Onyx Boox Tab Ultra review: Not your average Android tablet

Onyx Boox Tab Ultra review: Not your average Android tablet

Advantages:

  • E INK screen is eye friendly
  • Stylish and modern design
  • Full access to the Google Play Store
  • Support for pen and keyboard input

Negatives:

  • Heavier than typical e-readers
  • Old Android version

Categories:

Sustainability/reform

Editor’s quote:

The Onyx Boox Tab Ultra combines the best of both worlds, providing an easy-to-use e-book reader when you want it and an Android tablet when you need it.

Our modern lives seem to be surrounded by screens, whether it’s the phones taped to our faces, the computers we use at work, or the televisions we relax with at night. While these screens are vibrant and colorful, they have also proven to be harmful to our health, especially to our eyes, when overused. This may be unavoidable if you read a lot of digital content, but electronic paper technologies like E INK have long offered a better alternative. There are a lot of e-readers out there these days, especially with Amazon and Kobo finally upgrading their devices with more features. But the truth is, these industry giants are well behind the times, especially with the likes of Onyx, which have been pushing the boundaries of the e-reader market for years now. So while Amazon and Kobo are playing catch-up, Onyx is venturing into new territory with the Boox Tab Ultra, and we’re taking this fairly new tablet to verify this isn’t your grandparents’ e-reader.

Designer: onyx

aesthetics

Forget what you know about even the most advanced ebook readers, even Android ones, because the Onyx Boox Tab Ultra is clearly ahead of the rest. Technically, it’s more of an Android tablet than an Android e-reader, a distinction that makes more sense when we touch on its various aspects. However, even among Android tablets, it is very special, and not only because of its E INK screen.

The Boox Tab Ultra easily distinguishes itself from other e-readers with its beautiful design. Instead of cheap-looking plastic panels, Onyx has applied a touch of aluminum to improve the tablet’s durability since it will be used outside of just reading books and PDFs. The shape of the Boox Tab Ultra is a box with sharp corners and flat edges, not unlike recent iPads. There’s also a large camera bump on the back, though it’s more properly labeled as a “smart scanner” than a typical point-and-shoot.

Unlike standard tablet designs these days, there are large bezels surrounding the Boox Tab Ultra’s screen. Of course, this is typical of e-readers, so it won’t surprise any Onyx customer. It also does not detract from the looks of the device as it is done very tastefully. There is an extended section on the left side of the device that looks like the spine or margin of a book. In addition to providing a place for the brand, it also provides a more convenient place to hold the device without your hand getting in the way. The back of this area has a strange strip of repeating icons that add a bit of visual flair but are largely unnecessary.

The Boox Tab Ultra’s bezels are also bare. The only things that will catch your eye are the speaker slots, a USB-C port, a microSD card tray, and a row of pogo pin connectors. This last part is essential to enable the optional keyboard cover that truly transforms the E INK Tablet from content consumption device into productivity tool.

Work environment

The e-reader’s biggest attraction is its screen, which is the distinct feature that Onyx brings to the tablet world with the Boox Tab Ultra. Unlike a regular LCD or OLED screen, E INK does not emit its own light and is gentler on the eyes. This is what makes these devices ideal for long periods of reading, even at night when blue light can have negative effects on your sleep patterns. Electronic paper displays also tend to be very energy efficient, so they don’t require a lot of energy to use.

Of course, such a display would not normally be usable if there were no light around it, which was one of the biggest limitations of the first generations of e-readers. To solve this problem, modern e-readers have added some lights to the screen. Instead of a backlight aimed at the reader, the Boox Tab Ultra uses front lights that only illuminate the screen. Two types of lights are also available, white and warm, and you can mix the brightness of these lights according to your taste and comfort.

The Amazon Kindle and early e-book readers created an expectation that these devices should be small, lightweight pieces of plastic that can even fit in some of the larger handbags. While there will always be a market for basic e-readers, some will want more from their device. The Boox Tab Ultra certainly isn’t your typical e-reader, even in size. The 10.3-inch E INK screen, plus the bezels, already make it much larger than its counterparts, but that’s only half of it. It also has a 6,300mAh battery, which is gigantic by e-reader standards, which also gives it plenty of heft.

While it’s still lighter than a typical tablet of this size at around 480g, it’s bound to cause a little strain on your wrist or arm if you’re going to hold it for an extended period of time. The “spine” on the left side and textured back provide a better grip, but some may still find them uncomfortable to use for hours on end. Then again, this might also be a good time to take a break anyway.

performance

At its core, the Onyx Boox Tab Ultra is an Android tablet that just so happens to have an E INK display that looks like e-readers. It’s more of a mid-range tablet with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage that you can expand up to 2TB more with a microSD card. However, at the same time, these specifications also place it above almost every e-reader on the market, and its strength definitely shows in its performance.

