The Onyx Boox Note Pro is a dedicated note taking device that has a flush screen and bezel design. The purpose of this product is to make digital notes, highlights and annointaint PDF files. The UI is slick and well developed, making everything feel more streamlined than the competition. There is a dedicated e-reading app that has support for all of the popular formats and since it is running Android 6.0, the sky’s the limit, in terms of installing your own favorite apps.
The Note PRO features a 10.3 inch E-ink Mobius and Carta display and a resolution of 1872×1404 and 227 DPI. It has a WACOM screen for the stylus and a capacitive touchscreen for interactions involving swipes and gestures. The PRO will also features the same glass based display as the Note Plus, so the screen will not get damaged no matter how hard you press on the stylus. I would still recommend purchasing a case for this, especially if you have lots of objects in your purse, briefcase or messenger bag.
Many large screen e-readers do not have a lighting system, the Note Pro does. It has the standard front-light that has multiple white LED lights on the bottom of the bezel that project light evenly across the screen. There is also a color temperature system that has a series of orange LED lights that help warm of the screen. This is useful to help defuse the bright white light, which is good if you have a sleeping partner next to you.
The WACOM stylus that comes with the PRO has 4096 levels pressure sensitivity is capable of thick or thin lines. It has an eraser on the top that can be used to delete anything that it touches, but there are more advanced erasing functions with the dedicated note taking app. When you are drawing on the screen, it has palm rejection technology.
Underneath the hood is a Cortex-A17 1.6GHz Quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, dual speakers, mic, Bluetooth 4.1, USB C and WIFI. Onyx was the first to employ a quad processor and it dramatically increases the performance of navigating around the device, surfing the internet, turning the pages of a book or using Android apps.
It is powered by a fairly massive 4100 mAh battery, which on paper should give you around four weeks of usage. I found that if you are just reading and drawing this will work out. The only real battery drain are if you run a lot of Android apps, since the background processes tend to kill the battery in about a week. The dimensions are 249.5×178.8×6.8mm and it weighs 390g
The industrial design of the Note Pro is rock solid, it feels like a premium device. There is a single physical home button and the entire unit is in black. The speakers are on the bottom, so you can listen to audiobooks or music, without needing to plug in a pair of headphones via Bluetooth.
I think the Note PRO provides better value than the original model that came out in early 2018. The screen is flush with the bezel, so it is easier to draw edge to edge. It also has double the amount of internal storage and RAM. This has helped really boost up performance.
There are a number of e-readers on the market that have Android as the main operating system and an accompanied app store. Most of them run 4.04 or 4.42 and this makes the most popular apps incompatible. I am looking at you Evernote. This is because most companies cannot afford a dedicated software engineering team to upgrade the OS and remove conflicting features, such as support for a camera or GPS, which e-readers do not have. Onyx made the call to launch the Note Pro with Android 6.0.
Onyx has their app store that has a few dozen of the most popular apps. They also have compatibility with Google Play, but you need to do some workarounds in order to get it to work properly.
A few months ago there was a massive firmware update that changed most of the UI, for the first time in almost six years. The UI traybar is on the side of the device, instead of the bottom. The main options are Library, Shop, Note, Storage, Apps and Settings. There is a top UI that displays a home button, back button, battery percentage on the left side and on the right side is the front-light icon, an option to turn off the touchscreen, a refresh button, and a task manager to open and close open windows.
Onyx does something very interesting with the library, which contains all of your PDF files and e-books. You can scan for metadata, which adds covers to titles that do not have them. This often occurs with royalty free content, but also ones that are issued by major publishers. This is useful because you no longer have to use a program like Calibre, you can do it directly on the e-reader. You can also do other things like switch between grid or list view or delete the book entirely off your device.
Onyx is primarily a Chinese brand and this is quite evident in their online store. They have thousands of titles available in Chinese, but very few are are in English. It would be nice to not have the store displayed, since most of the content will not be appealing to people who do not speak the language. Alternatively the company could strike an agreement with some ebook distributors to populate their store with more English content, even someone like a Project Gutenberg would go a long way.
The primary reason you would buy the Onyx Boox Note Pro is to edit PDF files, draw and take notes. I am pleased to report that this device excels at doing all of the above, this is thanks to the processor, RAM and the constant firmware updates that Onyx pushes to enhance the overall experience.
The top of the note taking menu has an option to turn off the touchscreen and only use the digitizer layer, this is useful if you just want to use the stylus. I found this option isn’t totally necessary because the screen has palm rejection enabled by default. There is a handwriting option that takes big letters and notes and makes them smaller. This is useful if you write a big note, “meeting at 6:00 with Michael Kozlowski” and you draw it really big, because you are in a hurry. The Note will then scan all of the big text and automatically resize it so they are really small, in bullet point form.
There are plenty of shapes you can use and scale them live on the screen such as a line, triangle, circle and square. Onyx has also revised their background screen, so there are only 12 of them now. The most popular is the blank one or college rules, which actually has a new option to manually configure the amount of line spacing. There is also sheet music background for musicians who want to write their own music.
The NotePro can also edit PDF documents, but you can’t just start drawing right away like you can on the Remarkable or Sony Digital Paper. Instead you need to tap on the center of the screen with the stylus and it will bring up a small navigation bar located on the bottom of the screen. You can initiate the scribble option to draw or take notes and it the stylus has pressure sensitivity. You can save the edited PDF document as an independent file and save it.
There is also a rudimentary split screen view system where you can have a page of text on the left hand side and a blank page on the right. This is modeled after what Sony has done with the Digital Paper, although the Onyx struggles in this regard. You can’t turn the Onyx into landscape mode and have two pages of text, you will always have a blank page on the right, meant for taking notes. I would likely recommend using a different PDF editor if you want more features.
It takes around 3-4 seconds to load a 94 page PDF and almost 20 seconds for a 500 page PDF to load. If you tend to use the Note as a replacement for paper, be prepared to wait if you have huge docs.
I found that stylus does a good job with minimal latency when using the stock note taking app. The eraser at the top of the stylus is satisfying to press down and it will remove an area of text by just clicking on it. This ensures that if you are drawing something complex you won’t instantly erase everything is on the screen. It firstly erases the last thing you wrote or drew and then will erase an area of text that is interconnected with each other. For example, if i write the word HI!!!! it will erase all of that text if I click anywhere on it, but if there is text with spaces after it, I would have to erase that too.
Overall, the note taking experience reminds of editing photos and making changes to pictures with Photoshop. Onyx has consistently released firmware updates to make note taking more fluid. This is one of the big reasons why it is worth it to buy a Note.
The Onyx Boox Note Pro hits the sweet spot. The device is not bulky and unwieldy as a 13.3 inch e-reader and way bigger than a 7.8. I really like the screen size, I think it is most ideal for digital comics, manga, ebooks, magazines and newspapers. The high DPI really makes high resolution content shine.
I believe the Note Pro provides better value than the Sony Digital Paper or the Remarkable. It is similar to the Boyue Likebook Mimas, and this is their strongest competitor. Both of these companies appeal to the same sort of user, someone who wants a 10.3 with all the bells and whistles. A dedicated comparison video should be available soon.
Should you purchase the Note Pro? It costs $599 USD and is available on the Good e-Reader Store. It has been a strong seller for the past few months, as it was in the pre-order stage. It is shipping now.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.