BeBook Neo

If you're looking for an elegant, full-featured e-reader, the BeBook Neo offers a smart and stylish reading experience. Like many good things, though, it comes at a price.


7.0
CNET Rating
8.5
User Rating

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.


We're starting to see a fair bit of choice arriving on the e-reader market, with different devices offering a range of different functions. The BeBook Neo is one that tries to do it all — with reasonable results.

Design

One of the first things you'll notice about the Neo is its heft. It's not actually extraordinarily heavy, but it has roughly the same weight as a paperback twice its thickness. This is due to its chassis construction: a clean white plastic façade backed by brushed aluminium. While this serves to give it a somewhat dashing look and a feel of solidity, the tactile impression of the aluminium is a little unpleasant — cold and rough.

The Neo keeps its twiddly bits to a minimum, too; the front of the device is installed with a nav-pad, with two concentric rings mounting a central button. It looks streamlined, and it's great having all your navigation in the one place; once you figure out how to get around the menus, navigation becomes almost instinctive. The outer ring turns pages and resizes fonts, the inner ring allows you to move around the icon-based menu screens and the central button allows you to select items. The one caveat we would add is that having one ring around the other can cause some mis-presses and, given the slow load times of e-readers, this can get slightly annoying.

Features

However, if you don't want to use the nav-pad, you don't have to: designer Endless Ideas has included in the six-inch screen WACOM technology, which means the display functions as a touchscreen using the supplied stylus, which clips into the back of the device.

Being able to select icons, use the stylus to scroll, select and make notes on text, tap words to look them up using the dictionary function (you need to supply your own dictionary downloaded to an SD card), and scribble on PDFs and JPGs, or create new doodles, did in fact prove to be a useful feature, even if the execution was not the sharpest. Reaction to the stylus was delayed, which took a bit of getting used to; we sometimes scrolled further than we wanted because we thought the touch of the stylus hadn't registered, and then had to go scrolling back.

Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to browse the web (provided you can access a hotspot). Since the Neo isn't DRM-locked or even tied to a particular store, you can download ebooks directly to your device from stores such as Borders and Dymocks, as well as downloading free public domain books from sites such as Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks.

This is made easier by the fact that it supports a multitude of file formats: EPUB, PDF, TXT, HTML, RTF, MOBI, CHM, PDB, JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP and TIFF, as well as MP3 support for music and audio books. And, of course, it is compatible with Adobe Digital Editions, so if you prefer to upload books from your computer using the supplied USB cable, you certainly have that option.

Performance

As an e-reader, the Neo provides a pleasant experience. The E Ink display is of a decent quality, and you can resize text and navigate smoothly. The unpleasant texture of the aluminium back can be dealt with by purchasing a leather protective case accessory, which also protects the device, and the pages turn with a decent speed. We liked the MP3 support, which makes it a decent means for digesting books in audio as well as visual format, although if you have an MP3 player or smartphone, it's probably a little extraneous.

We're not sure, though, that the other features perform particularly well. E Ink was not designed with multimedia in mind, and its make-up — millions of tiny capsules filled with positively and negatively charged white and black particles that respond to an electric signal — means that it can only handle page changes slowly. If you're going to access the web on the go, you might find it less frustrating to use a smartphone. Similarly, if you're going to buy books, uploading them via USB might prove a smoother experience, particularly since the supplied power cable is a USB rather than direct-to-mains.

Another feature of E Ink is that it only uses power while turning a page. It was somewhat baffling and vexing, therefore, to discover the Neo switching itself off after a period of idleness, leaving us to twiddle our thumbs while it rebooted. If you just have five minutes at the bus stop and you want to spend it nose-deep in Stieg Larsson, it's irritating to waste time waiting for an e-reader first to switch on, and then load your book, particularly since one charge lasts 7000 page turns, give or take.

Overall, it seemed to us that the Neo was burdened with a superfluity of features. If you're a student, being able to cart your texts around on a lightweight device that you can make notes on would be really useful, and an integrated dictionary function is handy. However, with less costly e-readers on the market that perform the core features just as well as the Neo, it's hard to justify the expense, particularly since some of the features are poorly executed or frustrating to use.

If you're looking for an elegant, full-featured e-reader, the BeBook Neo does offer a smart and stylish reading experience overall. Like many good things, though, it also comes at a price. Unless you particularly want a touchscreen e-reader, it might be a good idea to shop around.

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sniffed posted a comment   

The Good:used to function properly and worked well as a first ebook reader

The Bad:broke and not receiving reply from customer service RMA

Originally thought I was happy with the product. I bought it to read ebooks and it functioned well aside from a couple of resets after crashes.