Boox Tab Ultra runs smoothly and is very responsive. Even its standard “HD” speed E INK display is pretty fast, even if its touchscreen accuracy isn’t perfect. Of course, it won’t be as fast as even the slowest LCD panel, but it’s actually good enough for some games and videos, depending on your tolerance levels. You’ll still see obvious signs of a screen refresh, especially when switching between pages or zooming in and out, but these are on par with any e-paper display. There are different speed modes you can choose from, depending on what you need, but you know that faster refresh speeds come at a price for quality. However, even at Ultrafast, the Boox Tab Ultra’s 1872 x 1404 E INK Carta panel produces crisp, clear text, and the 10.3-inch A5 screen size makes it ideal for documents and even manga.

Onyx ships this E INK tablet with a free Boox Pen 2 Pro stylus, which adds a whole new level of functionality to the device. In addition to annotating PDFs, this pen allows you to take notes or even make some artwork. Of course, you won’t be able to see any colors, but they are there and will be perfectly visible when you transfer the photo or note to a computer or phone. Onyx also sells a keyboard cover accessory specifically designed to connect to the Boox Tab Ultra pogo pins. This means that the keyboard does not require charging and has a more stable connection than, for example, a Bluetooth keyboard. This enhances the nature of the device more as a tablet than an e-reader due to its flexibility for writing documents and emails. Of course, you can also do this with Onyx’s latest e-readers, but the Boox Tab Ultra makes it a lot easier with its large screen and keyboard attachments.

The tablet also has dual speakers, for more listening to audiobooks than music, as well as dual microphones that can help you record notes. There’s no headphone jack unfortunately, but you can connect wireless earphones and speakers via Bluetooth. The Boox Tab Ultra surprisingly has a 16MP camera on the back which requires a very noticeable but nifty bump there. You can use it to take pictures, of course, but its main purpose is to be a portable document scanner. The built-in camera app actually has an OCR (optical character recognition) feature that lets you convert text in an image into text that you can copy and edit, though your results will vary depending on the image’s clarity and supported languages.

All these features are organized in Android 11 with a special “Boox OS” that gives the mobile platform a very unique user interface that is more familiar to e-reader owners. Despite this, the Boox Tab Ultra already comes with the Google Play Store pre-installed, which is no small feat. This means that you can install practically any Android app or game, even ones that might not make sense on an E INK device. You have the entire library of Google Play content at your disposal, just like on a regular Android tablet.

sustainability

While the majority of e-readers today still carry the plastic DNA of their ancestors, a few have ventured outside the norm to use more premium materials. Fortunately, that means there’s less plastic use here, even if it’s not completely free of it. The Boox Tab Ultra is no different and uses a moderate amount of aluminum in its casing, which contributes quite a bit to its heavy weight. Unfortunately, it’s also no different when it comes to other materials, and Onyx as a company hasn’t made big announcements on sustainability, at least not yet.

It’s the same story with the tablet packaging, which is at least small and compact. Onyx does not ship a charger with the device, but it does come with an appropriate USB-C charging cable. Alternatively, the Boox Tab Ultra comes with a free Boox Pen 2 Pro and some extra nibs. The pen itself is made of aluminum, which gives it some necessary weight as well as a bit of longevity.

Values

For many people interested in one of the latest Onyx devices, one of the most important deciding factors will be the price tag. At $599.99, the Boox Tab Ultra is definitely one of their more expensive products, and it doesn’t even come with accessories other than a stylus. Even among tablets with similar specs, that’s a pretty steep price tag, especially if you consider that the E INK screen has to be cheaper than an LCD panel, even if it includes touch support and a Wacom digitizer.

You simply cannot judge a product by its price, especially for a category specific product like this. Compared to other e-readers, the Boox Tab Ultra is definitely the cream of the crop, especially when it comes to performance and capabilities. Admittedly, it’s heavier than you might be comfortable with, but that comes with the space of having a big screen and a big battery. It’s also the brand new tablet, capable of doing almost anything a regular Android tablet can do, except display any kind of color.

The problem, however, is whether the Boox Tab Ultra fills a need that others in any class of device can’t. It might not be the most comfortable e-reader, given its size and heft, and Onyx has plenty of competitive models to choose from. It might not even be the best Android tablet due to its mid-range specs, and the fact that it can only display shades of gray which makes it impractical for enjoying videos and games. However, if you are dreaming of an Android tablet that is battery efficient and easy to see, then this one might be perfect for you.

Rule

The Onyx Boox Tab Ultra is an amazing device that pushes the boundaries of what an e-reader can do. Its fast and responsive screen, powerful and flexible software, and keyboard cover add to the already compelling features of the E INK device that won’t strain your eyes while you enjoy this novel or pour out business documents for hours. It’s a jack of all trades that has few flaws apart from its significantly heavier body. Those who love to read but also need apps that are only available on Android devices with Google Play will definitely feel right at home with this spin on the typical tablet.

However, at the same time, it serves a very niche market with a price tag that may seem too high even for e-book enthusiasts. It’s an Android tablet, first and foremost, but the allure of the E INK screen on this kind of device is still alien to all seasoned e-reader users. However, at the same time, we are seeing a growing interest in standalone E INK displays or even laptops with secondary E INK displays. It might only be a matter of time before a sight like the Boox Tab Ultra becomes more commonplace, but until then, it’s definitely in a league of its own, even if it’s the only one playing this game at the moment.

#Onyx #Boox #Tab #Ultra #review #average #Android #tablet

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