The "1-Minute" Review
- Not waterproof
- So-so third-party app support for pen
- Low refresh rate means no second monitor use
Onyx has sought to bridge the gap between e-readers and tablets with its series of academic-friendly tablets. Meant primarily for those who have textbooks, reports, and other complex documents they need to view, the Onyx Boox Note Air looks excellent on paper, but how does it perform?
Made from solid metal, the Onyx Boox Note is a departure from Onyx’s usual plastic reliance. Reviewers said this added a premium feel when using the e-ink tablet. The tablet’s design is minimalist, with only one button and one USB-C port.
The Onyx Boox Note Air has a beautiful 10.3-inch E-ink display. Offering 16 gray levels and an anti-glare coating, reviewers stated the screen worked very well - as long as you don’t need color. However, when displaying letter-sized documents such as PDFs, everything remains readable despite shrinking slightly.
The display also features a colour-changing front light that can transition from very yellow to intensely blue to reduce eyestrain in varied reading environments.
The Onyx Boox Note Air’s ability to annotate PDFs on the fly was a favorite feature among reviewers. Just start underlining and circling things; there are no extra modes to toggle on and off or menus to wade through.
Reviewers said they would not call the tablet powerful. But being an e-ink display, it’s not meant to top benchmarks. It works great for what it’s designed for: note-taking, reading and annotating.
Software & Storage
Surprisingly enough for an e-ink device, the Onyx Boox Note Air runs Android 10. While the Google Play Store isn’t pre-installed, you can easily add it. Reviewers had no issues opening apps as long as they didn’t require fast refresh rates to work well. The tablet features 32GB of space, which is on the large side for an e-ink tablet, so there is plenty of room to do what you need.
There are no cameras on this model.
When you compare it with other tablets, the battery on the Onyx Boox Note might look tiny. But for an e-ink tablet, it’s surprisingly capable. Manage the backlight wisely and use the tablet primarily to read and write, and reviews indicate days of battery life on a single charge. However, if you download complex apps like games or spend large amounts of time browsing the Internet, battery life drops quickly.
The audio isn’t so great. There’s one speak and reviews note that it’s pretty poor. Thankfully, the tablet supports Bluetooth and USB-C headphones. If you plan to listen to anything, you’ll want to use them.
The Onyx Boox Note Air comes with a Wacom pressure-sensitive pen that reviewers found very useful. It helps that the tablet has a higher refresh rate than usual tablets of its kind -- though it’s still not what you’d find on a standard tablet or laptop. One side of the pen is flat, allowing you to connect it to the side of the tablet for storage. Unfortunately, the magnet is not very strong and won't stay attached while bouncing around in a bag or briefcase.
Specs at a Glance
- Metal design
- 10.3-inch E-Ink display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 Octa-core 1.8 GHz processor
- 3GB of RAM
- Android 10
- 32GB of storage
- No camera
- 3,000mAh battery
- Mono speaker with Bluetooth support
- Wacom pressure-sensitive pen
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a tablet that’s designed more for learning or work, the Onyx Boox Note Air is an excellent middle-ground between full-featured tablets like Apple’s iPads and the more pared-back features of e-readers. It checks all of the boxes for what a professional or a student might need when reading, writing and note-taking, even including the availability of installing the Google Play store. It’s a great tablet and very well rounded.
PC Magazine says, “The Onyx Boox Note Air is a well-priced, well-built, and extremely flexible E Ink tablet for academics, students, and others who work with textbooks or letter-sized documents.”
Good E-Reader states, “The Onyx Boox Note Air is one of the most intriguing new digital note taking device of 2020. It features an all new asymmetrical design and has a very fast Snapdragon processor and tons of storage.”
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