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This review covers the Astak 5" EZReader PocketPro eBook Reader which sells for $199 US. Technical Specs: ePaper, E-Ink Technology, 5" screen, 800x600 resolution, 8 Grayscale colors, Dimensions: 6"x4.1"x0.4", Linux OS, 512MB RAM, Samsung ARM9 400MHz CPU, One USB 2.0, One SD Card slot, Earphone jack, Weight 6oz, Li-Polymer battery.

The Astak EZReader eBook Reader was the darling of the Consumer Electronics Show this year and it's no wonder--this little device does it all: Displays eBooks, plays music and reads your eBooks aloud in case you don't want to read them for yourself.

I was excited to receive the Astak EZReader and quickly tore open the package to find the treasure within the cardboard container. There it was, finally, magic in a black box. I first noticed the simple controls and paper-white screen that stared blankly back at me. The reader arrives in its own magnetic clasp leather case--very impressive. Also included in the box are the printed user manual, a pair of earbuds, a small screwdriver for changing the battery, a wrist leash, a power adapter for charging and a USB cable.

The user manual suggested that you plug in the device for 12 hours prior to first use. Rats! I wanted to dive right in but, alas, patience is a virtue--although whomever spoke those words never anticipated an eBook reader. After my long wait, I turned on the device to find that the user manual, in pdf format, was included on the device for test reading, I suppose. I opened it and the reading was OK but not spectacular. The screen seems to be a bit faded or something and you can't adjust the brightness or contrast of text.

There are certain documents that won't open, even if you follow the instructions and set yourself up with Adobe's Digital Editions software.

One cool feature, when reading ebooks, is that when you want to read a book with a wider view, you press the zoom button twice and the book transforms into a landscape mode view for you. I like this feature. It doesn't work with every eBook but it does work with quite a few. One zoom click usually makes the book comfortably readable for me in portrait mode.

The controls are easy to find and use, especially the paging controls for which you have several options regardless of which hand you use to turn pages. The controls don't seem immediately intuitive but once you familiarize yourself with them, they are very easy to use and allow you to navigate quickly.

The one problem I have yet to resolve is setting the system time. The time settings are easy enough to manipulate but once I power off the unit and back on, the time resets. This is very frustrating. Not that I necessarily 'need' a clock on board my eBook reader, still, it annoys me.

The Astak EZReader feels sturdy in my hands. It feels like a quality made device. I like it. It took a few hours and some user manual reading but I got used to the controls and the idiosyncracies of working with the navigation. The problems I had with the unit are from having experience with other similar devices such as the original Kindle.
The original Kindle's control are very sensitive and the slightest touch will page you forward or backward. The Astak, on the other hand, is not sensitive to random touches. You have to press the buttons with confidence and I like that. It allows me to hold the device without having to constantly reposition myself on the page I was reading.

I got the unit to read ebooks and text files aloud to me too. The pronunciation is a little awkward for some words but you might get used to it. It's not a feature I'll use all that much, so it doesn't bother me that it sounds like a female version of Stephen Hawking.
I also played some music files on the device. The sound is excellent with no skipping or hesitation. A full screen of controls pops up for you when you're playing music that's very handy for shuffling, repeating, pausing and everything else you do with sound files. My successful experience was with MP3 files. My downloaded iTunes MPEG 4 (m4a) files didn't work but maybe that format will be supported in a future update.

The eBook reader supports several file formats, including: PDF, TXT, PDB, DOC, HTML, FB2, LIT, MP3, EPUB, PRC and CHM.
Note: Don't expect to read CHM help files but you can read eBooks published in this format.

I like the Astak EZReader PocketPro. It seems to stack up well against the competition and has a good price point at $199. Though, I think that at $150, it would be a hotter seller. I would recommend the Astak EZReader PocketPro as an item to purchase. I'm more impressed with its ability to read TXT and DOC files than I am with my experiences with PDF. It displayed my TXT and DOC files perfectly and even read them aloud! You can't beat that.

Comparing this product with the likes of the Kindle and Sony eBook Reader is easy. This one wins, hands down. No contest. This reader isn't perfect but it lived up to my expectations for a $199 reader. Given the choice of a Kindle or the Sony Pocket Reader, I'd buy the Astak.
I give the Astak 5" EZReader PocketPro and overall 8/10 mostly for its wide range of file formats, Linux OS, included accessories, sturdy build and clever paging controls.

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