Android e-ink tablets

lparsons21

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Over the holidays I got to playing around with a couple of Android e-ink tablets. The Likebook Mars and Onyx Boox Nova Pro. Both pretty well reviewed in various places and mostly positive reviews. Here’s my take on the two I have currently.

Likebook Mars - about 8” plastic screen. Limited currently at Android 6 though there are rumors of an upcoming update to Android 8. For the approximate $200 cost it isn’t bad, but could be better IMO. It supports the Google Play Store though you have to ‘activate’ it because of some licensing issues. For whatever reason it won’t run the current version of the Nook reading app, you have to find and sideload a much older and very much less useful version.

It has a night setting and adjustment that changes the screen to something very orangey that’s supposedly is easier on the eyes for night reading. As with all Android e-ink devices, it is a bit sluggish with screen flashes as you change what is on the screen. It is just the nature of the e-ink beast.

Onyx Boox Nova Pro - a bit over $300 usually. It is also approximately an 8” screen, but it is a glass screen. It comes with a basic Wacom pen and can be used for note taking and so forth. That works pretty well. Again it supports the Google Play Store with a similar ‘activation’ process needed to be able to use it. Currently it is on Android 6x but the manufacturer has promised Android 9, and even has Android 9 on some of the models above the Nova Pro.
Performance is better than the Likebook Mars, but is still a bit laggy because of the way e-ink works. It also has a night mode, but in this case it allows for mixing the orange and white lighting for what I consider a more pleasing color.

Both of these, as well as almost all Android e-ink tablets are made by Chinese companies that are not very big. Support, other than updates, is sorely lacking with virtually all of them I’ve looked at. Essentially support comes from the selling company. Boyue, the mfg of the Likebook is said to have a fairly good site with some support stuff on it, but it is in Chinese and you have to dig around to even find it. For that reason alone, it is better to buy one to try from a seller with a good return policy as that is the primary solution to problems, especially hardware ones. If you have one that needs repair under warranty, they have to go to China to be fixed. Long turnarounds are common in that scenario.

The biggest issue for e-ink tablets is that there are few apps actually written with e-ink in mind and the bulk of Android apps really don’t work well on them because of the lack of e-ink awareness. Apps that present well on a LCD screen don’t necessarily look good at all on e-ink, even to the point of being unusable. IMO, think of e-ink as electronic paper with only a black pen. There has been work for years on color e-ink and some recent articles have come out that indicates there has been some success though it will probably be awhile before a commercial product becomes available. But even if it comes out the lag issue will be there.

For me the attraction is having one device to read ebooks on that can read them from multiple sources. DRM is alive and well in the ebook marketplace though there are some places that sell non-protected versions.



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Foxbat

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Has anybody tried any of the Sony e-ink tablets? Unlike the Kindle and other Android e-ink readers, it has an 8.5" x 11" (13.3" diagonal) e-ink display. Sony pricing, as well, with the DPT-RP1 at $700 or so. The smaller 10.3" diagonal is around $500. What limited information I see about them seems to put them in a business environment, not really for home use. There doesn't seem to be any Apps available for this, either. If you can get e-Books in PDF format, that could work.
 

lparsons21

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The very few articles and discussions I’ve seen about the Sony devices have been overall positive. But as you note, they are targeted towards the business market with little, if any, consumer level considerations.

In the dedicated e-ink tablet market we are just now seeing bigger than 6” displays. Talking about Kindle, Nook, Kobo and some others of course. Amazon has chosen 7” as their bigger one, Nook and Kobo now have 8” displays in some models. Note that most 8” displays are actually 7.8”.


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lparsons21

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It should be noted that after warranty support/repairs probably won’t be there. For the Chinese e-ink devices, even if they did offer it, you would have to send it to China. Imagine the time it would take and the shipping it would cost!

I wish I could say that is a problem solely with these mfgs, but it isn’t. Most Android tablets don’t have after warranty repair either. Most likely the only after warranty repair would be from Apple for the iPads and even there I suspect the cost would be prohibitive. Fortunately all the tablets I’ve bought or looked at give years of service before that issue comes up.

From a purely financial standpoint a lower end Android LCD tablet makes the most sense. And if you like Kindle, the FireHD 8 or 10 are cheap and good enough for ebook reading though you do have to sideload the Google Play Store to put non-Amazon provided apps on them. Figure about $50 for the FireHD 8, 8” screen that is really very good and they work fine. Not the tablet you would want for gaming, but otherwise fine.

Next up would be the dedicated e-readers. Like one of the Kindles or Nook tablets. Kindle tablets are all e-ink and perform very well and while there are some that claim jail breaking works and lets them put on other reading apps, the performance of those apps leaves a lot to be desired.

Barnes & Noble has both e-ink and lcd tablets carrying the Nook name. The lcd versions are really just some rebadged Samsungs with some B&N stuff added. The Glowlight and Glowlight Plus are both e-ink and like the Kindle, work best just for reading Nook books.

Prices on both the Kindles and Nooks are fluid, with sales often making them good buys when on sale and fair buys otherwise. The software overall on the Kindles is better than the Nooks, but for reading books both are fine.

Next up would be the generic Android e-ink devices with all the good and bad of those devices, as noted in my first post. Prices start about $200 and go up from there. For a nearly as good as a dedicated reader tablet, the Onyx Boox Nova Pro at around the $300 price is as good as it gets. Moving up their line gets you more, but not much more for reading.

While Boyue with their Likebook series and Onyx Boox with their series are not the only Chinese players in the market, they are the most often the ones that are compared to. Fairly priced and at least supported with updates if not other support items, the others are worse from both an update and support viewpoint. I don’t have any experience with them other than what I’ve read though.

Lastly, from a performance at a price, the iPad Mini is probably at the top of the list. It supports nearly every e-reader app out there plus it supports Apple’s Books app. Personally I would love to see someone come along with an e-ink device that could come close to the performance of the IPad Mini! At a starting price of $400 it is the most expensive but it is also the best of the LCD type tablets IMO.


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klang

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Downside of the LCD options is reading outdoors is difficult if not impossible. I also prefer a dedicated e-reader as there are no distractions on the device from email, texts, etc..

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TRG

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Downside of the LCD options is reading outdoors is difficult if not impossible. I also prefer a dedicated e-reader as there are no distractions on the device from email, texts, etc..

Long time Kindle user here.
Same here. I travel a lot and I'm a voracious reader. Taking my Kindle with me rather than a half a dozen books is most preferable. I still have to pull out my laptop, a tablet and my Kindle for TSA inspection. But it's still better than dragging a pile of books around. And like you said. Much less distracting than reading on a phone or tablet.
 

lparsons21

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Yep, LCD sucks outside! I seldom read outside anymore, but it is an issue. And yeah, there is a lot to like about the dedicated readers.

I have an Kindle Oasis 3 and Nook Glowlight Plus (7.8” model) and prefer them over the otherwise very good Nova Pro. But I also read using Scribd and that app won’t work on the Oasis or Nook. I’m tossing around just using my iPad Mini for scribd and Books and using the Nook and Oasis and sending the Nova Pro back. Haven’t quite made up my mind.




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knotle

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I am still rocking a kindle 4. Of course i rooted it and installed Duokan on it. It still works great and i can throw any format on it.

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