Pros: functioned well for reading books (my first ebook reader so hard to compare).
I downloaded a lot of free public domain property books and it did not make me jump through hoops to display the content (my concern with kindle and other ebook readers tied to content subscribers)

Cons: It broke in my bag one day under normal wear and tear; ie wasn't throwing it on the ground and bought it with leather case so it was never outside the 'protective' cover.
No response so far from support@mybebook.com concerning my inquiry for an RMA
web surfing is next to useless as it takes too long to enter any kind of txt through touchscreen.
Mp3 player is a little touchy when it comes to reading and listening to audio at the same time; works fine when it works, so it is not a hardware issue but the software implementation is clumsy at best.
Getting a dictionary on it is confusing; the tools you would use to implement it are there and easy to find, but do not come included and are confusing to integrate.

To be honest, i was perfectly happy with it functioning normally as a simple way to read ebooks and I discovered the e-ink format was readable and not tiring on the eyes, but endlessBV's customer support has been slow to reply to my request for an RMA form and now after reading other's experiences with this department I'm left questioning my decision to buy it at all. If it malfunctions and I want to know how to get it repaired I don't expect to have to sit around twiddling my thumbs for a response. I bought this device for travel and will be moving on soon away from easy internet connectivity. Why am I carrying the extra weight of a device that could not withstand being within a 'protective' case inside of a padded backpack's internal pocket?

 

sniffed posted a reply   

Mybebook.com apparently has also deleted my account with them so when I tried to login after perhaps two months of not logging in, they have no record of my email linked to the original account.

Timmo
8
Rating
 

Timmo posted a review   

The Good:Fairly intuitive, multiple formats, feels solid unlike cheaper products, touch screen a boon, unexpected screensavers

The Bad:Centre button functions well but is not well placed for page turning

I went for the Onyx Boox version of the device (www.onyxboox.com) for AU$310 delivered to Australia. Doesn't come with a manual physical or electronic, but found one here:

http://www.onyx-international.com/en/jszc.php

Also doesn't come with a dictionary but can hold one. Did come with a leather cover. I now realize a cover of some kind is important.

So far I'm thrilled with my first ereader and pleased I didn't go for cheap entry level device.

 

curufea posted a comment   
Australia

The Good: Best 6" screen for PDF reading
The Bad: Australian distributor has lousy customer service

The armoured case for the BeBook Neo does not actually protect the screen.
When the screen cracks, the warranty supplied by http://bebook.net.au does not cover the breakage.
A new screen costs $275
New screens are not actually quality controlled when installed and you will be sent the device with a defective screen.

Recommendation:
Buy the Onyx Boox direct from China where it is manufactured, before it is rebranded by BeBook and sold at three times the price.
You can get the cheaper, same hardware, Onyx Boox here- http://www.onyxboox.com/

 

Shouvik posted a comment   

The Good:It was the only ebook reader I could get my hands on.

The Bad:I could not find a case for it.

I actually like the fact that we can makes notes on it. Really helps me with my studies in-case I need to review what I have done really fast and hence making it very eco-friendly... :)

 

Michelle Starr posted a reply   
Australia

Maybe I can help with your "bad", Shouvik: there are a number of stylish cases available at BeBook.net:

http://bebook.net.au/catalog/BeBook_Neo_Accessories-9-1.html

The leather cover is particularly neat: it has a flip-out pocket for business cards and the like, and a cut-out in the back to make retrieving the stylus easy.

 

Harold from BeBook posted a reply   

And just to let you know we are reading your articles and responding, we have skins available to cover the metal feeling from the back! (thanks to the guys from Smirkabout)
http://bebook.net.au/catalog/Skins-11-1.html more designs will be available very soon!

 

Michelle Starr posted a reply   
Australia

That's good to know, Harold! Thanks :)


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User Reviews / Comments  BeBook Neo

  • sniffed

    sniffed

    "Originally thought I was happy with the product. I bought it to read ebooks and it functioned well aside from a couple of resets after crashes.

    Pros: functioned well for reading ..."

  • Timmo

    Timmo

    Rating8

    "I went for the Onyx Boox version of the device (www.onyxboox.com) for AU$310 delivered to Australia. Doesn't come with a manual physical or electronic, but found one here:

    http://www..."

  • curufea

    curufea

    "The Good: Best 6" screen for PDF reading
    The Bad: Australian distributor has lousy customer service

    The armoured case for the BeBook Neo does not actually protect the screen.<..."

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