The Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus is much more than the standard e-readers currently on the market. Much like the reMarkable tablet, or the Supernote, the Note Air2 Plus combines the world of e-readers with the ability to use a stylus to take notes, draw, or just download new apps to expand the potential of the tablet. Pricer than standard e-reader, it delivers great value for people that want to do more with their e-ink tablet than just consume books.
I am no stranger to these sorts of tablets, having reviewed a few in the past, but something stood out about the Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus after I unboxed the device. Onyx Boox have managed to make a tablet that looks fantastic, feels great in the hand, and the stylus feels a step above many low-end offerings currently on the market.
Out of the box, I was immediately impressed with the build quality on offer. The Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus looks great with its dark green colour, but even more, it just feels well crafted, and built to be lugged around and used. The tablet is similar in look to many e-reader tablets on the market, beyond the fact it has a slightly thicker bezel that makes it easier to hold. This was something I was pleased to see, since many current e-readers can feel cramped, leaving no space for your hands to grip the device without putting your hands on the screen.
The Note Air2 Plus is also a bit heavier than many e-readers, clocking in at around 445 grams, with some solid craftsmanship put into the build of the device. The body makes it feel it can take a fair amount of abuse without needing to worry, with the Carta glass screen working well to resist fingerprints, scratches and other damage that could get in the way of using the tablet.
“The Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus looks great with its dark green colour, but even more, it just feels well crafted, and built to be lugged around and used.”
The Note Air2 Plus features a single USB-C port on the side of the device, just above the power button. There is no volume button on the tablet, although you can adjust the sound from within the settings on the device. Then again, this is a tablet that is focused on reading and writing, so there is little reason to try video playback, especially with the e-ink display. The tablet even has the ability to stick the stylus to the side thanks to a magnetic section of the tablet, keeping it where I need it when not in use.
Speaking of display, the e-ink screen is the main selling point for the Note Air2 Plus. The tablet features a 1404 x 1872 resolution and 227 DPI screen that is crisp and clear, ready for any form of written media you want to enjoy. Unlike many OLED or LCD screens, the e-ink screen is great for low-light reading, and in all my time with the tablet, I never found it hard on the eyes, or caused any noticeable eye strain beyond what you would expect from reading.
Since the Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus does allow for full Android app downloads, you will quickly find the limitations of the e-ink screen. While there are adjustments for how fast the screen refreshes, giving it the option of Normal Mode, Speed Mode, A2 Mode, or X Mode, even on the fastest setting, it would be painful to use most standard apps. I tested Twitter while using the Note Air2 Plus and while it worked, any rich media felt very limited on the monochrome screen.
If you are looking to do more with rich media or video, there are plenty of options that would deliver a much more rewarding experience, but for people that want an e-reader that goes above and beyond, this is where things get interesting.
“Since the Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus does allow for full Android app downloads, you will quickly find the limitations of the e-ink screen.”
There are adjustments for how the screen looks, although there is no LED backlight in the tablet. With the adjustments, you can set the screen to fit your needs and be as comfortable as possible. It also allows adjustment between a yellow toned screen and a cooler toned one, to best fit your current lighting conditions. While I liked the option, I found I stuck with a more yellow tint almost the entire time with the Note Air2 Plus.
The screen also has a slight texture, giving the e-paper screen paper-like qualities. I found this was a great touch, and made using the included stylus feel far more natural, almost like using a pen to paper. There was enough glide, while giving that slight resistance that writing on smooth glass simply can’t replicate. While testing the Note Air2 Plus I found it made a great notebook I could carry around, and I managed to use it while testing other products to make my notes while on the go. Combined with the stylus 4,096 degrees of pressure sensitivity, and you have a winning combo.
The included stylus makes handwritten notes easy and fun. With it being so easy to flip on when needed, the Note Air2 Plus was a constant companion when I needed to write something down. It was also fantastic for drawing or creating sketches. Even without any colour, the ability to adjust thickness or brush type made it feel like a sketch artist’s dream come true, easy to pull out and made to just get your ideas onto the page.
Under the hood, the Note Air2 Plus features an 8-core, 2 GHz SoC, along with 4 GB Ram, and while it won’t be going head-to-head against any of the latest smartphones or tablets on the market, it was more than capable of tackling any task suited for this style of tablet. Since the Note Air2 Plus runs on Android 11, you have access to the full Google Play Store, but as I mentioned before, anything that is made for rich media will be wasted on this device. Thankfully, social media apps seem to work well for the most part, and the e-ink screen makes anything that involves reading work incredibly well.
The included book store was easy to use, and even diving into the PlayStore worked without a hitch. Since it was pre-installed, it was just a matter of adding my Google account to the device, and sorting through menus to find an app I wanted to try. If you have ever used a Kindle before, like the Oasis, you should feel right at home with the Note Air2 Plus. Everything works as you would hope, although you will need to get used to the painfully slow refresh rate that is not ideal for anything beyond reading or note-taking.
“In our tests, we found the Note Air2 Plus could last around three weeks between charges with daily moderate mixed use.”
The Note Air2 Plus comes packed with 64 GB worth of storage, and unless you are an incredibly avid reader, the likes of which the world has never seen before, this should be more than enough to load the tablet full of books with room to spare. Even loading the tablet up with apps and books, I barely used over 2 GB of the total storage, and I was trying to push the limits.
This being an e-ink display, the 3700mAh battery, you should not have any issues using the tablet daily for weeks without needing to recharge. In our tests, we found the Note Air2 Plus could last around three weeks between charges with daily moderate mixed use. The tablet also charges relatively quickly, although there is no fast charging on the device.
With that all said, the Onyx Boox Note Air2 Plus is a fantastic e-ink tablet that delivers a great feeling device that gives a Kindle a run for its money. The build quality is among some of the best we have tested, and the overall flexibility due to running full Android 11 makes the potential for creation far more exciting than some of the competition.
Even with these features, the Note Air2 Plus is limited by the e-ink screen, that, while nice, is not made for any rich media. While I love the feel, and find the battery life on offer hard to beat, if you are expecting a tablet to watch Netflix or play games, this is not the tablet for you. For anyone looking to draw, read or create, the Note Air 2 Plus is a fantastic choice, one that uses the e-ink technology to its full effect.