txtr beagle review

19 Nov 2012

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

Price when reviewed: 
10Around £10
5

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £8
Price inc VAT £10
Overall rating 5
Performance 4
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 6

Screen

Screen size 5.0in
Resolution 600 x 800
Colour screen no
Touchscreen no
eBook screen-refresh time 0.8 seconds

Battery

Integrated memory 4.0GB
Memory-card type N/A

Dimensions

Dimensions 106 x 15 x 141mm (WDH)
Weight 128g

File format support

Plain text no
HTML no
RTF no
PDF yes
EPUB yes
BBeB no
AZW no
Microsoft Word no