Aluratek Libre Pro E-Reader: Easy on the Eyes and the Wallet
At a Glance
Priced at $170 (as of March 15, 2010), the no-frills, lightweight Aluratek Libre Pro e-reader is a refreshing surprise. Dismissing the Libre Pro as just another e-reader in a sea of clones would be easy, but this device handles better than most--and it sports a bargain price, too.
The e-reader universe is evolving at a breakneck pace, and one thing that remains yet to be determined is what defines an e-reader. In the beginning, we saw models with electronic-paper screens; now in the mix are tablets with LCDs, as well as dual-screen electronic-paper and LCD products.
Another variant is the screen technology Aluratek employs here: The company uses a monochrome, non-backlit, 5-inch Toshiba LCD screen intended to achieve a result that, like electronic paper, is comfortable to read and kind to the battery. In practice, the Libre Pro's display succeeds in the former but not the latter. Though the display is small compared with that of a Barnes and Noble Nook or an Amazon Kindle 2, I found it very easy on my eyes for long reading engagements. Regrettably, when I tried the Libre Pro for a three-day weekend of mixed use and standby mode, the battery failed to last without needing a charge (Aluratek says the device will last for up to 24 hours of continuous reading, and 30 days standby time). The display has a greenish-gold coloration, much as monochrome screens of yesteryear had; it isn't quite as effective for the text to stand out, but it was tame enough to keep my eyes from tiring.
I found the Libre Pro intuitive and fast to use, and its construction was noticeably smooth. It weighs just 7 ounces, which makes it a joy to hold in one or both hands. All of the unit's buttons are soft to the touch and finger-friendly. That's unusual on e-readers: Many, such as the Interead Cool-ER, suffer from dreadfully stiff and hard-to-press controls.
Along the right side of the display sits a vertical set of buttons that work for cell-phone-keypad-like text and numeric input, as well as for selecting which option you want on screen. The effect is similar to--but more elegant than--the kludgy scrollwheel on the original Amazon Kindle. Along the left is an unusual slider bar for moving pages forward and back.
Beneath the screen, to the right, is a five-way navigation pad, neatly surrounded by four handy buttons for switching orientation, options (including jumping to a specific page in the book, by using the numbers alongside the screen), three choices for text magnification, and return. At left are the page-forward and page-back buttons, the former larger than the latter. These buttons are well situated for turning pages with your left hand, if you hold the device in your left hand or both hands; alternatively, if you hold the e-reader along its side in your left hand, you can easily press the buttons with your right hand.
The Libre Pro has an SDHC card slot and supports cards up to 32GB. You can load a variety of file formats, including text, Adobe ePub, PDF, FB2, MOBI, PRC, and RTF. You can download books manually or buy books from ePub-compatible stores (Aluratek is partnered with eBooks.com and Kobo). The device comes with 100 classics preinstalled--a nice way to get the ball rolling.
At the bottom of the Libre Pro are the power button (which is a little tough to press), the headphone jack, and a hand-strap loop. At the top, under a rubberized flap, are the SD slot and the mini-USB port; the flap feels sturdy, though I wish it didn't cover the USB port as well.
Although the Libre Pro lacks the Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity of some fancier e-readers, it keeps things basic and to the point. This little e-reader is a pleasure to use, and it can be a reasonable alternative to more costly, connected e-readers.