Onyx Boox Nova3 Color review: the e-Reader for those who are not satisfied (with black and white)

The arrival of the new Onyx Boox Nova3 Color, the first 7.8 ″ tablet / e-Book Reader with color e-Ink screen made by the Chinese company, is also recent for the Italian market. Will the colors be enough to make it a winning product?

We had the opportunity to test the new one for several weeks Onyx Boox Nova3 Color, e-Reader with mid-range hardware equipment that has, as a flagship, the integration of a screen e-Ink with New Kaleido Plus technology. This type of panel allows you to view up to 4096 colors with a pixel density of 100ppi, while for black and white content it goes up 300ppi. The advantage of this technology lies in both a very low energy consumption and a more comfortable reading since the eyes are not tired by the emission of blue waves from the LCD or OLED displays. The hardware equipment of the Nova3 Color includes:

  • Display: 7.8 ″ e-Ink Kaleido Plus, 4096 colors, with AG glass coating;
  • Resolution: 1404x1872p (300ppi) for monochrome content, 468x624p (100ppi) for color content;
  • CPU: SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 636;
  • GPU: Adreno 509;
  • RAM: 3GB of type LPDDR4x;
  • ROM: 32GB of type eMMC non expandable;
  • connectivity: Bluetooth 5, WiFi dual band 2.4 e 5 GHz;
  • battery: 3150mAh;
  • dimensions: 197,3 x 137 x 7,7mm;
  • weight: 265g;
  • YOU: Android 10;
  • Price: 419,99€

Design and Ergonomics | Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review

Speaking briefly about the contents of the package, in addition to the tablet we find one protective film, a USB-A / USB Type-C cable for charging, the pen and a tiny instruction manual. The company has kindly sent us the cover “a libro” where to house the device together with the stylus. The case is really well done, but stunned by one gross mistake: the absence of holes for the speaker. In fact, if you house the device inside the cover, the audio quality will inevitably be compromised. Moving on to the design, its rectangular shape combined with its small size make it pleasing to the eye as well as resembling a small slate. The lower margin is slightly wider than the upper one to accommodate the writing ‘Boox’ and the physical button ‘Back’, the latter customizable. Along the upper profile there is only the on / standby button, inside which you can see a small LED of state. On the lower profile, on the other hand, there is the microphone and the door USB-Type C for charging or data transfer. Nothing to report on the remaining sides. On the back there is only one speaker mono.

From an ergonomic point of view, his 265g make it light and easily transportable thanks to its small size. The real problem arises in the typical use of the device, or holding it vertically with one hand as if it were a notebook. Having the display flush with the body and the 2 very narrow side bezels, it is practically almost impossible not to touch the panel with the thumb, ending up giving commands unintentionally. Using the device horizontally the situation changes radically as you will use the thicker frames to support it. The product is made entirely of plastic, but nevertheless it shows itself solid and scratch resistant. On the other hand, the display is not resistant to dirt, which it would seem not having received any oleophobic treatment.

Features | Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review

The first thing that will strike the first time you turn on will be the colorful image that will appear during bootstrap. Once you have finished the initial configuration and calibration of the touchscreen using a stylus, you will find yourself by default within the section ‘Bookshelf’. After a few minutes from the first use, however, you will notice that it is screen is particularly “dark” compared to any other e-Book Reader with monochrome display. It is clearly a limitation deriving from the new Kaleido Plus technology, but it is good to know immediately that you will need good ambient or artificial lighting to be able to read comics without having to resort to the integrated backlight. The latter on the other hand, if activated, it will improve the quality of the colors making them a little less washed out.

Speaking of colors, their accuracy is still very far from that offered by LCD or OLED displays mounted on smartphones, but nothing excludes that future generations of color e-Book Readers can increasingly bridge the gap. The pen supplied in the package is in very light plastic, but it is not possible to “attach” it to the device as it is not magnetized. It is quite accurate, especially in writing. Whether it is taking notes or drawing, the auditory feedback is very pleasant as the sound produced by the sliding of the pen on the screen is very similar to that of a felt pen sliding on a paper. Another note of merit is that by flipping the stylus it is possible to erase what you have just written / drawn in a flash, simply by passing the tip over the affected areas. All this without the need for any power source.

