Onyx may not be a household name in the e-reader market like Amazon, but it sure is building a reputation with its Android hardware. Tying Android OS with the tech of E Ink screens has resulted in an interesting middle ground of a tablet and e-reader, and Onyx is at the forefront of this tech with its Boox line. This is why I was intrigued at the prospect of reviewing the Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2. It’s a giant device that offers a 13.3-inch Carta E Ink screen, and even though the $899 price tag will be tough to swallow, it’s a unique unit perfect for those that need to hold their documents in hand as they work.
The Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 isn’t a Kindle., but if you have the cash to splash out, there isn’t much out there that can compete with the Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2.
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The Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 is a unique device designed around e-reading and note-taking. It’s a great e-reader for work and play, though the price point may be too high for most since the target audience is students and paper-heavy businesses.
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Design, hardware, what’s in the box
E-readers with large screens are few and far between, though Boox is definitely a leader in this market, offering several devices above ten inches. One of the latest 13-inch e-readers from Boox is the Max Lumi 2, and despite its large footprint, it looks like a typical e-reader. There isn’t much that defines the Max Lumi 2 outside the Boox logo above the home button. It’s an unassuming device, perhaps a little plain-looking.
On top of the plastic Carta screen is an Asahi protective glass cover that sits flush with the bezel. Under this bezel is an array of white and warm LEDs, allowing you to dial in the temperature of the front-lit screen. Centered below the screen is the home button, and there’s a power button located on the upper-right edge. There are no volume buttons, but you do get two rear-facing speakers. There’s a USB-C port centered at the bottom edge.
The Max Lumi 2 is comfortable to hold in hand, with rounded edges and reasonable heft for the size. You can easily hold the Max Lumi 2 one-handed, and it’s easy enough to tote around, though I worry the ultra-thin frame could bend.
Of course, the somewhat boring look of the Max Lumi 2 is only half the story. It comes packed with some killer hardware (as far as e-readers are concerned), including a Snapdragon 662. Sure, the SoC is far from a powerhouse, but it’s more than enough for an e-reader, and the included 6GB of RAM ensures your tasks stay in memory.
The included Bluetooth 5.0 support is a nice touch for those times you don’t want to use the rear speakers. While I would have loved to see an audio jack and physical volume buttons (like a proper Android tablet), I suppose the USB-C port is fine if you have an adapter lying around.
Inside the box, you get the e-reader, a stylus (it isn’t powered), a USB charging cord (no brick), and an instruction booklet. That’s it. Enough to get anyone going, though it would have been nice to see a screen protector and power brick thrown in, especially at the current price point.
Software, reading, and battery
Boox’s software is adequate but not mind-blowing. It’s still rough around the edges, with a few areas remaining untranslated in the settings and a general lack of polish. For example, reversing the page turn direction for manga seems to be impossible despite a plethora of other reading options. This can be frustrating, so it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
Basically, this device is for patient enthusiasts and professionals who don’t mind tinkering to get various files to display just right. Changing settings on the fly is cumbersome, and you can’t just rotate the machine like a typical Android tablet. Nope, you have to jump into the settings to rotate the screen manually. Each and every time. While these settings will stick per e-book, moving to another document, you get to start from scratch, so it’s back to the settings to rotate the image. While I’m sure there are some cost savings to be had by not including a motion sensor in a $900 device, the lack of polish in this area is pretty noticeable when bouncing between documents.
At least navigating the UI is pretty simple once you’re familiar with the OS gestures. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access Android’s navigation bar along with the refresh and contrast settings. You also get a pulldown menu from the top of the screen that houses all of your typical shortcuts to device settings like brightness, wifi/Bluetooth connections, as well as some handy orientation shortcuts. You can even use a few gestures to refresh the screen and navigate home. It’s a mishmash of custom menus and gestures that are just familiar enough that any Android user should feel comfortable within a few minutes of exploration.
