Onyx Boox Nova Air C Review: Android-Based E-Reading in Color


The Onyx Boox Nova Air C marks an exciting frontier in digital reading – an e-ink tablet that displays books and documents in color. Powered by the latest E Ink Gallery 3 tech, the Nova Air C offers the familiar benefits of e-ink displays while introducing a vibrant color spectrum. But how does the reading experience compare to black-and-white e-readers? This review dives into the pros and cons of the pioneering color e-ink reader.

Hardware and Design

The Nova Air C sports a 7.8-inch E Ink Gallery 3 display at 1872×1404 resolution plus a touch layer. With the color filter applied, pixel density drops slightly to 300 PPI but text remains perfectly crisp and clear. The thinner bezel gives it a modern aesthetic. Weighing 375g, the aluminum body feels sturdy yet comfortable for one-handed reading. The dark gray back has a classy checkerboard pattern.

At 6.3mm thick, it’s slimmer than most rivals. The USB-C port facilitates charging and side-loading content. Power and volume buttons are ergonomically placed along the right edge. There’s no headphone jack or speakers, but Bluetooth audio works great. The Nova Air C is among the most stylish E Ink readers hardware-wise. The color touchscreen really modernizes the whole experience.

E Ink Gallery 3 Display

The Nova Air C uses E Ink’s latest color e-paper technology. The 10.3″ screen fits over 5 million pixels, with each pixel containing a red, green, blue, and white ink capsule. Combining the CMY and white inks produces the full color gamut. The display automatically switches ink modes between reading and standby for optimal battery life.

Black-and-white text is rendered crisply as always on E Ink. Books and PDFs look identical to standard e-readers. But when viewing color images or web pages, the 4096-color output makes a noticeable difference. Colors won’t jump out with LCD vibrancy due to the reflective e-ink process, but exhibit a pleasant muted quality. This reduces eye fatigue while maintaining color integrity.

The front light’s white LEDs have amber and RGB options for adjusting screen tone from cool to warm. Brightness goes up to 40 nits, on par with the Kindle Oasis. The light temperature system helps reduce sleep-disrupting blue light exposure in the evenings. Auto-brightness responds well to ambient lighting conditions.

Responsiveness and Software

Powered by a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor and running Android 11, performance on the Nova Air C feels highly responsive. Page turns are snappy even for complex documents. The touchscreen accurately registers taps and gestures. It handles productivity apps beyond reading without issue. But naturally, refreshing the entire color display takes a couple seconds longer than black-and-white e-readers. It’s a fair tradeoff.

Onyx’s Boox Android software offers tons of customization options. All app stores come pre-installed for grabbing any reading or productivity app. Side-loaded fonts, themes and quick toggles make personalization easy. Syncing accounts like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Pocket saves files for offline reading. It’s a full-fledged Android tablet tuned for reading.

Color Reading Experience

Of course, the Nova Air C’s marquee feature is displaying books, magazines, manga and PDFs in color. For predominantly text-based ebooks, like most novels, the color doesn’t add a whole lot aesthetically or functionally. But viewing any graphics-rich content like cookbooks, comics, art books, or scientific material truly benefits from the Gallery 3 display. The color dimension brings these genres to life visually.

Technical documents are also easier to parse when annotations, charts, graphs, and diagrams are rendered colorfully. Things just make innate visual sense thanks to the color cues. Note-taking is enhanced by color sketching and highlighting options. Overall, the color display opens up engaging new reading experiences suppressed on black-and-white readers.

Battery Life

Onyx claims up to 28 hours of use per charge switching between color and A&W reading modes. In practice, using a mix of reading, note-taking, and internet browsing, I averaged around 20-25 hours on mid-brightness before needing a recharge. For longer reading sessions, carrying a portable battery pack helps top it off. The quicker CPU seems to tax the 3150mAh battery slightly faster than competitors, but it’s a reasonable tradeoff.


All said, the Onyx Boox Nova Air C opens an exciting new chapter in digital reading. The addition of color enriches certain reading genres enormously while maintaining the beloved benefits of E Ink displays like sunlight readability, long battery life, and ease on the eyes. If you regularly view graphics-rich content like magazines, textbooks, or comics, the color e-ink reading experience is a game-changer. For novel reading, the premium hardware and software capabilities still give it an edge over basic black-and-white e-readers.

For voracious readers, the Onyx Boox Nova Air C’s versatile Android-powered tablet form factor outshines dedicated e-readers. The sizable high-resolution display, stylish lightweight build, snappy performance, deep personalization and, of course, brilliant color e-ink screen add up to a highly compelling overall package. Just be prepared to pay a premium price for this premium reading-optimized device. For color content, it brings e-reading to life in exciting new ways.

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