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BeBook Neo review



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With the arrival of the Apple iPad, many have wondered what the fate of the humble e-ink-based e-book reader would be. Compared to the multimedia-rich experience of the iPad, the plain black and white display and limited functionality of these devices feels decidedly archaic. However, as we concluded in our iPad review, if you want a truly portable reading device that is comfortable to look at for hours on end and can measure its battery life in days rather than hours then e-book readers are still worth going for.

But which e-book reader should you buy? Well, with its inbuilt Wi-Fi, a web browser, and Wacom-powered touchscreen technology, the BeBook Neo is certainly a premium example.

It's also one of the most elegant e-book readers we've encountered. Sure, the Sony PRS-600 probably pips it to the post for outright style, thanks to its all metal chassis, but the Neo's white plastic front and simple control cluster give it a clean simplicity that we rather like. On top of this, the sandblasted aluminium back gives it a solid feel unlike all-plastic models such as the iRiver Story and Bookeen CyBook.

The back did, however, split opinion in the office when it came to comfort. Unlike the smooth aluminium finish of something like a MacBook Pro, the Neo has quite a rough finish – think 1000 grit sanding paper. To some of us, this gave it a reassuringly grippy surface whereas others found it distinctly uncomfortable, like it was slowly smoothing your fingertips away. It also appears to add some weight because at 312g (about the weight of a small hardback novel), it's nearly twice as heavy as the all-plastic alternatives.

Below the 6in, 800 x 600 pixel e-ink display is the navigation cluster. This consists of two concentric rings and a central select button. The outer ring is used for opening the menu, going forward and back a page, and going back a level in the menu. As for the inner ring, it functions as a directional-pad when navigating menus and doubles for zooming in and out (increasing font size) when viewing a document.

Most of the other features are confined to the bottom edge where you'll find the volume control, a mini-USB port, the power button, a 3.5mm headphone socket and an SD card reader. The only exception is the touchscreen stylus, which is housed in a slot on the top edge - more about that later, though.

You don't get much in the box besides the reader. There's a white USB cable for attaching the Neo to a PC for charging and transferring files to and from it. You don't, however, get a case of any description or a dedicated charger, so you'll have to get hold of a generic mains-to-USB converter for charging when away from a computer.

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May 13, 2010, 5:29 pm

Wow, that's expensive for a tiny ebook.

I like e-readers in theory, but in practice they just don't *feel* right - (I tried a mate's kindle for a few weeks). This would have to have a slightly bigger screen, be lighter and have a price tag <£100 before it even becomes a consideration.

I also think that these tools need to become a lot more robust. They need to be able to be treated like a book, thrown around, get rained on, covered in mojito's & sand, thrown in a rucksack that gets trampled on and preferably have a solar cell on the back to charge and have an open source OS. That's my wish list anyway :)


May 13, 2010, 5:50 pm

In fairness, most of these devises are fairly robust. Otherwise, I totally agree.


May 13, 2010, 6:35 pm

You know, the whole iPad vs. e-reader thing is sort of reminiscent of the PS3 situation, in that I know iPads are significantly dearer but they do a hell of a lot more to make it worth the money. The Kindle & co. market's really gonna have to take a long hard look at its pricing model. As everyone else notes, the real competition is going to come from Android.


May 13, 2010, 7:04 pm


Comparing the iPad to an e-book reader is like comparing Apples to oranges. Sure they're both fruit, but the point is that e-ink offers a non-emissive screen, meaning it won't tire the eyes.

The iPad wouldn't be an attractive option for reading a book after staring at a computer monitor all day for example, as its emissive IPS panel would give your eyes no rest. And also keep in mind that tablets like the iPad have been around for a long time...


May 13, 2010, 9:22 pm

"And also keep in mind that tablets like the iPad have been around for a long time..."

Just like a ton of smartphones preceded the iPhone. It took someone to get the UI right before the rest of the market offered real competitors - which takes us full circle back to the promise of Android in the tablet genre.

And I don't accept iPads and e-readers are worlds apart. The level of difference is about the same as the Wii and the PS3. Sure I can get the cheaper option which does one specific type of media a bit better, but I and many others don't consider it value for money if you can get a Blu-Ray player/high quality PMP and browser thrown in . I mean are you really suggesting people in this economy buy both? No, no - most people are gonna choose something that does a bit of everything and choose not to carry two of the same form factor around with them. That means tablet with good battery life, and nice colourful books app over dedicated, dear and slow, e-reader all the way.


