The Onyx Boox Tab X is a very compelling value proposition. It is one of the few 13.3 A4 sized screens on the market, which is tremendous for viewing and editing PDF files on their own, or editing two at the same time with split screen view. You will always get a robust experience reading these files, since you will not have to pinch and zoom.
Onyx is marketing the Tab X is a Tablet PC, and they aren’t joking. This is the most responsive tablet on the market, everything is super fast. There are 4 different speed modes (HD, Performance, Fast and Ultra Fast) to increase the overall performance. HD will give you unparalleled image quality and is the default setting. Ultra Fast, will allow you to play Android Games, use apps and watch YouTube videos with little to no framerate issues, the first tablet I have ever used with an E INK screen. Used in conjunction with the Onyx Boox Keyboard, you can turn the X into a productivity powerhouse.
There are hundreds of positives about the Tab X, however ghosting seems to be a prevalent problem, no matter what speed mode you are using. This is evident when you are drawing on the screen with the accompanied stylus. You will likely have to keep mashing on the full page refresh software key at the bottom of the screen to get rid of this. It is less noticeable when reading books, PDF files or using apps. Maybe a fix for the drawing issue is just a firmware update away, but who knows.
The Onyx Boox Tab X features an E INK Carta 1250 display panel with a Mobius flexible e-paper display. Carta 1250 brings all of the benefits of the Carta 1200 technology, such as the 30% increase in overall performance, along with with the new enhancement of less latency when using the new Boox Pen 2 Pro stylus. The Tab X has a resolution of 2200×1650 with 207 PPI. Users will be able to use this in the dark or low light conditions, thanks to the front-lit display and color temperature system, which provides both cool and warm light.
Front Lit displays have gotten a lot better in recent years. In the past, companies put LED lights along the sides of the bezel and projected light across the screens. This is why e-readers and e-notes sometimes had uneven light distribution, since you can only pack so many amber and white LED lights. The Tab X is using a gel layer that is apart of the screen assembly, this is underneath the touchscreen layer. This is why the lighting on this tablet is so great.
The overall color scheme of the Tab X is piano black on the front and the back platting is a very dark forest green. The screen is completely flush with the bezel and protected by a layer of glass. This will ensure that no matter how hard you press down on the stylus, you won’t damage the e-paper display.
The Onyx Boox Tab X ships with their top of the line digital WACOM stylus called the Pen-2-Pro. The color scheme is all-black and does not have any edges or grooves, it is very slick and feels good in the hand. There are 4096 degrees of pressure sensitivity, so the harder you press, the thicker the lines become. There is an eraser at the top, which is useful for getting rid of erant mistakes when taking notes, freehand drawing or editing a PDF file or ebook. It comes with a couple of replacement nibs, but since this is an official WACOM stylus, any tips will do. I really like using the Remarkable 2 nibs or the iReader Gen 3 ones.
Underneath the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. It has twin speakers to listen to audiobooks, podcasts or music. Bluetooth 5.0 is also onboard if you prefer to pair wireless headphones or an external speaker. You can connect up to the internet via WIFI to use the browser or install apps from Google Play, it is also using Android 11. There is a USB-C port to transfer data, and also charge the device. It is powered by a gauruntune 6300 mAh battery, which is the largest battery ever found on an E INK product. The dimensions are 310x228x6.8mm and weighs. 560g.
The Tab X ships with Google Android 11, which seems like the most modern version of Android that e-readers or e-notes are capable of handling. Google Play is preinstalled out of the box, as well as Google Play Services. This means all of the core Google apps like Books, Maps, or Gmail will just work. It also provides a great avenue to download millions of of free and paid apps.
If you are going to be spending $879 on an E INK product, you will want to ensure that it will provide value in the long term. Over the course of the past 3-4 years Onyx devices hold their value and act as intended. If you want a A4 e-note that has killer hardware and software, this is the product for you. The Tab X is a new breed of e-note, that is less an e-reader with slow refresh rate and more of a multipurpose tablet, that can handle everything you can throw at it.
The Boox Tab X is running Google Android 11 and has full access to the Google Play Store, which is preinstalled. Users can just sign into their account and start downloading apps that have already been downloaded or purchased on other Android phones or tablets. Onyx is running Boox OS, which is a customized launcher that is optimizer for e-paper e-readers, e-notes and tablets. The company constantly pushes out firmware updates to refine the reading, writing and general performance. They do this every couple of months, which is really good for users who can invest themselves on the Onyx platform, knowing that it will be supported for at least five years.
