Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review: A large e-reader that’s terrific at taking notes

Onyx has managed to carving out a niche in the e-reader category on the back of exciting launches, with devices like the Boox Palma serving a unique use case. It’s aiming to do something similar with the Boox Note Air 3, a large e-reader that has several differentiating features.

The Boox Note Air 3 is designed to take notes, and it does a great job in that area. But you also get a full-fledged version of Android, and that lets you install apps from the Play Store and use it as a tablet. While I’m testing the monochrome version of the device, Onyx sells the Boox Note Air 3 with a color screen as well.

Clearly, there’s a lot on offer with the Boox Note Air 3, and after using it for two months, I’m convinced that this is one of the best e-readers if you want a large screen.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3: Pricing and release date

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Onyx unveiled the Boox Note Air 3 in October 2023, and the e-reader is now available in all global markets where the brand has an official presence. The standard variant of the Boox Note Air 3 comes with a stylus and magnetic case (which is really good), and it costs $399. There’s a stylus bundle that includes a better-quality stylus in addition to the standard one, and this variant is available for $447 at Boox’s website.

Onyx makes a variant of the Boox Note Air 3 with a color screen, and this is called the Boox Note Air 3C. This costs $499 for the standard model that includes the stylus and magnetic case, and the stylus model is $547.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3: Design

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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The Boox Note Air 3 looks every bit as premium as its price tag suggests, with the e-reader featuring an aluminum chassis that’s great to hold and use. The brushed metal design is elegant, the rounded edges make it comfortable to hold the e-reader, and while it is quite heavy at 450g, the weight is balanced well.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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I like the orange accents at the back and around the USB-C charging port, and this adds some vibrancy. The Boox Note Air 3 has an asymmetrical design — similar to the Kindle Oasis — and this makes a big difference in daily use. That said, there are no physical page turn buttons, and that lack of tactility when turning pages makes reading books on the e-reader a little less fun.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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Another feature that’s missing is ingress protection; the Boox Note Air 3 isn’t resistant to dust or water, and that limits its versatility to a great extent. That said, the sheer size of the e-reader means it isn’t exactly practical to carry it to the pool — like you would a Kindle — but it is still a letdown.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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You get sizeable bezels around the 10.3-inch screen, and while it is more than double the weight of the Kindle Oasis, you get a considerably larger screen. The USB-C port is mounted on the left, along with two speakers. While they have large drivers, the sound quality isn’t particularly detailed, and they don’t get loud. They’re serviceable for podcasts, but if you want to listen to music, you should really use earbuds.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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What I particularly like is that there’s a case bundled in the package, and it is of a good quality. It attaches magnetically to the e-reader, folds into two different configurations, and offers adequate protection when the Boox Note Air 3 isn’t in use.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3: Display and hardware

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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I used over a dozen e-readers up to this point, but they’ve all had medium-sized screens. The Boox Note Air 3, on the other hand, has a 10.3-inch panel, and the difference was absolutely evident from the moment I started using the e-reader.

The panel itself is an E Ink Carta 1200, and with a resolution of 1872 x 1404, you get an effective pixel density of 227PPI. That’s more than adequate for an e-reader, and in the two months I used the Boox Note Air 3, I didn’t notice any issues with the panel.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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Switching over to the hardware, the Boox Note Air 3 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 680, and while you won’t find it on any phone, it does a good job on the e-reader. You also get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, Wi-Fi ac, and Bluetooth 5.0. There’s an accelerometer that switches the orientation of the screen based on what hand you’re holding the e-reader, but it isn’t as smooth as the Kindle Oasis. You also get a MicroSD slot if you want to extend the storage.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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The Boox Note Air 3 has a 3,700mAh battery, and the e-reader lasts a week between charges even with heavy use. I read two books over the course of a week and took notes daily, and the battery was still a very reasonable 30%. The e-reader charges at 15W, and it takes well over 90 minutes to charge the battery.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3: Performance

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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Reading on the Boox Note Air 3 is an absolute joy; the large 10.3-inch screen is terrific in this regard. It doesn’t have the same pixel density as the Kindle Oasis, but that doesn’t really make a huge difference in daily use, and text is clear. There is some ghosting at times, but it isn’t noticeable, and this is an issue with all e-readers that use E Ink panels anyway.

The e-reader has a built-in NeoReader utility that works with all major formats — including EPUB, MOBI, PDF, AZW3, CBR, and so on — and you can change the font size, choose from a selection of fonts or install your own, and so much more.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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NeoReader has a tabbed interface that’s ideal if you’re switching between documents, and you can easily annotate via the bundled stylus. On that note, the stylus has 4,096 level of pressure sensitivity, and it is outstanding at taking notes. I normally use a Lamy Safari and Leuchtturm1917 notebooks to journal and take notes, and while the e-reader doesn’t quite match the feeling of a fountain pen, it comes mighty close.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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It’s also particularly good at sketching. My wife is an artist, and she uses an iPad Air along with an Apple Pencil to paint digitally. She mentioned that the Boox Note Air 3’s stylus has a slight delay when creating strokes, and that there’s no way to duplicate a layer of copy large drawings.

On the whole, the Boox Note Air 3 is a great choice if you’re looking for a large e-reader that doubles as a note-taking device.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3: Software

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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Onyx offers a custom version of Android on the Boox Note Air 3, and while Android 12 is outdated at this point, the device will get three platform updates. While it’s great that the e-reader runs Android, you can’t do much with it outside of reading, note-taking, and sketching. The E Ink tech just doesn’t play well with video content, and even scrolling through web pages, you can make out distinct afterimages.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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You get 10GB of cloud storage as standard with an Onyx account, giving you plenty of storage for all of your books and notes. Onyx has a lot of pre-installed utilities — including a clock, recorder, calculator, and so on — but the fact that you get the Play Store means you can install just about anything you want.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3: The competition

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

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The Kindle Scribe is a great alternative if you need a large e-reader to take notes. It gives you easy access to Amazon’s ecosystem, comes with plenty of useful features, and at $255, it is affordable.

Then there’s the reMarkable 2. It is the definitive note-taking device, and while it is costlier, it is lighter, has a sleeker design, and does an even better job at taking notes.

Onyx Boox Note Air 3: Should you buy it?

Onyx Boox Note Air 3 review

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

You should buy this if:

  • You want a large e-reader that’s great for reading and taking notes
  • You need the extensibility of Android
  • You want an e-reader that lasts a week between charges
  • You need a bundled stylus

You shouldn’t buy this if:

  • You want physical page turn buttons
  • You need ingress protection

Other than the lack of ingress protection and physical page turn buttons, I can’t really find any faults. Onyx clearly knows what it’s doing, and the Boox Note Air 3 is one of the best e-readers currently available. The large 10.3-inch screen is great for reading e-books and browsing, and it doubles as a fantastic digital note-taking device— all thanks to that bundled stylus.

The fact that you have full access to the Play Store is an added bonus; you just don’t get that versatility with many other e-readers. Battery life is outstanding, the metallic chassis is durable, and there’s plenty of customizability — much more so than what you get with other e-readers.

Via: Androidcentral

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