U

TECSUN
PL200

ETON
E100

 

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.

Besides of it's small size, the E100/PL-200 has some other features that really stand out.
- Flexibility To Customize the Setup To Suit Your Taste
- 200 Memories
- Built In Battery Charger (PL200 only)
- Time and Frequency Can Be Displayed Simultaneously.
- Sleep Button That Can Be Manipulated Up To 120 Minutes
- Display Light That Can Stay On Indefinitely If Desired.
- Auto Scanning and Memory Scanning

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.

AM (MW) 520 - 1710 kHz Tuning steps - Up/Down Buttons - 10 kHz Fine Tuning - 1 kHz
or

522 - 1620 kHz Tuning steps - Up/Down Buttons - 9 kHz Fine Tuning - 1 kHz


FM 87 - 108 MHz or 76 - 108 MHz - Up/Down Buttons - 100 kHz Fine Tuning - 50 kHz


Shortwave - 1711 - 29999 kHz - Up/Down Buttons - 5 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

Power
2 AA Batteries or 3V DC

Accessories
Windup Antenna (PL200 Only)
AC Supply/Charger (220v AC) (PL 200 Only)
2 NiMH AA Rechargeable Batteries (PL200 Only) - 2 AA Alkaline Cells (E100 Only)
Carry Case
Ear Buds
User's Manual (Chinese) (PL 200 Only - English (E100 Only)

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.

Performance
AM (MW)
The PL-200/E100 performs adequately an AM. Medium and weak stations are rendered with higher noise than on my best (larger) am portables, but still most of the usual stations are present, and sensitivity is a notch above my inexpensive small analog portables, such as the Kaito WRX911. On the plus side, selectivity, even with the single bandwidth provided, is adequate to separate adjacent signals on mw. Adjacent channel interference from nearby stronger stations was rejected quite well. No hets or whistling was noticed. Nulling out stations by rotating the radio was good.

FM
The PL-200/E100's performance on FM is impressive using the only radio's telescopic antenna. Best catch was around 65 miles away by tuning slightly off frequency away from a local station on an adjacent channel. Stereo is available at the headphone output jack…thee is even a front panel button to select Stereo or Mono to improve weak signal reception. Both My PL200 and E100 show some frequency readout error on FM, a common occurrence on multiband portables from all manufacturers. I have several portables which exhibit this misalignment, even the pricey Sony SW77 suffers from it. In the case of my particular PL200 and E100 I sometimes get much cleaner sound by tuning one increment higher than the actual frequency on FM.

Shortwave
Here the PL-200/E100 hold their own. Again, I used the radio's telescopic antenna to do my listening. The major international broadcasters that I normally listen to could be heard without any problems. I was anxious to compare the E100 with my early sample PL200 as there have been rumors of increased sensitivity. I must report I could detect NO differences in reception quality on either MW or SW between my two radios. I scanned up and down the sw bands during the daytime when signals are weakest, and was able to hear WWV on 15,000 and 20,000 very clearly. The BBC on 15190 came in just fine, and as I spot checked outer active sw frequencies I was pleased with the apparent sensitivity. There is only 1 filter bandwidth available, but there is a two position tone switch which offers an agreeable selection of two tonal qualities. Listening at nighttime the dials were full of the usual signals. Selectivity is adequate for listening to the majors…you might not find this the best set for seeking out a weak signal buffeted by competing adjacent signals though. For the price and size, though, you will find you can hear lots of stations clearly on this radio. Reception is best when hand held.

Customizing The PL-200/E100 The Way You Like
The PL-200 has various options that may be set up by pressing the System Setup Button while the radio is OFF. Note that this is the same as the ENTER button. By pressing the "Sys. Set [ENTER]" button for 3 seconds, you will be prompted to enter a two digit number.

ALARMS
Code 01 - The radio's alarm will be set to use the frequency on Page 1 of Memory 1
Code 02 - The radio's alarm will be the last frequency that the PL-200 was last tuned to.
PAGE SYSTEM
Code 04 - Sets the Page system to 4 Pages of 50 memories each
Code 05 - Sets the Page system to 5 Pages of 40 memories each
Code 08 - Sets the Page system to 8 Pages of 25 memories each
Code 20 - Sets the Page system to 20 Pages of 10 memories each
TUNING STEPS
Code 09 - Sets AM (MW) tuning to 9 kHz steps for the UP and DOWN buttons
Code 10 - Sets AM (MW) tuning to 10 kHz steps for the UP and DOWN buttons
Code 76 - Sets FM for tuning range of 76 - 108 MHz
Code 88 - Sets FM for tuning range of 87 - 108 MHz
CLOCK
Code 12 - Sets the clock to display in 12 hour mode
Code 24 - Sets the clock to display in 24 hour mode
BATTERY MODE
Code 28 - Sets the radio to recognize and recharge NiMH or Nicad batteries - Display shows: 1.2
Code 29 - Sets the radio to recognize normal AA batteries - Display shows: 1.5
GEEWIZ
Code 22 - Shows all the segments of the LCD and then displays PL-200 (the E100 says PL200 as well)!

