Eton has just released their tiny E100, the smallest member of their Elite Series. The E100 is a slight makeover of Tecsun's cutie, the PL200 which has been available since sometime in 2003.
When I first saw a photo of the PL-200, the first thing that came to mind was how much the radio resembled the much larger Sangean ATS-803A (Radio Shack DX-440). The PL-200 is about a quarter of the size of the ATS-803A. Imagine my surprise when I first had the radio in my hand. This is one small radio!
This AM (MW)-FM-Shortwave palm sized PLL portable is one of Tecsun's growing portfolio of radios. Manufactured primarily for the domestic Chinese market, some PL-200s have found their way outside of the country to radio enthusiasts around the world. The PL200 is said to be similar internally to the vertical format Eton/Grundig YB550 which are officially imported to the U.S. indeed, since no English manual exists for the PL200 people were advised to download the YB550 manual from the Eton website. With the introduction of the E100, a more compatible user manual is now available via Eton's website. It is essential to set up the radio using its System Set Codes which set up everything from Memory Page configuration to AM Frequency Spacing and FM band coverage. (Details later on the Set Codes). Additionally, there are some electronic differences as the PL200 runs on 2 AA cells while the YB550 runs on 3 cells. The larger YB550 also has a larger speaker I wouldn't be surprised if the extra power were used, at least in part, for a slightly stronger audio amp circuit, as the YB550 is said to have a slightly "larger" sound than the PL200/E100.
of it's small size, the E100/PL-200 has some other features that really
More on these features later in the review.
Frequency Coverage Note: The elevation panel on the back of the PL200 states the mw range as ending at 1620 KHz although in fact the radio tunes continuously through the 1710 KHz expanded band. The E100, being a US Import version correctly states the range as extending through 1710.
(MW) 520 - 1710 kHz Tuning steps - Up/Down Buttons - 10 kHz Fine
Tuning - 1 kHz
No SSB (Single Sideband)
Antenna: Telescopic 21.5" or 54.6 cm (no external antenna input)
Size: 4.75" wide x 1" thick x 2.95" high (inches) or 121 mm x 26 mm x 75 mm +/-
Weight: 7.2 oz or 3.26 kg
Available Colors: Red, Gray, White (PL200 Only) - Silver Only (E100)
Eton has also slightly redesigned the front panel with a curved appearance and a sculpted area between the pushbuttons which allows them to protrude a bit more than the almost flush buttons on the PL200. It makes them slightly easier to depress positively.
The PL-200/E100 The Way You Like
I like the fact that the radio may be set up to tune in AM (MW) 10 kHz steps (Code 10) while being able to use the extended FM range of 76 - 108 MHz (Code 76).
Auto Scanning and Memory Scanning - The PL-200/E100 can search for the strongest frequencies by pressing and holding down either the UP or DOWN button. Equally, the PL-200/E100 can scan the memories while in Page mode.
I Like About The PL-200/E100
- Time and Frequency Can Be Displayed Simultaneously on the LCD Panel - When not in Page mode, it is nice to be able to see the frequency and time displayed at the same time. On many radios that have a clock either a special button must be pressed to see the time or the radio must be turned off. It is refreshing to be able to see both the time and frequency at the same time while tuning around. I keep the radio set to 24 hour mode set to UTC (GMT) for the convenience of looking up shortwave schedules while listening. When not displaying the time, the Page and Memory number is shown. (Page mode)
- Good Battery Life - The PL-200 doesn't appear to be a battery hog. Though I have not tested the exact length of time to be expected on a set of batteries, so far I have been able to get well over two weeks worth of listening time on a set of AA NiMH 1800 mah batteries. I have been listening mainly every night at headphone volume with the radio set on 120 minute Sleep timer set.
- Battery Meter - The PL-200/E100's LCD display indicates 5 levels of battery life when the radio is off. It looks more complicated than it really is. The ability to set up the radio up to read either Alkalines or NiMH batteries (see the codes listed above) helps to estimate how much listening time you may have left on a pair of AA batteries. Nothing is worse than when your batteries die unexpectedly with no spares around. Note that the same meter is used as a signal strength meter when the radio is on. This is also indicated by the small triangle under either the battery icon or the antenna icon on the radio's LCD display.
- Built In Battery Charger (PL200 Only) - While probably not a true built in battery charger, the PL-200 comes with a 4.5 v DC (220v) wallwart referred to as the DC-03. The DC-03 smart charger has a built in light that indicates when the batteries are charging and when the batteries are fully charged. Thanks to HongKongRadioer, the charging instructions are at the bottom of the review. Note that if you plan to use the charger in the USA, you will need to acquire a 110v AC to 220v AC converter or the charger will not work. It is worth noting that the plug of the wall wart pivots into the charger making it more convenient for traveling and storage.
- Non-Volatile Memories - You won't lose all 200 memories if your batteries die or you do not swap out your batteries in time.
- The PL-200/E100 LCD Display Shows Both The Time And Frequency While The Radio Is On
Memory System - The capability to arrange the PL-200's Pages the way
you like gives the user more options. The ability to scroll through
the memories while in the "Page" mode is an added plus.
I arranged my PL-200 in 5 Pages of 40 Memories each.