This is the fastest Onyx product we have ever reviewed. If you launch an app, it automatically opens. Navigating around Google Play is instant, even animations play properly. Browsing the UI and settings menu is lighting fast. This is with the standard speed model too. I don’t know what Onyx did underneath the hood on a software level, but compared to the Leaf 2 with Carta 1200 or the Nova Air 2, this blows them out of the water with performance. You really have to watch our YouTube review at the bottom of the post to really appreciate the advances that Onyx Boox has made with the Tab Ultra.
Onyx has a brand new user interface for the Tab Ultra, that is not found on any other Onyx Boox product. The navigation bar is on the bottom and the UI elements change, depending what you have open, such as the Note taking app, reading app, Google Play or the internet browser. The home screen gives you short cuts to the library, note taking app, file browser, apps and settings. You can click on things to launch specific elements, but this also supports gesture control. If you swipe upwards from the bottom of the Ultra, below the icons, you will automatically go to the home screen. If you swipe downwards from the top, you get the typical Android notifications. Swipe downward where the WIFI and click symbol is and you will launch the main settings dropdown menu. If you long press on the main home screen you can now add widgets, which is exciting. There is a few stock ones, such as calendar, weather and clock, but you can download additional ones from Google Play.
The main dropdown is called Control Center. This is where you can establish a WIFI network, Bluetooth connections, access the E INK Control Center, rotate, screen cast, mute notifications, enable/disable the touchscreen, split screen view, screen recording, Boox Drop, Screenshot, Do not Disturb mode and screen refresh. You can also adjust the volume of the two stereo speakers or if you are using Bluetooth headphones. The front-light and color temperature system can also be adjusted here. There is also a small gear setting that allows you to enable or disable any of the options listed here on the Control Center.
E INK Control Center is very useful. You can control the dark and light levels of the entire device. This helps with contrast. I prefer to have the icons and text a little bit darker than the default setting. You can also augment the light and dark values on an app per app basis. So, lets say you downloaded the Kindle app, but found the UI and text a little bit dark. You can access the Control Center, adjust the darker values and they will always be there whenever you launch the app in the future.
Onyx has changed the naming conventions of their speed modes. They are now called HD, which is the default standard, Balanced, which gives you a nice blend of increased performance with slight image degradation. Fast, gives kicks the Ultra into overdrive, making it even more quicker, while Ultrafast is ideal for watching streaming video or listening to audio, from sources such as YouTube or Spotify.
Onyx has also changed the settings menu. The main navigation bar is now on the right side and all data from the fields is now on the right side. This gives you a typical Android interface. Some of the most notable functions here is controlling the new gesture controls, and how you go about gesturing to do specific things. You can swipe in particular ways to say, refresh the screen, which helps eliminate the ghosting from the faster speed modes. Desktop settings is where you can add your own screen saver or power off images. Display is where you can change the system fonts, and text sizes. Brightness, screen timeout, auto sleep are also useful. Onyx has added a new feature called full refresh frequency. This is controlled by tapping the screen with the stylus or your finger. The default value is 5, but you can change it to whatever you want, I like 3. So if you quickly tap the screen 3 times, no matter where you are on the device, the screen will do a refresh.
The Camera is out of this world. You can take a picture of a document or a book and the OCR functionality will convert it to pure text. This text can be copy and pasted to the note taking app or can be edited with any of the apps that you have installed on the Ultra. However, you don’t exclusively need to use the camera to take pictures of books, but also selfies and all of these are stored in the devices picture folder.
To be honest, it is super refreshing to see Onyx totally revise the user interface, for the Tab X and Tab Ultra. The settings introduce tons of new features and enhancements. It just seems more dynamic. That stupid little ball that gives you quick shortcuts on most other Onyx products is not on this device, thankfully. I could never get used to it and always disabled it, because it was just annoying.
The Tab X from a software perspective is deadly. It is super stable and robust. Everything just works. However, there are a few caveats going forward. Onyx has told Good e-Reader that they will no longer be supporting manual firmware updates on their website and users will have to wait until it is pushed out to their device. They are also doing away with publishing changelogs on their website, since they announce these sort of things on social media, such as Twitter. Often, they publish posts on Medium, if a new feature or enhancement is new and fresh.
One of the best things about the Onyx Boox Tab X is the sheer amount of features they have added to the writing experience. Similar to the Remarkable 2 and Supernote, there are layers. This allows you to for example use layer 1 as some grass, layer 2 the sky and layer 3 a house. When you are on layer 3, and decide you want to erase something, it will not affect layer 1 or 2, which really makes the Air shine has a tool for artists, game designers, and other professions.
When you want to draw something there is a slew of pens and pencils, and even other tools like a mechanical pencil and highlighter, fountain pen, paint brush, ballpoint pen or text. There is also line thickness settings to get thinner or thicker lines, but don’t forget, the Air 2 has pressure sensitivity too. You can select black, grey, medium grey, light grey, white, red, green and blue. The colors will not show on accurately on the E INK display, because the Tab Ultra has a B&W display, and not color. If you want to draw in RGB you can simply export your notes/drawings as a PNG or PDF file and copy it it to your PC/MAC. Once it is opened on your computer, you can view the document in full color. This is useful for teachers who are grading students material.