System Software | Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review

The operating system installed on this product is Android 10. This results in the possibility of being able to install and use any software present in the Google store. The user interface is neat and clean and is identical in all respects to that present on the Onyx Boox Note Air and Onyx Boox Note3 devices. In fact, we find:

Bookshelf: containing a collection of all the files that can be read (TXT, ePub, PDF, DOC, rtf, JPG, BMP and PNG);
Store: the virtual market of the Onyx Boox that allows you to buy books (in English);
Note: the list of files created by you to take notes of any type;
Archive: set of folders in the tablet’s internal memory;
App: the list of pre-installed apps as well as those downloaded from the Google Play Store;
Settings: it allows to modify various system options

With the latest version of the system software new functions have been added including the ability to record what is displayed on the screen and to adjust the brightness or volume by acting on the side margins. With regard to the latter novelty, it is likely that you deactivate it after a while as often, especially if you were drawing or writing, you will involuntarily find yourself altering the level of the audio or the backlight with the palm of your hand. Regarding the integrated reading software, this is it very fast and complete since it is possible to enlarge the characters, translate parts of the text from foreign languages, to underline with the highlighter using different colors and, above all, to write annotations on the file itself. The quality of definition of the characters is very high thanks to the resolution of 300ppi. The display of comics is also on a good level, as far as the resolution drops to 100ppi for color contents, with the consequence that the images appear less defined and with “duller” tones.

Drawing software | Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review

It is redundant to repeat that thanks to the full support of Google Play you can download any other application for opening PDF files or e-Pubs. Moving on to the software for drawing / writing a great job was done being packed with features. It then implements the “layers” system to be able to draw on multiple layers as happens in the most renowned photo editing programs. To draw or write there are several tools such as pencil, brush, highlighter, ballpoint pen, all with the ability to adjust the stroke and choose from 16 colors. The best, however, more than in the drawing emerges in the writing. This same review was written using the Nova3 Color and setting a ruled template for the different pages. The program also allows you to convert handwriting to digital with fairly high accuracy (but a lot will depend on your handwriting). The only sore point is that since there is no gyroscope, in order to write by placing the device horizontally you will be forced to manually rotate the image via software.

General performance | Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review

The experience of general use is very valid considering that it has never shown uncertainties in the different modes of use. You can use up to 2 applications at the same time thanks to the ‘split screen’ mode, browse the web, watch videos on YouTube and even mirror what is displayed via Chromecast. Regarding this last function, a small anomaly is noted: while with all the Apps there is a timely synchronization, opening the software to draw this does not happen. To be clearer, if you draw a line it will appear on the TV after a very long time. Strangely though, if after drawing anything you select any tool, the drawing will appear immediately. Turning to the web browsing experience, the quality is excellent. The pre-installed browser based on Chrome is fast, never showing page loading problems or occasional crashes.

Performance in video (game) | Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review

You can set up to 3 different refresh rate modes: Normal, Fast, A2. The latter is the highest speed and allows good use of video content at the expense of a high presence of ghosting. Watching YouTube videos in A2 mode is nice, but it’s still not the type of panel for watching movies. It is probably more suitable for watching some cartoons given the presence of a mono speaker. The latter is of sufficient quality, with a fairly high sound but not suitable for listening to music. Finally speaking briefly about performance, it is surprising how the Nova3 Color manages to deliver decent performance even in the execution of demanding video games to manage such as ‘Asphalt 9’ or ‘Call of Duty’. Obviously in A2 mode there is a very high ghosting effect, but it is still potentially “playable” if you accept the input delays due to the intrinsic characteristics of the display. Obviously this test was done more as a whim, to stress the device as much as possible, which is absolutely not designed for this use.

Conclusions

The new Onyx branded device is excellent in terms of performance, compatibility with any App and user experience. The real weakness of this terminal, beyond some objective problem of usability in vertical, is paradoxically precisely the display. As wonderful as it is to be able to read comics in color, surf on Facebook or watch videos from YouTube without tiring the eyes at all, the fact that the panel is “dark” for technical limitations will often push you to activate the backlight. This will also result in a more sudden consumption of the battery, whose duration stands at ten days giving up the backlight, while it will come to 4 days if you make extensive use of the aforementioned. Internal memory is from 32GB not expandable, but it will be…