Onyx Boox Nova Air C review: Android-based, full-color eBook reader


Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

Onyx is an established maker of E Ink tablets that can support pen input as well as running third-party apps, thanks to its Android implementation. Onyx devices are available in a range of sizes, for a range of use cases. I recently looked at a pair of content creation/e-reader devices – the 13.3-inch Boox Max Lumi2 and the 10.3-inch Boox Note Air2.

Now, Onyx has adopted the E Ink Kaleido Plus color screen, which offers 4,096 colors on a low-power panel. The 7.8-inch Onyx Boox Nova Air C combines that with Android 11 and stylus-based input. It promises four weeks of standby time and costs $419.99 / £399.99.

To like

  • E Ink color display
  • Android 11 and Google Play Store
  • Stylus provided
  • Good autonomy

Do not like

  • Coverage is an additional option
  • No MicroSD card slot for storage expansion

Apart from the color of its screen when the device is off, the Nova Air C looks like many other e-readers. It measures 136.5mm wide by 194mm deep by 6.3mm thick and weighs 235g without its optional cover ($59.99 / £53.99). There’s Boox branding along the bottom bezel and just enough side bezel to hold the device securely without touching the screen. The construction seems sturdy and there are no rough edges in terms of quality.

There is only one button, on the top edge, which turns the device on and off. On the bottom edge, there’s a pair of speakers and a USB-C port for charging. The glasses lack any buttons or touch controls – you tap the screen or use physical page-turning buttons on the optional case to move around.

The Nova Air C is powered by a Snapdragon 662 chipset with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. There’s no MicroSD card slot to expand storage, which is arguably a problem given this device’s potential to unite all your e-books and audiobooks, as well as to some extent function as a productivity tool thanks to its stylus support. entry based.

For connectivity, there’s Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0, so headphones can be paired if the internal speakers are too intrusive for your location. I found the speakers to provide good quality sound for listening to material such as podcasts. The USB-C port is used for charging and can also be used to connect the Nova Air C to your computer, when it becomes available for drag-and-drop file transfer.

The Nova Air C’s 2,000mAh battery will last four weeks on standby, according to Onyx. Since E Ink screens only take power when they are refreshed, the power consumption is lower than that of regular tablets, phones or laptops. During testing, I regularly got a week of e-book reading between charges, though I was careful to turn off the Wi-Fi whenever it wasn’t needed, to save battery life. There’s no fast charging here, so you need to keep an eye on the power level and make sure there’s enough time for a boost when it gets low.


The Boox Nova Air C cover is an optional extra that costs $59.99 or £53.99.

Picture: Onyx

It’s unfortunate that the device shell has to be purchased separately, at the rather hefty price of $59.99/£53.99. Buy it and you’ll have a total outlay of $479.98 / £453.98. I’m not a fan of the silver color of the case, but the magnets that attach it to the Nova Air C are strong. You can search the web for suitable alternative protection if the budget is tight and will only miss a few physical page switching buttons.

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Luckily, the stylus needed to get the most out of the Nova Air C comes with the device itself. It attaches to the right side of the drive via magnets, and while the grip is strong enough, it’s not secure enough to be a permanent solution. The case doesn’t have a loop or slot to hold the stylus, which meant that whenever I took the Nova Air C anywhere I was likely to need the stylus, I had to remind myself to carry it. . In the long run, that would probably be a problem for me. A more reliable solution is needed, even if that means adjusting the pen or tablet design to accommodate a case on the device.

The 7.8-inch screen offers two different pixel densities thanks to the operation of the Kaleido Plus screen. In color mode, the resolution is 468 by 624 pixels, providing a pixel density of 100 dpi, while in monochrome mode it jumps to 1,404 by 1,872 pixels and a pixel density of 300 dpi.

Onyx says Kaleido Plus offers 30% improved contrast in mono mode compared to its predecessor, as well as 30% improved contrast in color mode and 15% color improvement. These improvements come from the fact that the touch response is now built into the screen itself rather than requiring a separate layer above the screen which inevitably is a visual barrier to the screen itself. E Ink calls this feature “on cell”.

Without two devices side-by-side, it’s hard to assess these claims in the real world, but my day-to-day experience has been positive. I found reading e-books entirely satisfying, and page turns were as quick and clean as I’d expect from any e-reader. The 7.8-inch screen size is also good – just around the sweet spot for reading. I downloaded the Kindle and Kobo reading apps, as well as the Libby app used by my public library. Everything worked fine. There are plenty of fonts and sizes to choose from, and the device supports a range of document formats: PDF (remergeable), PPT, EPUB, TXT, DJVU, HTML, RTF, FB2, DOC, MOBI, CHM. It also supports PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP images, WAV and MP3 audio and DRM through third-party apps.


Color – but not as you know from a tablet with a backlit LCD or OLED display.

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The color screen allowed me to enjoy magazines through my public library lending service as much as reading e-book loans. That said, the E Ink Kaleido Plus display isn’t nearly as good at color rendering as a regular tablet or phone. Don’t set your expectations that high.

Android 11 provides access to the e-reader apps I have installed, as well as the rest of the Google Play Store. Along with some pre-installed Onyx apps such as a dictionary and the NeoBrowser web browser, an e-book store Boox, and a note-taking app that let you create and save handwritten notes using the stylus. The stylus has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and there are plenty of brushes, line widths, and color choices to work with.

Handwriting to text conversion is supported and I found it quite accurate. You can also record speech content – the microphone is on the bottom edge – and the resulting audio can be embedded into a document.

To help users circumvent the relative complexities of what’s on offer, a small circle can be set to always be present on screen, and pressing it calls up nine shortcut buttons, which can be customized for specific functions such as app launches. Even so, the user interface is unlike any other device, and there are so many features and settings options, that it will be a little while before all the rage is explored. This isn’t a criticism – it just underlines what a well-equipped device this is.


The Onyx Boox Nova Air C is an interesting mix of e-book reader, content creation device and tablet, with Android 11 offering a wide range of apps. It’s well made, has long battery life, and comes with a bundled stylus.

The lack of a MicroSD card slot to boost the 32GB of internal storage is disappointing. The color E Ink screen isn’t as vibrant as a regular tablet or phone, and screen refreshes are slow by comparison. The Nova Air C is by no means a replacement for either device, but the addition of a color screen brings a welcome new dimension to the Onyx Boox range, which should appeal to fans of its hybrid consumer/power approach. content creation.

Specifications Onyx Boox Nova Air C


E Ink Kaleido Plus, 7.8-inch, 4096 colors, touchscreen (Wacom inductive + capacitive), 1872 x 1404 (300ppi/100ppi in color mode), SNOW Field function

front light

MOON light 2


Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 Mobile Platform


3 GB


32 GB


loudspeaker, microphone

Wired connection

USB Type-C

Supported File Formats



WiFi 5 (802.11ac)




2000mAh Lithium Polymer

Operating system

Android 11







In the box

Onyx Boox Nova Air C, user manual, stylus, USB cable, warranty card


$419.99 / £399.99

Alternatives to consider

Low-power, backlight-free technologies for color e-book readers are a developing area. For example, E Ink is exploring a technology called Advanced Color ePaper (ACeP), though it’s currently only available as a $799 review kit, and in April launched a successor to Kaleido Plus called Kaleido 3. Another promising but still unfinished development is TCL’s NXTpaper Mid, which uses a transflective LCD screen. An alternative technology to E Ink that has come to market is DES (Display Electronic Slurry), as seen in the Reinkstone R1.


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