Onyx Boox Leaf 2 assessment: e book freedom

I don’t imply to be choosy, however the Kindle will not be sufficient for me. For years, I known as the Amazon Kindle Oasis the platonic very best of e-readers, with its bodily page-turning buttons, sharp show, stable backlight, and (then) distinctive design. It felt like I’d hit e-reader endgame. However then, I embraced Libby for library books, Viz for manga, and began studying extra galleys straight from publishers, and the Kindle felt extra prefer it was getting in the best way than serving to me learn the issues I wished to.

So I began shopping for Android E Ink tablets from China and ready for one to lastly merge Android’s flexibility with Amazon’s superior design and construct high quality. And I’m fairly positive Onyx Boox’s new $199 Leaf 2 has it. That is, no less than for now, my endgame e-reader.

HOW WE RATE AND REVIEW PRODUCTS

You may not concentrate on Onyx Boox, and that’s okay. The corporate relies in China, and the one option to get its merchandise within the US is from Good e-Reader (a web site that critiques e-readers and in addition sells them), Onyx Boox’s web site (boox.com), or Amazon. And since the corporate is basically based mostly in China, tech assist is spotty at greatest. Complicating the matter much more is the truth that Onyx Boox additionally shares its title with what seems to be a Russian firm with a nearly similar URL and completely similar product lineup. The sensation of scams is robust with this model.

However I’ve interacted with actual individuals from the (Chinese language) firm, acquired embargoes and pricing data, and now bought no less than three totally different merchandise from its web site with no points, so the Boox discovered at boox.com is, no less than in my expertise, on the up and up.

Onyx Boox has been making Android E Ink tablets for years now, however they are typically extraordinarily costly in comparison with a Kindle or a Kobo. The Leaf 2’s $199 value is much more than you’ll pay for a primary Kindle or perhaps a Paperwhite, however it’s a full $150 lower than the premium Kindle Oasis. For the value, you get 32GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, a seven-inch 300ppi E Ink show, heat and funky entrance lights, Android 11, and a microSD slot. The one factor lacking is it being waterproof, however I’m not usually settling into a shower to learn, so this isn’t a deal-breaker for me.

Alongside the deal with, there’s a microSD card slot but in addition a weirdly situated USB-C port for charging. This might have been higher on the underside or high of the system.

Its show is nearly similar to the one discovered on the newest Kindle Oasis, and textual content is sharp and simple to learn. Black-and-white comics look nearly as good on it as they do on an iPad, and the entrance mild provides you the flexibility to tweak the brightness of heat and funky lights individually or individually so you’ll be able to all the time alter them to the right brightness for any given studying state of affairs. (I normally depart them off if I’ve different mild sources round.)

However the characteristic that basically units the Leaf 2 other than another Android E Ink pill (or their much less versatile e-reader acquaintances) is its page-turning buttons, which magically make this among the finest e-readers I’ve used. The Leaf 2 comes with two bodily page-turning buttons on the left facet of the system and, because of the inner G-sensor, the web page will shortly orient itself if you change fingers.

Additionally, new to the Leaf 2, the buttons will work with nearly any app — no matter if it has a built-in characteristic to acknowledge page-turning buttons. Sometimes, Onyx Boox and different Android E Ink pill makers have relied on an accessibility characteristic that turns the quantity buttons on a telephone into page-turning buttons. The e-readers would merely map the page-turning buttons to quantity, and voilà — a Kindle or Nook expertise as pure as their native e-readers.

However with the Leaf 2, there’s an alternate setting within the menu (beneath Facet key settings) that permits you to power different apps to acknowledge page-turning as properly. So with the Nook and Kindle app, I take advantage of the Quantity Button setting, and with apps like Libby, which has no page-turning characteristic in any respect, I hop again to the Flip Web page Button setting. It’s a bit of finicky and could possibly be annoying if you happen to’re hopping round a number of apps to learn every day, but it surely additionally permits me to neatly flip pages in Libby — a factor I haven’t been in a position to do earlier than!

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These buttons work surprisingly properly.

As for battery life… it relies upon. You probably have plenty of Android apps working and Wi-Fi energetic, you’ll be able to count on a few week or much less of battery life. However turning the Wi-Fi off means I normally solely need to cost each few weeks.

The Android apps can drain the battery, however additionally they give this system flexibility, and it’s the pliability of the Leaf 2 that charms me. The Leaf 2 comes with its personal built-in mediocre app retailer, and since it’s a Chinese language e-reader, Google Play isn’t out there out of the field. However Onyx Boox supplies a information for getting the Play Retailer working — which primarily includes registering the system together with your Google account and ready for Google’s servers to acknowledge its existence (in my expertise, this takes about two to 3 hours, however Onyx Boox warns it could take as much as 48 hours).

As soon as the shop was working, this simply turns into a full-fledged E Ink Android pill, and it was straightforward to obtain apps for Libby, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and even NetGalley — which handles e-book galleys for publishers. It’s also possible to add video apps, if you happen to’re so inclined, however laggy black-and-white variations of YouTube and TikTok aren’t an excellent approach to make use of both app, so I wouldn’t suggest it.

Comply with Proceed: Onyx Boox Leaf 2

Each sensible system now requires you to conform to a sequence of phrases and circumstances earlier than you should utilize it — contracts that nobody really reads. It’s not possible for us to learn and analyze each single one in all these agreements. However we began counting precisely what number of occasions it’s important to hit “agree” to make use of units once we assessment them, since these are agreements most individuals don’t learn and undoubtedly can’t negotiate.

By establishing the Onyx Boox Leaf 2, you’re agreeing to:

Optionally, you’ll be able to add the Google Play Retailer. In that case, you’re agreeing to:

  • Google’s Phrases of Service
  • Google’s Privateness Coverage

Closing tally: one necessary settlement and two non-obligatory ones.

An precise computerized obtain for me was EinkBro, a browser designed for E Ink. That sounds foolish given the Leaf 2 comes with its personal browser, however EinkBro is quick and can paginate web sites as an alternative of forcing you to scroll — extraordinarily helpful if you happen to’re studying some 200,000-word espresso store AU on Archive of Our Personal.

Apart from the built-in browser, the Leaf 2 has plenty of different apps meant to make it act extra like a pill than I’d like. There’s an audio recorder, a gallery, a music participant, and, in contrast to the iPad, even a calculator. With the Play Retailer put in, I by no means bothered utilizing Boox’s app retailer — similar goes for BooxDrop, the native cloud storage app. Each require an Onyx account, however I’ve by no means set one up and haven’t missed something as a consequence.

Regardless of the various, many caveats, and regardless of all of the goofy built-in apps attempting to fashion this as a competitor to conventional tablets, the Leaf 2 is solely one of the vital pleasurable methods to learn books. I’m not constrained by anybody’s walled backyard, and I haven’t got to make bizarre sacrifices to learn what I need once I need. I’ve precise bodily buttons to press to show pages. The Onyx Boox Leaf 2 has lastly scratched that itch I’ve had for an excellent e-reader, and I don’t see something displacing it anytime quickly.

Images by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

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