Of course, reading PDFs (along with other documents) and note-taking is the primary draw of this 13.3″ E Ink tablet. Adding your documents is easy enough since you can install almost any Android app, plus you can navigate to their respective sites in the included web browser. While you can sideload the Play Store, it isn’t installed by default. And really, it’s not like the Play Store is necessary. Onyx includes its own app store that houses many popular Android apps. So to get going, just install your favorite file locker, download the files you need to view/edit on the tablet, and it’s off to the races. You can also hook the tablet up to a computer through USB and just drag and drop your files over manually.
Reading works well, and I’ve tested a good amount of PDFs and ePubs. You’ll have to tweak your settings a little, as the defaults aren’t always great, but once you’ve set up a layout for a file, you shouldn’t have to change again. Reading e-books can be cumbersome as this is a large tablet, but comic books, manga, and A4 paper documents are where the Max Lumi 2 excels.
Just for giggles, I uploaded a few black and white Batman comics to see how they look on the black and white E Ink Carta screen, and despite some pillarboxing, the comics look great, even with the backlight on full blast, little of the comic’s imagery was washed out. This extends to all documents, where you can dial in the screen’s contrast, something I wish more e-readers offered.
As far as editing and note-taking are concerned, both work incredibly well. You can make notes in any document with the included pen, as well as highlight text, or simply underline it. You can also jump into the built-in Note app to draw diagrams while also jotting down notes. Amazingly there’s almost no delay when using the pen, comparable to a high framerate Android tablet or iPad, which is kind of crazy since e-ink offers much lower refresh rates than an LCD or LED screen. Couple this quality feature with the excellent battery life, and I find I often reach for the Max Lumi 2 for note-taking and drawing instead of my regular tablets. So if you’re a doodle hound, or love whipping up sketches in black books, the Max Lumi 2 is an expensive yet an excellent option for such things. Of course, all of this will be handy for students as well as for those working in paper-heavy fields since the screen was built to target A4 documents to display their text legibly.
Another plus of the Max Lumi 2 is that it packs a 4300mAh battery, enabling weeks of use on a single charge. The battery simply isn’t a concern with the Max Lumi 2, even if you use the backlight at all times.
Should you buy it?
Maybe. I, for one, have no qualms throwing money at unique purpose-built devices, but when it comes to e-readers, perfection can be hard to find. It’s just the nature of the tech that it suffers from slow refresh times compared to typical tablets. Still, large e-ink screens are hard to come by, especially if you’re looking for something that can display documents without the need to zoom, and this is exactly where the Max Lumi 2 shines. It’s also a second-generation Lumi, so contrast and page turns have improved over the previous model.
If you want to live on the cutting edge while taking advantage of a large screen, you’re going to have to pay for it. The $900 price tag is a hefty sum for any e-reader, but you get a performant processor along with a bunch of RAM and storage, surpassing the competition at this price point. So if you’re like me and don’t mind spending large sums of money for dedicated but purpose-built experiences, then there’s a lot to like about the Max Lumi 2.
It’s perfect for viewing A4 documents full-size, along with manga and comic books. This makes the device great for work and play, and since the e-reader is running Android OS, you can stream Spotify, grab your files from Drive, read your latest e-book purchase, and take notes with a stylus all on one device. The software side of things could be a little more intuitive, and setting up particular formatting like side-by-side pages can be a pain, so there’s still room for improvement despite the high price.
Flat out, the Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 gets as close to the experience of holding a piece of paper as an e-reader can get, and for a few of you out there, that’s enough reason to buy one. I should know—I’m in that club, but there’s also no doubt the price tag is a big ask when there are cheaper readers that will get the job done at a fraction of the price. It all comes down to whether or not the Kindle is enough for you. If not, I recommend the Max Lumi 2 if you can afford it.
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About The Author
(1789 Articles Published)
Matthew is a furious nitpicker and something of a (albeit amusing) curmudgeon. A person who holds an oddly deep interest in Android and advancing the state of gaming on the platform. Some may say a ridiculous task, but it is one he is willing to take on from the comfort of his armchair.
From Matthew Sholtz
It has been a long time since I joined Research Snipers. Though I have been working as a part-time tech-news writer, it feels good to be part of the team. Besides that, I am building a finance-based blog, working as a freelance content writer/blogger, and a video editor.