May 13, 2010, 9:39 pm

@GoldenGuy: You're falling for precisely what the manufacturers of these devices have. That is thinking these devices should do more than just show e-books. By trying to compete they've opened themselves up for defeat. Once this technology comes down in price, however, it's perfectly conceivable that you have both an e-book reader and a smartphone/notebook - just as you have both a notebook and a book now. Admittedly you're unlikely to carry around an iPad type device and an e-book reader but then as we said in our iPad review, we don't actually see these devices as being for use out and about.


May 13, 2010, 9:53 pm


Actually I don't think our views are quite so far apart. I agree that ereaders shouldn't try to do more than the technology permits - but as long as they price themselves thusly, the message they are communicating to the consumer is that they are a direct competitor to a tablet device, and the consumer will have to choose - they can have a bit of reading and everything else in a far more attractive package at 400 quid, or all reading and dire browsing at 300 - and they're both nearly the same size. But I do also agree that the iPad isn't quite as mobile-friendly as Apple would like to make out due to its weight and glare. If however, e-readers come down to say £150, then the the extra bulk becomes a fair trade off for affordability. At the moment, the consumer will pick one and exclude the other, it will be a tablet, and until Android arrives it will remain as an iPad, due, in no small part to the eye candy of the colourful and engaging iBooks app. I might see consumers trading up, but once they buy an iPad, can you really see them adding a Kindle, Nook, BeBook or likewise?


May 13, 2010, 10:00 pm

Yeah, but personally I'm talking even cheaper than £150. You can already get e-book readers costing £120 but I think they should target getting these down to £50 for the basic plastic models then £100 - £150 for the premium metal-bodied/leather-bound ones.


May 14, 2010, 12:10 am

Any chance you can do a review of the Irex DR800? While the DR800SG is only available in the US, you can buy the DR800 legitimately in the UK. Admittedly it doesn't have the 3G connection like the DR800SG but it is shaping up to be one of the best pure ebook readers out there. Considering your discussion above?....However, it might prove the point as it is insanely expensive, especially in Europe compared to the US


May 14, 2010, 9:40 am

I was really hoping for the author to excitedly announce "Hi! I'm Ed Chester!" at the beginning of his review.

Locating the power and volume buttons at the bottom doesn't seem to be very wise as that's where you'll be resting this device for a lot of the time.

And like the Ed I'd love to cheaper versions of these come on to the marketplace. The bult-in browser would be very useful for reading saved Instapaper files.


May 14, 2010, 12:51 pm

I am one who would carry a smartphone & an e-reader rather than an i-pad (which needs a cover). At the moment it is two things that hold me back, the price of the smartphone which is out of my price range for the phone I really like, & I am waiting for colour on the e-reader.

I have mentioned guide books before on this site, as I see that as where the e-reader will develope it's potential for me.


May 14, 2010, 6:40 pm

I was looking at the DR800S from iRex too, but I notice that Asus are bringing out a 9 inch model (DR950) soon which should hopefully be a lot cheaper.

I'm currently in the market for one that is good at displaying PDFs to help me with some studying, as I don't want to carry around 10 tonnes of paper on the train to work.


May 15, 2010, 12:46 am

Vegas - Yeah, I was watching for the Asus reader but it was meant to be out in the UK in April.....not good when they miss their supposed launch date. Plus the Asus is an ereader built with an e-ink screen from a different manufacturer which according to reports isn't as defined as that used by Kindle, Irex, Sony etc. I will still wait for reviews on it as it does have wifi. By the way, there is a public beta release of the next software upgrade for the DR800S. It is meant to help correct some of the pdf viewing issues the DR800S has. Check mobileread forum for the definitive details.


August 15, 2010, 7:45 am

Ed..the iPad and ereaders i believe are different animals as others have said here.

The Neo has issues-still-around wifi stability and overall performance,and the touchscreen has a mind of its own if you get anywhere near the edges of the screen with the stylus.

I ,like others,do not think the browsing esperience with an ereader is worth the extra money.If u want that use a tablet/laptop.

I have read hundreds of books on ereaders and have also fried my eyeballs on LCD computer screens!!

As far as price points go -the Neo is overpriced,but to get to ridiculously low prices for stand alone machines is not viable.They would have to be subsidised a la Kindle /Amazon model.Did u know Amazon are yet to make a Profit?? So what happens when there are hoards of Kindle users (with almost Amazon ebooks-only reading capabilities)

Prices will jump and people effectively will have bought an expensive machine?

I think when the dust settles-not helped by the Publishers shift to an Agency model for ebooks-there will be a normal market situation.

Dont forget about enews download possibilities too.


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