More and more Android tablets are popping up in our peripheral vision -- it seems every manufacturer under the sun is keen to get one into the shops. But, if you're a manufacturer, how do you differentiate your Android tablet from the hoard of similar slates out there? One way is to make it cheap.
That's the approach Endless Ideas is taking with its BeBook Live, which will set you back around £230 when it goes on sale next month. We went hands-on with the 7-inch tablet, and returned with a bucketful of first impressions.
Seven inches of heaven?
The BeBook Live is a 7-inch tablet that runs Android 2.2 Froyo. Its styling is more industrial than that of devices like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, with an array of buttons and ports around the edges of the tablet, and chunky back, menu and home buttons sitting one side of the screen.
Measuring 140 by 202 by 11mm, the BeBook Live is relatively slim, and it's not too heavy either, weighing 426g. If you're carrying it around in a bag or rucksack, you won't find it slowing you down. There's a silver strip around the edges of the tablet that puts us in mind of the metal loop surrounding the iPhone 4.
The BeBook Live's screen has an unusual aspect ratio -- 4:3. This means that, when held in landscape mode, it's taller than most similarly sized tablets. The advantage of this is that you'll be able to see more of Web pages, making for a more comfortable browsing experience, and more of maps. But, on the other hand, we found one app we tried was slightly stretched-out as a result of this peculiar aspect ratio.
The display itself has a resolution of 600x800 pixels. We weren't blown away by the screen -- it's not as bright or luxurious as the display on the iPad 2 -- but we recognise that some sacrifices have to be made in the name of affordability.
A 1GHz single-core processor powers the BeBook Live. In our tests, it felt really snappy, with nary a trace of sluggishness as we slid through home screens and menus. Chugging speeds are a hallmark of dodgy tablets, so the fact that this one seems to have some processing clout is a good sign.
The BeBook Live doesn't run the latest version of Android -- in fact it's several versions behind. Android 2.3 Gingerbread is the latest iteration of Google's operating system for smart phones, while version 3.0 Honeycomb is the latest edition for tablets. The BeBook Live comes with Android 2.2 Froyo, however, so there are some things you'll miss out on.
The presence of an older version of Android isn't necessarily a disaster, though -- the Samsung Galaxy Tab runs the same version of Android, and is one of the best tablets on the market. You'll still get Flash support too, and, indeed, Flash video in the BeBook Live's browser plays very smoothly.
The BeBook Live adds a task-manager app to Android, so you can manually shut down other apps if you want to. We've found task-manager apps to be a great help on devices like the Galaxy Tab, or Samsung's Galaxy S 2 phone.
We're told there's also a video player on the tablet that's capable of handling a wide variety of codecs. That will come in handy if you've got movies or TV shows stored in slightly quirky formats.
A mini-HDMI port and headphone jack are present, and there's also 4GB of built-in storage space, with a slot for a microSD card of up to 32GB as well. The BeBook Live offers Wi-Fi, but not 3G, connectivity.
Finally, there's a 2-megapixel camera stuck on the front of the tablet. Unfortunately, there's no rear-facing snapper.
The BeBook Live won't trouble high-end tablets like the iPad 2 or Motorola Xoom, but it's much cheaper than those devices, and hopefully some cost-cutting compromises won't make it much less useful. The BeBook Live could be a neat little tablet for anyone seeking an Android slate on the cheap. Stay tuned for the full review soon.
Edited by Charles Kloet