This color e-ink reading tablet is weird and wonderful

A monochrome, paper-like electronic screen is so great for reading digital books that it doesn’t seem like it needs much improvement. Now, however, colored e-ink screens are coming to market. So the obvious first question with the Boox Nova Air C is: do you actually need color on your e-reader? The simple answer is no, you don’t need color on a device like this. However, avoiding color would be short-sighted as this feature unleashes the potential of the device and makes everything more wonderful.

It’s a bit of a The Wizard of Oz Moment to switch from a once black and white world to a world that glows with colour. For one thing, I was surprised at how much impact a color book cover has when skimming through titles.

But the Boox Nova Air C isn’t just an e-reader, it’s a small tablet. It runs Android and has access to reading apps like Libby, Amazon Kindle, Audible, Kobo, and even non-book related apps like Notion. A tablet with a colored, paper-like display is a much more pleasant device to use than just a black and white display. This is truly a case where small details make a big difference. As always, the prices listed may fluctuate over time.

TL;DR

advantages:

  • Long battery life
  • Easy to hold and read digital books
  • Pen input for notes works well

Disadvantages:

  • Colors are often muted
  • Still prone to ghosting of text and images

Shop at Boox.

The specifications of color paper

Even though color has a lower resolution on the Nova Air C than the black and white option, it’s still a worthwhile feature.
TYLER HAYES

The Nova Air C uses Kaleido Plus On-Cell ePaper (with 4,096 colors), one of E Ink’s latest forms of this display technology. Its color resolution is 100 dots per inch, while its black and white resolution is 300 dots per inch.

On-screen colors appear a bit muted to my eyes, but the bigger visual flaw is the lower color resolution. I found it easy to notice that close-up color images weren’t very sharp. However, this visual element is mostly passed over by me since it is an emerging technology.

It’s not like there’s a wide range of digital paper screens out there and this product uses a smaller one to save money. The Nova Air C pushes the limits of using a digital paper display with color. It’s finally reaching the level that’s good enough for consumer use, but be aware that it’s by no means flawless.

Color e-reader

Boox Nova Air C
Browsing digital e-book stores is much easier thanks to color.
TYLER HAYES

So if adding color to a screen like this isn’t a huge accomplishment, why include it at all? You don’t need color to read black text on a white background. For starters, colored book covers and pops of color around the UI are helpful for clear navigation and more familiarity all around.

Colored book covers are especially helpful when you’re looking for new books to read. I’ve been in the position of desperately searching the Kindle Store for a new book before. Just seeing smudged little black and white thumbnails with little differentiation isn’t helpful for finding something to read.

If you’re using this device solely for reading books, the color aspect is a secondary issue that probably doesn’t justify the cost involved. But when you benefit from a book reader that can do more tasks, then color becomes more important.

It’s worth noting that reading doesn’t just happen in one place, as the Nova Air C is an Android device under the hood. There are several reading apps that can be downloaded to the device instantly. Libby is an app that allows you to borrow e-books from your local library. Amazon’s Kindle app is available to access your past purchases. if you have one New York Times subscription, you can also use their app. You can even add your own documents to the device with the BooxDrop app.

The different types of reading apps all have different interfaces and integrate colors in unique ways. Reading on the Nova Air C isn’t always 100 per cent spent looking at text.

Paper-like tablet

Boox Nova Air C
The Nova Air C’s color display makes it easy to navigate with familiar, clear symbols.
TYLER HAYES

see the blue G, red Oh, yellow O and the rest of the letters on Google’s sparse page were instantly more appealing and familiar than a gray monochrome version of it. It’s much easier to surf the web in color than in black and white. Even though the screen has a ghosting effect that can leave traces of the past, color helps make this technical hurdle more palatable.

Believe it or not, videos can also be watched. While I wouldn’t say it’s the best way to consume your video content, it’s absolutely a viable option for the occasional YouTube video. The color on this device makes the Nova Air C a serviceable tablet, while previous Boox monochrome tablets felt a bit too heavy to use for productivity apps or web browsing.

The Nova Air C has a 7.8-inch display and is about the size and shape of an iPad mini. It is a perfect travel companion. I really like that it can do some extra tasks beyond reading. The pen is great for writing notes. Color, again, is a welcome addition to notes, where highlighting or other visual indicators are now possible.

Should you buy the Boox Nova Air C?

Boox Nova Air C
The Nova Air C runs Android and can use all kinds of reading and productivity apps.
TYLER HAYES

Paper-like screens are a nice idea, but doing anything other than reading text on them has always felt exhausting to me. As silly as it may sound, using a monochrome device requires more effort when you’re used to seeing things more vividly. The Boox Nova Air C’s color display goes a long way in making this type of device usable beyond books, although that aspect can be mediocre.

Should you buy a Nova Air C instead of an iPad mini? Should You Buy One Instead of a Kindle? I think the people who will find the greatest benefit here will be avid readers who pick up an e-reader every day. These folks will love adding color, plus all the other quests that color unlocks.

For people trying to convince themselves to read more by having a multipurpose device, I’m not sure adding color will get them over that hurdle. You could only take advantage of the 2,000mAh battery with a standby time of four weeks.

Shop at Boox for $449.98. (The price includes the accessory pack.)

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