- Display Light That Can Stay On Indefinitely If The User Desires - By holding the light button down for about 4 seconds or so, the display light will stay on until the light button is pressed again to turn it off. This is very convenient if using the radio in the dark. The display light isn't too bright as to not drain the batteries too quickly but just bright enough to see the LCD display in the dark.
- Useful Wrist Strap - For some people this is no big deal but I like a radio that I can walk around with without worrying if I am going to drop it.
- Good Audio (Considering The Size) - The internal speaker is loud enough to fill a small room with out distorting badly. Headphone audio fidelity is quite good. FM is stereo mono selectable via a button on the radio's front panel.
- Sleep Mode Up To 120 Minutes - Selectable from 120, 90, 75, 60, 45, 30, 15, 10, 5, and 1 minute increments. When turning the radio ON, the PL-200/E100's LCD displays the last Sleep Mode time used. In other words, whatever sleep time you select will be the default the next time you enter Sleep Mode a nice touch. While "the last sleep time used" is displayed press either the UP or DOWN buttons to change the Sleep Mode time depending on which time direction you wish to go. Note: holding down the Power button for a few seconds the radio goes into indefinite ON mode instead of sleep mode.
- Reset Button Conveniently Located - No searching for a paper clip to reset the PL-200/E100, the reset button is very accessible on the bottom of the radio. So far I have not had to reset the radio but you never know. However, my new E100 is going back for exchange as its microprocessor locked up the first time I turned the radio on and has locked up several times in the few days I've had it. This is clearly a sample defect and not indicative of the design as neither Ulys' nor my PL200 has ever needed to be reset. My early sample E100 also has a typical hard plastic case word from Eton is that later models will feature a rubberized texture. We'll update you on that when they hit the shelves.
- Fine Tuning Chuff - Chuff is too mild this design mutes mercilessly when Fine tuning, making it less fun that it would otherwise be.
- Switching Bands Audio Delay - When toggling through the bands from (FM to MW to Shortwave) there is about a 1.5 second delay.
- Toggling Through Memories Audio Delay - Again there is about 1.5 second delay when toggling through the PL-200's memories.
- Small Buttons - OK it's a small radio so you would expect small buttons. The buttons on the PL-200 are almost at the same level as the faceplate of the radio making it a little more difficult to use. As mentioned earlier, they protrude a bit more on the E100 which improves the tactile feel.
- Separate UP and DOWN Buttons - Instinctively I keep wanting to toggle the long horizontal UP or Down Button left to right to go up or down in frequency instead of pressing the separate UP and Down button. On the other hand, for often used buttons I find it nice that they are larger than the other buttons.
- Tuning Knob Is For Fine Tuning Only - In fact the side of the radio, where the tuning knob is located it says "Fine Tuning". Due to the size of the UP and DOWN buttons, I would of preferred that the Tuning Knob be for larger incremental tuning steps and let the UP and DOWN buttons be for fine tuning. This is the very same complaint I have about the Satellit 800 (which is a Tecsun Ham2000), so I guess it' some forgivable at this price point!
- Charging the NiMH Batteries in the PL200. Here is some information translated by HongKongRadioer from Page 7 of the PL-200 User's Manual
the enclosed rechargeable batteries into the battery compartment of
the radio, paying attention
2. Plug the AC adaptor to 220V. power mains. US users will have to obtain a suitable 200V to 120V adapter to use the DC-03.
the connection of DC-03 into the PL-200 DC socket. After a few seconds,
the pilot lamp on
4. After charging for about 3 - 4 hours, the pilot lamp on the DC-03 will begin to flash, meaning it is in the pulse charging mode; (N.B. the flashing speed of the pilot lamp will increase with time).
pulse recharging the batteries for about 3 -4 hours, the pilot lamp
on the DC-03 will distinguish,
THE ENTIRE CHARGING PROCESS NEEDS ABOUT 6-8 HOURS.
6. If you do not cut-off the power, DC-03 will continue to charge the batteries in safe draining mode until the batteries are completely fully charged. The advantages of drain charging are: overheating of the batteries is avoided, the two batteries are fully charged to 100%, different charging conditions of the two batteries are avoided and battery life is prolonged. This draining charge process takes about 5 hours.
Additional Notes - You don't read Chinese? No problem! As to be expected, the PL-200's user's manual is in Chinese. Not to worry! With the exception of the PL-200's internal battery charger, the user's manual for the E100 works wonderfully as a substitute. Fortunately, Eton/Grundig is generous enough to post their user's manuals on line on line for easy download. Too bad this altruism does not extend to Service Information. I have never been able to obtain Service Manuals on any Grundig or Eton products, although schematics and pictorials for some Tecsun/Eton/Grundig models are available on the web.
hard to imagine that these tiny sets could be improved much without
dramatically increasing their cost. For the intended purpose I don't
think you will be disappointed with either the PL200 or the E100.
How do youdecide which to buy? Well, if you're a US resident, the
E100 will cost you about $100, and ti wil be available only in silver,
but you will have a factory warranty. If you choose the PL200 you
have a chosie of 3 colors and will pay around $60 shipped from China,
but if you have a problem, the cost of shipping it for exchange or
repair will wipe out any savings. Also, the E100 comes with no AC
Adapter while the PL200 includes the adapter and has a built in charger
not available in the E100, although you will have to buy a 220 to
120 volt adapter to use it.
Special Thanks To Danny Wu!
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