The Ultra basically allows you to export notes to your PC/MAC in PNG or PDF and also from your PC/MAC to your computer. But what else can it do? You can screencast whatever is on your Note 3 directly to your PC. This is useful during meetings or to show people what you have been working on, rather than crowding around the e-reader. Onyx also has a companion app Android and they are working on an IOS version. This is optional to use. It lets you sync everything on the Nova 3 to your smartphone or from your smartphone to the Note. Onyx also provides 1GB of cloud storage for everything stored in their own cloud. You only need to use the companion app if you want smartphone integration.
There are a few important features worth mentioning. Documents can have 500 pages on them, so you can have extensive notes. I also like being able to save your favorite pen settings to the top UI, so you can select each one by tapping your finger on it, or with the stylus. For example, Pen 1 can have a pencil with thick lines and be back. Pen 2 can be a highlighter with RED and thin lines, Pen 3 can be a brush with super thick lines. I also like how you can import in pictures from Dropbox or Google Drive right into the notes and resize them in a note, and also edit them too.
The A4 screen is perfect for editing PDF files, you can read the PDF files as they were intended to be read. This is one of the big draws about purchasing the Tab X. You can start drawing on PDF files as soon as they are loaded and you can save the edited file as a different file name or overwrite the original. You get a different interface when editing PDF files, than the standard drawing experience on the note taking app. Even with the standard HD mode on, I have never seen an Onyx Boox product perform so well with PDF files. Page turns are instant, there is no latency, it is like using an iPad. If you try pinching and zooming a PDF, a small notification window popups and asks if you to turn the function on. Other Onyx models have this feature, but are buried in various sub-menus.
Over time, Onyx has really made their note taking system just as good or better than most of the writing tablets on the market. They are always issuing new firmware updates every couple of months and adding in new features, enhancements and fixing bugs. They really listen to their audience and cater to them. This has made their writing experience full of unique things, that their competition simply cannot match.
The Onyx Boox Tab X makes a very good e-reader to consume books, comics, manga PDF files and other digital content. This is because it has a A4 sized screen and 13.3 inch display. There is tons of real estate for all of the text to fit evenly across the screen. Flipping pages is ultra fast, and becomes even faster if you engage in any of the speed modes from the E INK Control Center. The image quality is very pronounced, so if you are looking for a multipurpose tablet to read, this one’s for you.
The e-reading experience starts with the stock app called Neoreader, this is where you can sideload in all of your own content and begin reading with a ton of options for font sizes, font-type, alignment, line spacing and margins. It supports PRC, RTF, Doc, Text, DJVU, PDF, Mobi, FB2, EPUB, CBR and CBZ. Having CBZ and CBR support is great for sideloading in Manga files, since this is the most popular format found online. However, Amazon delivers manga in AZW3 and Kobo/Google and deliver it via EPUB. If you install apps such as VIZ or various manga apps, you don’t really need to worry about formats.
One thing about Amazon that bears mentioning is how Onyx optimized the Kindle app for Android. With software, they disabled the animated page turn system. So each page turn is instant. They did the same thing with WPS Office, Evernote and OneNote. Using these apps to take notes, edit calendar events or to-do-lists is excellent.
A very large screen is tremendous for digital manga, newspapers and comic books. You can read replica editions for newspapers in PDF format and they will look good. Comic books from Comixology/Amazon will look really good, I actually recommend using the Kindle Cloud Reader in a major web browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome, since they recently introduced Guided View.
The TAB X has a capable stock e-reading app for those of you with giant personal collections of books and other content. Although, these are a minitorty. The average person will likely be downloading their favorite apps via Google Play. Whether it is Google Play Books, Kobo, Nook, Amazon, or Libby for the library, the Tab can handle any app. I normally use Viz and Crunchyroll for Manga, Libby/Hoopla for accessing audiobooks and ebooks from my local library branch and Kindle.
The tab X departs ever so slightly from the Max and Max Lumi line of devices It seems more professional and adult and more focused on workplace solutions rather than simple e-reading or note-taking It comes with a heavy price tag, but with that you get the best 13.3 inch available right now
You also get an extremely high quality pen 2 pro with purchase. It’s packed with specs, stereo speakers, and two colors of glow light. Google play out of the box is a major selling point. There’s four different speed modes along with four split screen modes including an instant translate supported by both Bing and Google.
Onyx hit the nail directly on the head with this release. Coming out at a time where there are no other choices of 13.3’s on the market right now.
Onyx Boox Tab X$879.99
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.