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Onyx Boox Nova Air C e-reader review

The colour e-ink Nova Air C straddles the line between tablets and e-readers.

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Last updated: 23 June 2022
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CHOICE verdict

The Onyx Boox Nova Air C delivers the familiar e-ink look and feel of a Kobo or Kindle, but in colour. This makes for a decidedly more subdued colour-page experience compared to a tablet with a glossy screen, as graphic novels, comics and colour illustrations all look like they're on an actual page – even outside in direct sunlight. While you don't get quite what you would out of a tablet, you do get more than your typical black-and-white e-reader, and with the inclusion of stylus support for note-taking, doodling and marking up documents, the Nova Air C is both versatile and fun to use. 

Price: $615
Contact: https://shop.boox.com/products/novaairc

Part e-reader, part tablet

The Onyx Boox Nova Air C isn't a top-of-the-line tablet with all the bells and whistles, nor is it your standard black-and-white e-reader. It's got the e-paper look that's become standard for Kobos and Kindles, but it's also in colour.

The colour e-ink 7.8-inch touch display on the Onyx Boox Nova Air C serves up a decidedly more subdued experience compared to a tablet with a glossy screen, which is good when reading graphic novels and comics, and great when reading outside in direct sunlight.

The e-reader uses Google's Android 11 OS and operates in a similar manner to an Android tablet, only slower and with a screen that doesn't show photos and video nearly as well. If you want to look at video and photos, you'd be better off considering an Android tablet or Apple iPad.

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The same page shown on the glossy screen of an Apple iPad (left) compared to the Onyx Nova Air C (right). The Nova Air C's e-ink screen delivers a more 'comic' look.

Accessing apps and ebooks

If you already own a Kobo or Kindle, download the appropriate app to the Nova Air C through the Google Play app store and enjoy the ebooks you already own. You can also use OverDrive, a clever app that lets you 'borrow' ebooks from your local library using your library card. While OverDrive's performance has been known to be flaky for some Kobo users, the performance on the Nova Air C is as good as you'd expect when working on a laptop or smartphone. The OTG support through USB also means it's simple to drag and drop ebooks from a USB flash drive into a folder.

Connectivity using Wi-Fi over your home network as well as Bluetooth support lets you use wireless headphones if you want to listen to an audio book, or you can plug in headphones using the USB-C connection or any 3.5mm headphones using a USB-C adapter. Audio quality from the embedded speakers is surprisingly good and delivers a crisp, clear sound.

The screen is flush with the bezel and there's also a Wacom overlay which lets you mark up a page for note-taking or draw and doodle using the supplied stylus. The ability to mark up and collaborate on documents in addition to reading colour illustrations and comics makes for a unique e-reading experience.

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The colour e-ink screen not only brings comics to life, it also helps enhance EPUB documents with any colour elements in the story.

The USB-C connection is handy to charge the device, and while the battery life isn't as good as a Kindle or Kobo mono e-reader, it's still considerable, and you get a much longer in-use time than a traditional tablet. We also found that apps on the Nova Air C perform better overall than a traditional e-reader as the device is made for them.

Document support includes PDF (reflowable), PPT, EPUB, TXT, DJVU, HTML, RTF, FB2, DOC, MOBI and CHM, while image format support includes PNG, JPG, TIFF and BMP. The audio support is fairly limited but you can play WAV and MP3 files. Importantly, you also get support for DRM files so you can buy protected ebooks from whatever sites support PDF, EPUB or Amazon's MOBI file format.

We highly recommend the protective cover as an additional purchase (it costs around $80) as it not only keeps the screen free from scratches, but you also get two page-turning buttons, which are handy when navigating a document. The cover also comes with an additional stylus.

Onyx Boox Nova Air C e-reader specs

  • Screen: 7.7 inch (19.5cm) e-ink Kaleido Plus.
  • Resolution: 1404 x 1872 (300 ppi).
  • Battery: 2000mAh.
  • Dimensions: 194 x 137 x 6.3mm.
  • Weight: 235 grams (not including cover).
  • Storage: 32GB (3GB RAM).
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/b/g/n USB-C (OTG support).
  • Speaker: Yes.
  • Mic: Yes.
  • Earphone jack: USB-C.
  • Button: Power on/off.
  • Type: 12 fonts and 50 font sizes.
  • Processor: 8 Core @ 2GHz.
  • Battery life: Up to four weeks in standby mode.
  • Supported file formats: eBooks – EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, FlePub and MOBI. Images – JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF. Text – TXT, HTML and RTF. Comic Books – CBZ and CBR.
  • Languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Turkish, Japanese, and Traditional Chinese.
  • Content: Instant 24/7 access to Kobo's eBookstore with over 6 million titles. Library access via built-in OverDrive access in select regions. Dropbox file sharing.
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