So I’ve been using the Eschenbach SmartLux Digital Handheld Video Magnifier with Stand and 5-in. LCD for about a month now, and I figured I could safely recommend it to all of you. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the world of digital magnifiers, but I find them to be very useful for reading books that I cannot find in a digital format. So, what exactly IS a digital magnifier? The electronic or digital magnifier that I refer to is a handheld device with a screen mounted on one side. On the other will be a camera and light or lights. Most seem to have a stand of some form. Some may have a handle that folds underneath the device between the camera and the object to be magnified. Others have more compact stand pieces, and still others have small, fixed nubs underneath the device that provide the height necessary. They come in a variety of price ranges, styles, colors, screen sizes, etc. I’ve seen some on Amazon for as low at $130USD right up to the one I’m reviewing today that is closer to $600USD. Here, I have to state the importance of seeking out resources that may be able to help you purchase these items. If you have children in elementary, middle, or secondary school you may contact your local school for the blind, Lighthouse for the Blind near you, university medical center with low vision specialists, and vocational rehabilitation. I am currently a college student, and my state’s Vocational Rehabilitation has provided this item to me to use for school. They have helped me more than I could even share with you guys. For you International readers, you may check the NOAH Facebook group, the Albinism Community Facebook group and the many others where people from all over the world share this type of information.
The magnifier that I previously owned was the first generation of the Ruby made by Freedom Scientific (Freedom Scientific Ruby Handheld Magnifier 1st generation). It was amazing for short periods of time, but in my experience the battery life was disappointing, and because it charged with one of those round DC chargers rather than something like micro or even mini USB, I found it inconvenient to carry a charger with me all the time. You can find the Ruby for under $300USD now though, so it certainly could be worth checking out if you need something in that price range.
So onto my review. What’s in the box? The Smartlux itself, a hard shell but fairly compact case, a lanyard strap (that is not easy to attach to the SmartLux), the charger cord with various international attachments, the instruction manual, and a small microfiber cloth.
The Smartlux has several features that may be useful for you guys. It has four magnification options: 5x, 7x, 9x, and 12x. I found myself using the 9x most, because I would often sit on a couch here at school and read with the book in my lap. 9x seemed to fit that circumstance and distance well for me. While reading with the book on a table in front of me, I would use the 7x. I believe the 5x would be excellent for hold the magnifier in one hand and reading an object with fine print in the other hand. For example, prescription bottles, nutrition information, cooking directions, user guides and manuals, etc. I did not find myself using the 12x magnification very often, though I did try it out. I found that while using 12x with a normal book, too little was displayed on the screen at one time and that forced me to glide my hand over the page more than I would have liked.
The Smartlux has five color modes: normal, black on white, white on black, black on yellow, and yellow on black. These high contrast modes could be useful for reducing eye strain (as with the white on black or yellow on black modes), and they seemed to work well with my textbook with black text on a white background.
Another feature that may be useful is the LED lights that can be turned on and off. The LEDs will be necessary for reading most items or books especially if you require one of the high-contrast modes. But in cases where you may use the Smartlux with a screen on a tablet, phone, or other large electronic screen, the LEDs will have to be turned off to prevent glare. Though most tablets and phones do have their own accessibility features that may be used to enlarge text on-screen, some cases do require magnification. In the example I will share, I was looking at my tablet while it was placed on a table. I opened my browser to a news website with fairly small print and thumbnails that aren’t always the easiest to see. If you’ve used a tablet or a phone much for web browsing, you will have seen that some sites will not allow you to pinch to zoom and do not seem to resize to the font size you have chosen in your device accessibility settings or internet browser. In these cases, it may be useful to use the SmartLux.
Another useful feature involves the versatility of the stand on the bottom of the SmartLux. This stand has three levels of adjustment: folded up for handheld use; folded out once for use with writing; and folded out all the way for use as a stand on top of a flat surface. The closed position was the one that I found myself using most often because it makes the most sense when reading a textbook or any longer amount of text. The writing mode could be very useful for a child learning to write or for anyone filling out or signing documents or forms that can often be printed painfully small.
There is a feature that allows you to save photos to the SmartLux device. I experimented with this feature a bit, and it could be useful for captureing information such as a nutrition label while in the grocery store or cooking direction on an item you cook regularly or snapping a shot of a business card while out. I find that I can and do all of these things with my smartphone, but in the event that your smartphone battery is dead or you don’t use a smartphone, you can use the SmartLux for these and many similar tasks in your day to day life.
My absolute favorite feature of the SmartLux? Its excellent battery life. I have been using this thing since I first received it and fully charged it. I’ve read through close to four total textbook chapters and taken all of these review photos and still have battery to spare. I am honestly ten times more excited about using this tool now that I know I will not have to have the charger cord with me every day. As I mentioned with the Ruby magnifier, the charger cord is the same round DC style cord, so it’s not the type of cord I would tyically carry with me.
Would I recommend this magnifier? Absolutely, but I do have to point out that it is certainly not cheap. You can buy a pretty nice new smartphone for around the same $600USD price tag, and I find that a bit disappointing. The SmartLux does have quite a few features and feels very well built. Eschenbach is also one of those companies that, to me, connotes higher quality items, and that may contribute to the price of this device as well. Overall, I am very pleased with this device though, and if you’re in the martket for this type of device, I have no other hesitations about recommending that this be at or near the top of your list.
Let me know if you guys find other items you’d like me to review, and let me know which magnifiers you guys use and how you feel about them. Until next time, thanks for reading and stay curious.
SmartLux Digital Handheld Video Magnifier with Stand and 5-in. LCD
Freedom Scientific Ruby Handheld Magnifier 1st generation