The ER-701 is available in a number of stores (Sears, Big5, Dollar General) with retail ranging from $45 to $70. I'm mentioning the price first because for only $80 you can get a K4, which offers a significantly better value as an ebook reader. The K4, Nook Touch ($99), and Kobo Touch ($99) all offer a lot more reading ability for not too much more money. (But if you also want it for video, that's a different matter.)
But before you buy it, let me warn you that my unit was fairly buggy. I've had it for less than a week and it has frozen several times, rebooted itself several times, and it has not been able to keep the back light at the correct level.
Another reason to avoid this ereader is that it only has a 90 day warranty.
This is a minimal hardware design that takes the unusual step of placing all the buttons on one side of the screen. While that looks odd, it works. And given that you can change the orientation so the buttons are on both the right and the left, it's not a limitation.
The power button is on the bottom edge. On the uper right corner edge is the microSD card slot, USB port, and headphone jack. Stacked to the right of the screen are the page turn buttons, D-pad, and 4 buttons (back, play, font size, and menu).
The side with the buttons is wide enough so that I can hold the ER-701 with my thumb placed between the screen and the page turn buttons. It feels like I have a good grip,
Video & Audio
The ER-701 does come with video and audio players, and they are the same basic ones I've seen before. It does an adequate job as a media device, but the lack of a speaker could be a problem. I don't always have my headphones with me.
I tested the ER-01 with a couple different clips I have on hand. Both were about 630x350, or about TV resolution. They played them just fine with no dropped frames. The viewing angle did drop off, though, but that's what you would expect from a cheap LCD screen.
The ER-701 is using the same reading app as a number of other ebook readers (Elonex 700EB and more), so far as I can tell. Format support includes Epub, PDF, TXT, FB2, PDB, and HTML.
It's really not a great reading app. It looks like it was designed to display the bare minimum text from a PDF or Epub, and it does not go beyond that. It's simply not displaying the ebooks correctly. I tested it with several hand made ebooks and the formatting was ignored. It also doesn't support the external TOC in an Epub or PDF, but it will remember your place when you exit an ebook and when you put it in sleep mode.
The only annotation option is bookmarks, and it cannot see the external table of contents in the Epub or PDF. But it does have some customization options: screen brightness, font size (5), font color (6), background color (6), screen orientation, and zoom. It also offers a page jump option and auto page turn option.
It does support PDF zoom (4 levels). It can also reflow a PDF, which is great (and it supports 4 font sizes for the reflowed PDFs). But you need to remember that if you reflow a PDF with graphs or charts, you'll lose them. When you're zoomed in on a PDF, you can use the D-pad to scroll around the screen. But you'll need to back out of the zoom mode before you can turn the page.
BTW, I didn't need them but this ebook reader does ship with the installation files for the Kobo PC and OSX app. The ER-701 supports ebooks from most major ebookstores (except B&N and Amazon), so you don't have to buy ebooks only from Kobo. But it is nice that Southern Telecom is making it a little easier for you.
Physically this is a very pleasant ereader to use. It might look lopsided, but it is still nice to hold with either hand. But I'm not happy about the lack of proper formatting, lack of features, or the general bugginess. If I'd gotten this ereader 6 months or a year ago, I would probably have been kinder about the limitation and lack of features. But since then I have come really miss not having basics like a TOC, proper formatting, and so on.
Specs (from the user manual)
- 7" screen (800x480)
- 4GB Flash storage
- microSD card slot
- Ships with Kobo Desktop apps (installation files)
- Ebook formats: EPUB, PDF, TXT, FB2, PDB, HTML
- Audio formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, OGG
- Video formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4(Xvid), Divx, H.263, H.264, RM/ RMVB, MKV, MOV, VOB, FLV, WMV 7