Rather than having the iPad 2 or the latest Honeycomb models in its sights, the BeBook Live hopes to appeal to the same customers who would otherwise be considering a Samsung Galaxy Tab or perhaps an Archos tablet.
Until now, BeBook's business has been in producing e-book readers (perhaps uncoincidentally, Archos is also in the e-book reader market with an Android-based model), but there's little betrayal of that here. There's a very good reason for this, though: the BeBook Live takes essentially the same tablet chassis as many of the other smaller Androids we've seen. Initially, we thought this would make it identical in specification and performance to perhaps the ViewSonic ViewPad and the Linx Commtiva N700. However, the hardware is above average.
The BeBook Live is fairly nippy, having been fitted with a 1GHz processor and a reasonable 512MB of RAM. This turn of speed comes into its own if you want to play video clips. We also found gameplay (admittedly on perhaps not the most challenging of racing and tank-blasting games) good fun, with smooth motion and great audio through our standard headphones. The hardware buttons on the top of the device to increase and decrease the volume are reversed, which confused us.
You get 802.11b, g and n Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth and an HDMI-out connection. This support for 1080 video output will make it useful for ad-hoc display purposes. The scant 4GB of onboard memory can be supplemented via a microSD card of up to 32GB.
At 426g, the BeBook Live is almost precisely the same weight as the BlackBerry PlayBook but has an 11mm profile, compared to the PlayBook's 10mm. Design-wise, the PlayBook is by far the better looker, and also sports a far superior 1024x800-pixel display.
The BeBook costs a lot less, of course, but given the rest of its specs we were disappointed to find only an 800x600 pixel screen. This tends towards the fuzzy but is cheerily colourful but we like the fact the BeBook has a familiar 4:3 aspect ratio. Viewing angles are poor, though, we detail disappearing at even fairly shallow angles.
With pinch-to-zoom screen control, we had no issues with web browsing either - pages loaded fast and, although some sites defaulted to their mobile versions, embedded images rendered well and did so without apparent lag. Three useful buttons embedded in the Live's plastic surround take you Home, bring up Settings options and go back a screen.
BeBook loads the Live with quite a few apps, including two e-book readers: Aldiko presents a bookcase while RockPlayer Lite has a tree menu structure that offers access to epub documents. We couldn't get the sample books here to launch, however, and found the prompts to choose between hardware and software decoders an irritant. A Mobi Office Suite app lets you create and edit spreadsheets, text files and more, with a useful in-app zoom. Aside from this, Android's serviceable Contacts and Email tools are used for any business needs.