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txtr beagle review

Verdict

It has its quirks, but txtr's beagle is a basic ebook reader for a ridiculously low price

Review Date: 19 Nov 2012

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £8 (£10 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

Amazon's Kindle is anything but expensive, but txtr's beagle aims to blow it out of the water thanks to a radically different business plan: buy the beagle with a mobile phone contract, and it will cost between £5 and £15.

Txtr says that positioning the beagle as a smartphone "companion device" is its best chance of success, but it has a couple of catches. First, you can't just go out and buy one off the shelf; it can only be bought as a one-off purchase alongside a mobile phone contract. The other limitation is that every aspect of book-buying and device management is handled by a free Android app, with iOS and PC-based applications following next year.

The beagle's hardware is basic. A 5in screen is smaller than on rivals, and it has only four buttons: two on the front move between pages and titles, with the middle one switching between the home screen and books. On the rear is the power button, which is also used to activate the Bluetooth chip.

It has the essentials right, however. A page refresh takes 0.8 seconds - a tenth of a second slower than the Kindle - and it shares a screen resolution of 600 x 800. Text is sharp, although not quite as dark as that on Amazon's device, and build quality is good. It weighs 128g and the bulge at the bottom, which accommodates the two AAA batteries, doubles as a comfortable handle.

Communication between the beagle and its paired smartphone is handled via Bluetooth 2.1, but it doesn't read traditional ePub or PDF files - instead, books are rendered as image files on your smartphone before being sent to the beagle. File transfers aren't quick; a 207-page book took just over seven minutes to transfer.

Txtr Beagle

Disappointingly, you're only allowed to store five books on the device despite the 4GB of storage. This isn't because the rendered files are huge, though, with the average page size hovering around 256KB, but because txtr says its users aren't concerned with having more than five books available at once.

The lack of options on the beagle causes some headaches. Adjustments to text size are made on your smartphone, and the book then has to be rendered and sent again to the beagle. And while you can navigate by chapter and search books in the app, it isn't possible to send books that open at particular chapters to the beagle.

DRM and non-DRM ePub files are supported, as well as PDF files, and users can upload their own documents as well as buying from the Txtr store. However, this function is only supported by logging in on txtr's website - uploaded files then appear in the smartphone app.

Txtr says its store stocks around 700,000 titles, and we had no problem finding bestsellers, but prices vary. While Is It Just Me by Miranda Hart and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling cost the same on both Amazon and txtr's store but, I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson and The Race by Clive Cussler both cost £3.67 for the Kindle but £5 for the beagle.

Despite its limitations, though, the beagle makes a lot of sense. As a pure reading device, it works well enough and, while managing your ebook collection from a smartphone has its frustrations, many will be willing to live with its foibles. As long as txtr ensures that prices stay around that magical £10 figure, and keeps a close eye on its store pricing, the beagle deserves to be very popular indeed.

Author: Mike Jennings

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User comments

Sounds Good But...

I don't know about people being willing to have only 5 books on a reader.

I have more than that on my phone and if was going to go to the additional aggrevation of carrying a second device, I'd want something that gave me a lot more books (what's it doing with the spare memory?).

By johnfair4 on 20 Nov 2012

Almost worthy of an award for the most useless/pointless piece of technology.

By davidk1962 on 20 Nov 2012

Daft - how about reviewing a full-size reader

I have bought an Onyx Boox and believe me a full-sized reader that reads multiple formats is a Gpdsend. My Sony e-reader has less than half the visible screen.

But does it get sold or reviewed in the UK? No. Why not?

By dieseltaylor on 22 Nov 2012

...magical £10 figure

If it can only be bought with a subsidising phone contract, then it does not cost £10, and it's silly to talk as if the £10 figure means anything. You can have a Kindle for £10 with a small monthly "contract"; we call this "credit".

Anyway, I can't see why you'd want an ebook reader that's barely bigger than your smartphone, that you can't really use without your smartphone, and that is severely feature-limited compared to pretty much any ebook app on your smartphone. I predict this won't survive long in its current form.

By tony_72 on 22 Nov 2012

Not so daft

The naysayers have turned out in force so far. But I think they are wrong.

Is the 5 book limit really a problem for most people? Few will read 5 books when they go on holiday and those that do would find it easier and cheaper to stay at home !

The screen size is only marginally smaller than the 'wee' Kindle but the dots per inch are about 200 (kindle 167) so it has better resolution.

Getting books on via an android phone is clunky and may be relatively slow but much quicker than a trip to the library. Remember that ?
At around £10 this is a no brainer and I will be in the queue as soon as my phone contract expires

By colinmcewan on 1 Dec 2012

Not so daft

The naysayers have turned out in force so far. But I think they are wrong.

Is the 5 book limit really a problem for most people? Few will read 5 books when they go on holiday and those that do would find it easier and cheaper to stay at home !

The screen size is only marginally smaller than the 'wee' Kindle but the dots per inch are about 200 (kindle 167) so it has better resolution.

Getting books on via an android phone is clunky and may be relatively slow but much quicker than a trip to the library. Remember that ?
At around £10 this is a no brainer and I will be in the queue as soon as my phone contract expires

By colinmcewan on 1 Dec 2012

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