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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.
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.
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.