Onyx Boox Note 10.3 – first impressions

I recently go my hands on a new gadget, the Onyx Boox Note. I have now owned a Kindle Paperwhite (2nd gen), a Kobo Glo, a Kobo GloHD, and now the Onyx Boox Note. The prime reason for me getting this device were two: (i) ability to mark up pdfs and epubs with comments (something I need for research, review, check,…), (ii) the great pdf readability (automatic crop support), which is of course also related to the bigger screen.

The Note main screen gives the last read book and some others from the library, plus direct access to some apps. One can scroll through the most recently read books at the top by swiping right. I would have preferred a bit smaller icons on the big screen to see more of the books, maybe in a future firmware version.

Not too many applications are available, but the Play Store is there and one can get most programs. Unfortunately it seems that k9-mail – my main mail program on Android – does not support the Note.

Reading epubs is quite normal an experience. Nothing to complain here. Usual settings etc.

Where the Note is great is PDFs, which are a huge pain on my smaller devices. Neither the Kindle nor the Kobo have decent PDF support in my opinion, while the Note allows for auto-cropping (as seen in the image below), as well as manual cropping and several other features. Simply great.

Another wonderful feature is that one can scribble directly in the pdf or epub, and the notes will be saved. In addition to that, there is also a commenting mode in landscape format with the document on the left and the notes on the right, see below. Very useful, both of the modes.

Besides adding notes to pdfs and epubs, one can also have a notebook. Here is the Notes main interface screen, which allows selecting previous notes, adding new, and some more operations (I still don’t know the function of most icons).

Here is a simple example of scribbling around. Surprisingly good. I will see how much my normal paper note taking will be replaced by this.

Note taking and markup can of course be done with the finger, but the pen that comes with the device is much better. The sleeve that comes with the device has a holder for the pen, so it could be around wherever you go.

Finally some hardware specs from one of the hardware info programs.

I have used the Note now for two weeks for reading, pdf markup, and a bit of note taking. For now I have a very good impression, good battery run time, durable feeling. What I am missing is a backlight for reading in the night. I guess with more usage time I will find more points to criticize, but for now I think it was an excellent purchase.

26 Responses

  1. Arne says:

    Can you save the annotations for PDFs in a standardized way (i.e. as part of the PDF itself) so that other PDF viewers can show them as well?

    Re the missing lights: Onyx stated somewhere that the screen is too big for illumination as you have to place all LEDs at the sides and the middle would not get enough light.

    Overall, it sounds like a solid e-reader for academics.

    • Yes, you can export the pdf and it will merge the annotations. There are several options on how to merge. AFAIR if you do the side-by-side markup style extra pages are added, if you use the in-document scribble it is just exported as written.

      Thanks for the explanation about backlight, sounds reasonable.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Small world, I work with Marko @dayjob :->

  3. Jonathan says:

    This looks fantastic. I cannot find any stockists at all, though, so I’ve also no idea how much it will cost. Precedent suggests slightly above my comfort zone 🙁

    The photo of the Haskell book has distortion on it. Is that just from the picture compression, and the clarity of the cropped-PDF rendering is good?


    • I guess all the distortions are only me using the mobile in not good light for taking the photos and then hastily while my little daughter sleeps editing in GIMP without checking 😉
      The cropped PDF quality is like the non-cropped, excellent to my eyes.

    • Arne says:

      You can buy it from http://ereader.store, it is ~550€ in Germany, 462€ without tax.

      Without knowing you, I think that it is more than just slightly above for most 😉 (but I have been thinking about buying it for work)

      • Jonathan says:

        Ouch yes that is quite steep. More expensive than the “Remarkable” which is roughly comparable, and also quite expensive IMHO 🙂

        • Arne says:

          To be fair, the Remarkable is the less capable device for academic reading (writing and scribbling might be different). The Note has a quad-core 1.6Ghz processor, runs Android 6, and can, therefore, run everything from the Kindle app to a BibTeX manager.

