Boox Note3 ReviewCreated: Sat Apr 03 2021 21:22:37 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time) Tags: toys,eink,reviews
I bought myself a Boox Note3 e-ink tablet as a present as a reward for getting my new position. I’ve had it for about 2 weeks now and it has been a blast. The device is not without its limitations, but in some ways the limitations make it better.
I’ve been a Kindle person for a long time. The Kindle Paperwhite has long been the acme of e-reading for me. I love e-ink. It’s so easy on the eyes, but the Kindle doesn’t come with a 10" screen like the Note3.
Of course, the 10" e-ink screen makes up the majority of the cost of the device. E-ink is a patented technology, which is the only reason why we don’t see it used more often. Someday, when the patents expire, I’d expect to see an influx of devices like these. The extra 3" compared to a Kindle make a huge difference in reading comfort, particularly when reading PDFs. See, the Kindle can scale text, but PDFs are just images, and if the scan has small text you are SOL. The bigger screen is way nicer for reading.
The “backlight” is nicer than on a Kindle too. The Note3 includes a blue light and a yellow light and you can balance the color depending on your preference. Slick.
Images are monochrome and typically dithered. All but the lowest-contrast images seem to show up fine, and I quite like the dithered look. More on that later.
Because the device is Android 10, I am using a lot of my favorite apps on it. E-ink displays are a little slow to update, so it’s not going to be a snappy experience no matter what, but if you fiddle with the settings it’s just fine. The Note3 has several display modes, so you can set a faster refresh speed, but you will see more ghosting. I like seeing the same apps I use on my phone but twice as big. The only way to consume the internet on a Kindle is through the browser which is… pretty rough.
Videos look very cool, like animated pencil drawings, but the slow refresh rate makes the device unusable for video. This is a feature in my mind.
Note-taking and drawing
The Note3 ships with a serviceable stylus for drawing or note-taking. I really liked sketching with it, and my handwriting looks really cool. However, this isn’t a Palm Pilot where the stylus has a slot you can put it in. The result? I’ve lost mine already. Oops.
Luckily, there are other great ways of taking notes. Did I mention this thing is Android 10? I wasted no time installing Termux, which means I can take notes in markdown files. I have an bluetooth folio case from an ancient iPad. I’d like to see how well these two play together, but then again I don’t take many notes. It might be kind of fun to move development of this blog into Termux on the Note3 so I could write these posts on the go, assuming the world starts up someday and there is a go to be on again.
This device is perfect for crosswords and sudoku, but games with moving characters would be a non-starter.
After a week of moderate usage, I made it down to about 30%. You could do worse if you watched a lot of video, but video is horrible on this. 30% after a week of use is pretty cool. Compare that to my Pixel 4 that drains 1% every 5 minutes without even doing anything.
The Limitations Are Good
There’s something really fun about browsing the internet on e-ink. I’ve talked here plenty about my roots when it comes to computing. I cut my teeth on an Apple II with a monochrome screen. Dithered monochrome images take me right back to my childhood.
But more than that, you can’t use this device for the kind of mindless scrolling that you use your phone for. TikTok and YouTube would be pointless, and picture-heavy platforms like Facebook would be subpar experiences. Instead I find myself focusing more on long-form articles or reading books. This is obviously a better way to internet, at least from a mental health standpoint.
This feels like the first device I’ve gotten in a long time that actually changes the way I interact with the internet, and that’s a really good thing. The iPhone gave us the full internet at our fingertips, but viewing it through a black and white, slow-refreshing screen helps to filter out most of the noise.