your monitor, so on a smaller monitor you will not achieve such a large magnification rate. And, of course, you can also decrease the rate of magnification, if so desired, with just a few clicks of a button.

This device hooks up easily to your TV or PC computer (it will not work with MAC computers), and it consists of a charging stand, the actual ezReadPro magnifying device, and the necessary connectors (which are included) to attach the charging base to your computer or TV. For the purposes of this review, I'm calling the magnification device, the reader, for ease of identification. Once you have the unit charged and hooked up to your monitor, all you need to do to magnify the material you want to look at, is to simply turn on the reader and place it on top of the text or picture that you want to look at, and it will appear on your monitor. When using the device on your computer, you will also need to click on an icon to open the program, which takes only a couple of seconds. In addition, this device gives you the ability to project the image on the screen in one of four modes: full color, black and white, black on white and white on black.

I found that the ezReadPro does an excellent job of magnifying both printed text and pictures. Images are crisp and clear. Once you figure out how to use it, it is very easy to use and is an excellent product if you are looking for an easy to use, wireless, light weight, magnification device. However, it is not without it faults...

Setting Up the ezReadPro

The ezRead Pro comes with a large print manual that covers the basics of setting up the device, but which is very light in the realm of details. On page four of the manual there is a graphic that points out the key components of the ezReadPro, but is not very clear - so you might need sighted help setting up and using the reader, at least until you get comfortable using the device. In addition, when you are charging your ezRead Pro, there is a red light that will turn green when the unit is fully charged. The light that the manual is referring to is the one on the front of the reading device itself, not the light located on the saucer shaped charging platform.

In addition, there are several buttons on the reader, and they are not easily distinguishable by touch from each other, at least not enough to allow those with low vision or poor feeling in their fingers to easily distinguish between the various buttons. For example, on the top of the reader is an on-and-off button, along with a button to switch the device from NTSC (for use on American TVs) to PAL (for use on European Union TVs). The on-and-off button has a tactical mark on it, but I cannot feel it. The NTSC/PAL switch does not have any tactical markings. The two buttons are very close together, and you have to learn how to properly hold the reader so that you can figure out which button is which. As well, when you push either of these buttons, they move a very short distance. While this movement, and the button's height can be felt tactically, it may take you a few tries to learn what each position signifies.

There are also four buttons along one side of the reader. These four buttons are in a row, moving from top to bottom the buttons are for increasing magnification, changing the color mode, decreasing magnification, and the last button allows you to freeze or unfreeze the image you are looking at. The buttons are very easy to use, but I found it difficult to feel where one button ended and one began. Like the on-an-off button, they have tactile icons carved into the buttons, but they are too shallow to feel. While this is annoying, I think that most users will quickly learn which button is which and how far down the line you need to move your finger to 'hit' the various buttons.

While the actual manual is in large print, there is also another pamphlet that is included that goes into detail on how to use the device on your PC. To read this, you'll first need to charge and set up your device for use on the TV, because the print is so, so tiny that it is unreadable except by those with excellent vision! Luckily, I found that I did not need to resort this little pamphlet, and was able to set up the device using the scant instructions contained in the large print manual.

When using the device with your computer, it attaches to your computer via the USB port, and all necessary software and hardware needed to accomplish this is included. This until also comes with a selection of electrical plug adapters, which makes this unit compatible with electrical outlets found in the United States, England, and in Europe.

The Reader

The ezRead Pro consists of a charging stand and the actual magnification device, which I'm calling 'the reader' for ease of identification. The reader is very light weight and fits conveniently in your hand via an ergonomically designed grip. However, I found that to position the device correctly over the text when trying to read a book, I had to hold my wrist at a backward angle to get the text to line up straight. If I held my wrist in a more natural alignment, this caused the text to be displayed at an angle. In addition, even when I had the text and reader in sync, as I moved the reader across the page I found it very hard to make the text continue to be transmitted to the screen in a straight line. I even tried using a ruler as a guide, but I still had difficulty making the device scan a line without the text beginning to appear at an angle. This is a problem that I expect will disappear over time as the user gets more comfortable and proficient using the device.

The Battery

The ezRead Pro runs off of a rechargeable battery, which allows for wireless use of the reader. The manual, however, provides very little information about the battery. I've not been able to determine what type of battery is used in the device. I contacted Carson Optical to try to find out this information, but all that I was told is that " is a rechargeable battery which is not replaceable. It is long lasting and since it is rechargeable it will not need to be replaced." I was also informed that for longest life, it is best to "...let the device fully use the battery life until you recharge it." Which I take to mean that it is best if you totally drain the battery before recharging it. As I mentioned before, when charging the reader, a red light will appear on the front of the reader. This light will turn green when the unit is fully charged. Make sure that you are looking at the light on the reader itself, not the red light that appears on the charging unit - this light does not turn green, it simply indicates that the charging base (which needs to be plugged into a wall outlet) is receiving power.

In addition, when charging the reader, you need to match up two little metal plates on the base of the reader with two little slightly raised bumps on the charging unit. This is not something that you want to do by touch as you may receive a shock. The readers only fits into the charging base one way, so when placed in the charger the connectors are close to being lined up, but there is not always automatic good connection. I found the easiest way to make sure that the metal connectors were touching correctly was to wiggle the reader around a bit on the charging base until the read light on the reader comes on. It will not come on until there is a good connection. It took almost six hours to charge the unit the first time I used it, and the charge seems to last a goodly while. Just be careful to make sure that you turn the reader off when you are done using it. When the reader is turned on, a white light is projected downward from the actual lens. When the reader is placed down on a solid surface, none of this light is visible, so it is very easy to set down the reader when you are done using it and not realize that it is still on as you cannot see the white light that indicates that it is turned on. On one side of the reader is a small switch that allows you to change the channel on which the image is displayed on the TV. Four, very small squares of red are visible next to the switch when the unit is on, and these lights go out when it is turned off. You can use these lights to check and see if the device has been turned off properly.

In Conclusion

The ezRead Pro works as advertised. With some sighted help, I found it easy to set up and, technically, easy to use. However, there is a fairly decent learning curve involved in getting proficient at using and moving the reader around on the page so that the lines of text appear in a straight line on the monitor. When viewing pictures, stamps, and similar items I did not have any trouble positing or using the reader.

Compared to the ezRead Electronic Reading Aid (DR-200), another excellent product from Carson Optical, the ezRead Pro has its advantages. It is wireless, it allows for greater magnification, and it gives you the option of viewing items in color or in black and white. It is, however, more expensive, and I found it harder to hold steady when scanning a line of text, but I expect that this is a problem that can be overcome with practice.

I liked the ability to look at things in color with the ezReadPro and had a ball looking at old pictures and my stamps. I used to collect stamps but stopped because it was too difficult to see the stamps with the hand-held magnifiers that I have. I think that I might just get back into philately. The ezReadPro not only gives me the ability to enlarge the stamps so that the image fills my entire TV screen, allowing me to see details in the stamps that I've never seen before, but also to see them in color! It was a real treat going back through my collection for the first time in years. However, if you do not have a need for the extra magnification that the ezReadPro offers (the ezRead Pro offers 20x on a 20" monitor, while the best that the old ezRead can do is 12.2x on a 32" television - plus it does not work on a computer), or one of the other unique features of the ezReadPro, you may find that the ezRead Electronic Reading Aid will do you just as well.

If you do need the extra magnification that the ezReadPro offers, or simply like the convenience of a wireless device, I think that you find the ezReadPro to be a wonderful device, one that will be a boon to both those with low vision as well as hobbyist, such as stamp or coin collectors, who could benefit from a digital magnifier.

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