          I recently bought an InkPad 3 for reading. 8 inch is a good compromise between good display size (can display papers, but a bit too small) and portability. It has the same resolution as the note and the ReMarkable. Only costs 220€ but has no pen.

  4. Martin says:

    Any chance to replace Android with Debian?

    • Georg says:

      If there was a chance to get root, you should be able to install a chroot environment, e.g. with Linux Deploy, and get a full desktop running (like xfce, probably gnome or kde would be too heavy, although I don’t know). I’ve tried this on an older Onyx reader, which was held back by a single core CPU. With the quad-core, I’d imagine this could run relatively ok. Problem is that afaik currently there’s no widely reported way of getting root on the Note yet. There are other ways of running Linux on Android without root, but I don’t know how well they work with displaying a full desktop. Maybe have a look at mobileread.com – some of the people who own a Note or Max2 have found some ways for that I think.
      I’m still holding off because I’m hoping for the Note S, which should have a micro-SD slot, which is sorely missing the Note.

  5. Dan says:


    Good question. Anyone?

  6. Tarjei Vågstøl says:

    Impressive device. I’m looking for something like this, also considering reMarkable (similar price range). The Onyx seems to be slightly better spec’ed.

  7. Marc says:

    I have a kindle by now. I use a lot the search functionality. I often need to search for words/phrases on all the books in my library. The kindle does it quite well, and includes the in the search results more than just the exact matches. I wonder if that is possible with the Onyx Note.

    • I haven’t found a way to search all books by now. There is a search box in the reader app, but it seems to only search for book titles. When one is open searching is quick and reveals all findings in the current book.

      • Anonymous says:

        A pity … Does the search function in the current open book provide advanced search options, or that’s a simple search? Does it work also for PDFs? How are the search results displayed?
        Thanks Norbert for the information.

      • Marc says:

        From https://ereader.store/en/e-book-readers/onyx-boox-note–25.html:
        “our devices are equipped with open Android OS. So if you need often to search your files for words or phrases, you rather need a specialized app for it. There is for example AndroSearch, which created index of your files and once indexing is completed, you can start searching for anything on your Boox. On your initial searches itself, you will notice that the app searches not only for the file names, but also for the metadata. In the settings, you can enable Fuzzy search and forget about typos and spelling mistakes. In additional settings, there’s an option to limit indexing of files only while charging to save battery. Also, there’s an option to exclude certain folder from indexing. The app also indexes file content from Office and PDF Files. So if you know a word or a phrase from a document, that too can be looked up using AndroSearch. “

        • Thanks for the comment, I didn’t know shit AndroSearch and there like, I’ll try that out.
          One more thing, it seems it is not possible to play music while reading, or am I missing something?
          Thanks Norbert

    • Thanks, that looks promising, but as long as I don’t know about a way to recover the system in case of getting broken, I wont play with such an expensive device. I use it for work (reviewing, research etc) and I don’t see much of an advantage in rooting it.

  8. de jong says:

    I own both kobo plus and onyx note. When it comes to pure reading of e-books the fonts are much better on a kobo screen and setting backlight makes reading for my degrading eyes much better than on onyx … in installer screens the fonts are often light grey / darker grey which have low contrast and thus i can simply often dont read on onyx … i want to have one library of all ebooks … where when load books from kobo plus they dont automatically appear in my onyx library … might be my shortcoming of knowledge of the onyx reader, but when using apple phone it hardly ever requires reading manual where on onyx reading manual is a must (to me) … it is not so intuitive .. sourcing a couple of good UI designers could bring onyx to another level … when i see here above ‘how to root’ i feel .. i have landed in world of unix nerds … thats not what you want when you want to be an enduser … 😉 : @hand i would like to have setting font, font size, easy resize while maintaining fit to screen size … backlight …(for reading in poor light) … no low contrast User interface (just try to set up google account on onyx, then you will see what i mean) … i feel it is too much money for the value you get …

  9. Hakan says:

    In terms of accurcy of pen, how is the pen response time?

    • I don’t see a disturbing delay, but well, it is not as immediate as a real pen. Only once there was some hick-up and there was no response at all, probably some bug.

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