The Amigo is a portable desktop video magnifier that enlarges text and images to enable low vision users to more easily see them.
The electronic device is manufactured by Enhanced Vision, which also makes the Pebble, a similar, though smaller handheld, and the Transformer, a portable machine for desktop and distance viewing. Both are closed circuit televisions (CCTV), referring to their use of cameras to capture images.
The Amigo has a high-resolution screen, five magnification levels from 3.5x to 14x, and a "freeze frame" feature for capturing temporary images of what's being magnified. The unit fits in a coat pocket, weighs about 24 ounces, and runs on AC or battery power.
Amigo Has a 14” Screen and a Freeze Frame Feature for Text Capture
The manufacturer sent me an Amigo to review. I used it over several days to read a variety of material, including the Amigo Users Manual, as well as labels on canned goods and prescription bottles, and a visual dictionary. I also tested its resolution and viewing modes by examining several photographs and periodicals.
As with the Pebble, the best thing about the Amigo is its ease of use right out of the box. It's a magnifying glass with a battery - though there's an AC adapter, too.
As soon as I had it out, I pressed the "Power" button in front, tilted the screen, and placed the unit on the package checklist sheet to assess it as a reading tool. I was impressed: the tilt put the 6.5" screen - wide for a portable device - at an angle that felt comfortable for sustained reading.
One feature I couldn't use was the Writing Stand - a plastic tray that sets the Amigo at a 45-degree angle so users can sign checks and other documents under magnification. I'm right-handed, but grip my pen like a lefty and didn't have enough space to work the pen.
Using the Amigo Portable CCTV
The Amigo has three main functions: it enables users to read, freeze images, and to write. To use the device, press the "Power" button on the front of the unit and place the Amigo directly on the material you want to magnify.
Tilt the screen once the image appears to create the most comfortable viewing angle. For on-the-go viewing, hold the object, e.g. a menu taped to a pizza box, as close to the camera as possible to achieve the sharpest image.
Reading with Amigo - Image Size and Mode
To adjust magnification, rotate the dial marked "Size" on the right side of the unit. Turn the wheel in either direction to cycle through five magnification levels: 3.5, 5.3x, 7x, 10x, and 14x.
Note: The Amigo comes with an additional cable you can plug into the "Video In" jack on most TV sets. Using a 20" TV provides increased magnification levels from 10x to 40x in a similar manner the Eazy Reader.
The Amigo has six Viewing Modes you can cycle through by turning the dial marked "Mode" located on the right of the unit above the "Size" wheel. The modes are:
- Full Color Image - ideal for photographs
- Black & White Image - ideal for viewing objects and reading newsprint
- High-Contrast Positive Image - ideal for reading most written text
- High-Contrast Negative Image - displays text in white on a black background
- Yellow Text on Blue Background - ideal contrast level for some readers
- Yellow Text on Black Background - additional high-contrast choice.
Freeze Images with Amigo
The "Freeze" button enables you to snap a temporary image. The feature is useful for bringing information where it's needed, such as the number from a newspaper ad taken to the telephone.
To snap an image, position the Amigo over what you want to capture and press and hold the "Freeze" button located on the back of the unit at the far right.
Once an image is captured, you can enhance it using the "Size" and "Mode" controls. Press and hold "Freeze" again for about a second to clear the screen.
Writing with Amigo
To write with Amigo, position the Writing Stand over the material, e.g. a checkbook or printed form, with the tallest part facing you.
Turn on the Amigo, place it in the stand with the "Power" button facing you, and tilt the screen towards you.
Make sure magnification is set to the lowest level and the mode is either full color or black & white. Position the pen under the stand and start writing.
Amigo Battery Tips
The Amigo comes with a battery, battery charger, and power cord. The battery compartment is located underneath the screen on the left side of the device.
As the battery will drain when left in, it's best to remove it when not using the Amigo. Press the small tab at the back of the compartment and slide the battery out.
It's a good idea to charge both batteries - one using the external charger, the other using the Amigo's internal charger - and to always have one battery charging while the other is in use. Never allow the battery to completely drain.
Full battery charges take 2.5 hours and last about 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Amigo Portable CCTV Pros, Cons, & Bottom Line
- Simple to operate and immediately useful
- Large screen for type of device
- Excellent tool for sustained reading.
- Price: $1,695 is very high for what will likely be a secondary CCTV
- Short battery life means lots of charging and swapping
- Though compact, it's not shirt-pocket portable as is the Pebble.
All in all, the Amigo is a great product offering the highest quality resolution among portable electronic magnifiers.
I would never buy one, however, due to its price. In the digital age, $1,695 is a lot to ask for a magnifier - no matter how well it's made. For a little more than half that price, one could buy an iPad 2 and a Pebble and loose mere percentage points in terms of functionality.