Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness
Telesensory's MiniViewer is a small, portable video magnifier that can magnify up to 15X. The MiniViewer has a 5.75 inch color LCD display. The viewer can be set to full color, or you can set it to view items in black and white. In this regard you have two options. With the push of a button, the display can be set to show text with a black background and white letters, or a white background with black letters.
What does the MiniViewer look like?
The device, itself, looks like a small, cream-colored box. It is about three inches tall, 6 1/4 inches long, and about 4 1/4 wide. If you set it on a table directly in front of you, you will be presented with a rectangle view screen, that is 5 inches by 3 inches wide. On the side facing toward your body, is located two buttons and one slide bar. The slide bar is used to change the magnification settings. You have three options, 5X, 10x, or 15X. You cannot set the viewer for any other increments. There is also a fourth setting, which is noted with a small picture of a pencil. The view can be used with a small writing stand that raises the viewer enough so that you can get your hand underneath the viewer to sign checks and the like. The 'pencil' setting is used when the viewer is thus raised. The slide bar is along the top of this side, and the two buttons are located below the bar. The button on the right side is used to switch between the color and black and white viewing modes. The button on the left will only work when the viewer is in the black and white mode, and is used to switch between the black-on-white display, and the white-on-black display.
On the back side of the viewer you will find the power button which is used to turn the viewer on and off. Also on the back you will find the power cord and a connector port that can be used to hook the viewer up to a TV or other video monitor. And, if you turn the viewer upside down, you will discover that there are two rollers impeded in the device. These rollers enable you to effortlessly slide the viewer over the object that you are reading or looking at. The lens of the video magnifier is also located on the bottom of the MiniViewer. The lens is lit by six tiny lights that are inside the machine. You cannot touch the lights or the lens because it is protected by a clear plastic cover. When the MiniViewer is set upright, and laid flat on a surface, you cannot see these lights.
How is the MiniViewer Powered?
The MiniViewer can be plugged into a regular electric outlet, or you can purchase a rechargeable battery power pack. If you get the MiniViewer, I'd highly recommended that you also get the power pack. The MiniViewer weighs less than 2 pounds, and it is ideal for carrying with you. However, if you don't have the power pack, you will only be able to use it in situations, where you can plug it in. With the battery pack you can use it anywhere.
There is a small connector that attaches the plug to the power cord that issues out of the back of the unit. To attach the battery back, you simply detach the plug, and connect the power cord to the battery pack, and you are set to go. Telesensory also sells a carrying case that can be used to transport both the viewer and the battery pack.
The battery pack looks like a long, rectangular black box. It is about 7 inches long, 3 inches wide, 1 3/4 inches tall. Two power cords issue out of the box, each with a small connector at the end. These cords are color coded by the addition of colored bands. The 'green' cord is used to connect the battery pack to the MiniViewer, and the 'yellow' cord is used to connect to the plug unit that comes with the viewer, to recharge the unit. It takes five hours to completely recharge the unit, and in return you get three hours of use from the battery pack.
Using the MiniViewer:
I found the MiniViewer very easy to use. There is nothing to assemble, so once you get it, you can simply take it out of its box and start using it. Unfortunately, none of the buttons, or connectors on the unit have tractile marks. This is not a major drawback, as there are only three functional buttons and the slider bar on the unit. And, you will quickly learn the function of each by trial and error - which should take no more than a couple of minutes.
I got the MiniViewer with the battery pack, and this represented the only problem I had with using the unit. I had trouble connecting the battery pack to the MiniViewer, because I never noticed that the plug was connected to the power cord by a coupling. As a result, I could not figure out where the battery pack would connect to the MiniViewer. The couplings are silver, and you'd think that no one could miss them, but I did. But, once they were pointed out to me, I quickly became a wiz at switching the plug and the battery pack. As with the buttons on the viewer, these connectors do not have any tactile marks, but you don't have to worry about hooking the connectors incorrectly, as they only fit together one way. This is because the connectors are like the connectors found on many computer connection. The male connector has a series of small rods, and the female half has little holes that the rods fit into.
To use the viewer, all you have to do is turn it on, and set it down on the object you want to view, and then slide it around as you read or examine the object in question. I did notice, that has you slide the unit around, there is a split second when the text goes slightly fuzzy, but when you stop moving the unit, the image firms up immediately.
Do I like the MiniViewer? It is a very handy and useful device that is easy to use and it performs as advertised. The only drawback on the unit is its price. The basic unit sells for just under US$ 2,000. Regrettably, this price will put the MiniViewer out of the price range for many users who may have benefitted from the unit. (Telesensory will finance the unit for most US purchasers.)
Although the price is steep, for many users, the usefulness of the unit far outweighs its cost. I envision that college students, in particular, will find it most useful as they often don't have the luxury of having a CCTV monitor in each of their classrooms, as they may have had in highschool. Being portable, they can take the MiniViewer along with them to all of their classes. It is also a good size for taking to restaurants to read the menu or to airports, so that you can read while waiting for your flight.
The only drawback to its portability, is that you really should use it only when you are sitting down. While it is possible to hold the unit while standing (such as while waiting in a line), this is a bit awkward and you run the risk of dropping the unit.
The MiniViewer is not, however, for everyone. If you need only a small amount of magnification (i.e, under 5X) you will be better off just using a magnifying glass. Conversely, if you need things magnified more than 15X, the unit will not be powerful enough for your needs.
If you think that MiniViewer might be right for you, I highly recommend that you arrange for a demonstration of the product. This will give you an opportunity to try it out without having to pay for it first. You'll either love it straight away, or know straight away that it isn't for you.
This review was originally published - April 28, 2002
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