BeBook Neo eReader review

Can this WiFi eReader take on the Kindle?

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With the new Amazon Kindle unveiled and the Apple iBook store spanning product groups from the iPod Touch to the iPad, is there still a place for the humble eBook reader?

Dutch company Endless Ideas thinks so and has introduced the BeBook eBook reader. As well as supporting a wide range of formats, including: EPUB, PDF (including Adobe DRM), TXT, HTML, RTF, MOBI, CHM, PDB, alongside JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP and TIFF image files, it has built-in WiFi, so you can download directly from a host of online books stores.

Weighing 298g, the Neo is light and at approximately the size of a paperback book, unobtrusive enough to carry around all day.

All navigation is performed using the circular four-way controller, which is set within bigger Menu, Next, Back and Prev controls, it takes a bit of practice before you stop accidentally pressing them instead of the navigation controls.

One of the highlights of the Neo is Wacom touchpanel technology that is integrated into the 6-inch screen, maybe we’ve been spoilt by the iPad, but it just isn’t very fast. You often have to jab the stylus quite hard for it to respond to a command - and you can’t use your finger - although it’s fairly effective scribble pad.

Get down to the business of reading books and we’ve few complaints, ePaper is easy to ready, with clear and sharp text and you can choose from multiple font sizes and even types. It’s also far easier to read outside than the iPad.

BeBook Neo: WiFi and web

Getting online is fairly easy: click websites and select ‘Ebook Portal’ and the BeBook will scan for WiFi and you simply enter you key. In the UK choose between: Foyles, WH Smith and Blackwell online book shops, but this will change depending on the country you’re in. Annoyingly you have to re-select your WiFi network each time you go online, although you only have to enter the key once.

Obviously speeds will vary depending on your WiFi connection, but we found the web experience a bit slow. WH Smith takes well over 20 seconds to load and then we had to wait another 20 seconds to get through to the WH Smith eBook store.

One thing we can't live with is how fidlly pages are to navigate. The web pages you visit aren’t optimised for the BeBook, so navigating using a combination of the four-way controller (to move up and down the page) and jabbing the screen (to activate a command) is far slower than it should be, and certainly far slower than a full touchscreen. Text is hard to read too - even if you enlarge it - and we could see the imprint of a previous part of the page underneath.

We’d suggest signing up to websites like WH Smith eBooks online first via a computer, using the tiny keyboard is seriously frustrating. In fact, we’d go so far to suggest it’s far quicker just to download books to your laptop, connect the BeBook Neo and transfer them over.

BeBook Neo: Extras

Alongside eBook stores you can access the web via Google, Wikipedia or Adobe, but like the Kindle, this is a sideshow. (which is a content heavy website) takes well over 30 seconds to load. Although the text is clear and bold, when you move down a page, the ghost of the previous page is clearly visible underneath.

Elsewhere there’s a 3.5mm jack and SD card slot to expand the 512MB flash memory, which holds respectable 1000 books. You’ll get around 7000 page turns per charge, but do remember to flick the WiFi off.

Ultimately the BeBook Neo is being touted a being a reader where ‘you decide where you want to purchase eBooks.’ Sure you can access multiple ebook stores, but we’d rather be able to access one quickly and easily, instead of three that are very sluggish.

With WiFi connectivity the BeBook Neo certainly offers more than rivals like the Cybook Opus and Sony PRS-600, but ultimately you're paying a premium for WiFi and it's the worst thing here. For a smooth wireless download experience we can’t recommend this over the £110 Kindle and if you’re not bothered about WiFi go for the Cooler eBook Reader instead and save yourself £100.

The BeBook Neo is out now, find out more from BeBook