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).


Getting To Know The Flexible 200 Memory System
The PL-200 uses a "Page" system that permits the user to group their favorite frequencies in memory pages (groups) that may be recalled later. Memories may be recalled by being in the "Page" mode by pressing the M.Scan/Page button on the right side of the radio or by entering into the keypad the memory number. (Note: To input a frequency the ENTER button must be pressed first then the frequency that the user desires.) When in the Page mode, the page number and memory number is indicated in the top right corner of the PL-200's LCD display. When the radio is not in the Page mode, the time is displayed. A nice feature that the PL-200 has lets the user group the 200 memories into "Page" sizes that best fits their listening habits. Options are: 4 Pages of 50 Memories, 5 Pages of 40 Memories, 8 Pages of 25 Memories or 20 Pages of 10 Memories. I really like the fact that the PL-200 does not loose its memories if the user decides later to switch to a different page format. For example…. you would rather go from 5 Pages of 40 Memories (factory preset) to 4 Pages of 50 Memories… nothing is lost! The radio's CPU just renumbers the memories. Another nice touch is the ability to mix AM(MW), FM and Shortwave memories into the same page.

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.

What I Like About The PL-200/E100
-
Small Size Doesn't Compromise Good Performance - with its leatherette carrying case, the PL-200 is ready to go anywhere. A "Hold" switch makes it convenient for travel too.

- 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

- Flexible 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.
Page 1 - Favorites (AM-FM-Shortwave),
Page 2 - Night Time Shortwave,
Page 3 - Night Time Shortwave
Page 4 - Day Time Shortwave
Page 5 - Misc (AM-FM-Shortwave)

- 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.


The Down Side
-
4 Second Delay When Turning The Radio On - Not so much a down side as more "just the way it is". During this "power up" process, the PL-200/E100 is silent for a few seconds. There is no instant audio when turning the radio on. When powering up, the radio defaults to sleep mode displaying the number of minutes set for sleep mode and finally the last frequency used. Again, holding the power button down for a few seconds defeats the Sleep Mode and turns the radio permanently on.

- 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

1. Insert the enclosed rechargeable batteries into the battery compartment of the radio, paying attention
that the polarities of the batteries are correctly inserted.

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.

3. Plug the connection of DC-03 into the PL-200 DC socket. After a few seconds, the pilot lamp on
the DC-03 will light up, meaning that it is in the steady charging mode (about 200ma)

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).

5. After pulse recharging the batteries for about 3 -4 hours, the pilot lamp on the DC-03 will distinguish,
meaning that the batteries are fully charged. Charging is then in the safe draining mode, now you can stop charging the batteries.

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.


WE RECOMMEND THAT RE-CHARGING OF THE BATTERIES SHOULD ONLY TAKE PLACE AFTER THE TWO BATTERIES ARE COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED. THE 12 HOURS FULLY RE-CHARGE SHOULD TAKE PLACED AT LEAST ONCE IN A MONTH.

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.

Bottom Line
The PL200/E100 is clearly aimed at the person who wants a tiny digital receiver covering AM(MW)/SW/SW in a Walkman-sized package. Because it is a PLL Digitally-tuned radio you have the convenience of exact frequency readout, 200 memories and a host of other features not available on any inexpensive analog portables. For features and size this radio is hard to compare with any other. The Degen DE1102 offers somewhat better reception, but is a larger package. Other radios the size of the PL200/E100 don't' match its features and performance anywhere near the price. The Kaito WRX911 which appears to be an analog version of the same radio in a virtually identical case, does not match the sensitivity or audio quality of the PL200/E100.At this size you must compare it with the Sony SW100 for over $300, and although the Sony clearly outperforms the Tecsun/Eton, it costs many times more.

It's 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.

Review by Ulis with E100 Updates by Jay Allen

Special Thanks To Danny Wu!

 

Click Here To See HongKongRadioers Photo Review Of The PL200

 

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