Onyx Boox Leaf 2 review: eBook freedom

I don’t want to be picky, but the Kindle isn’t enough for me. For years, I’ve called Amazon’s Kindle Oasis the platonic ideal of e-readers, with its physical buttons for turning pages, sharp screen, solid backlight, and (then) unique design. I felt like I had reached the end of the e-reader game. But then, I hugged Libby for the library books, Viz for the manga, and started reading more galleys straight from the publishers, and I felt like the Kindle was getting in the way more than helping me read the things I wanted.

So I started buying Android E Ink tablets from China and waited for one to finally meld the flexibility of Android with Amazon’s superior design and build quality. And I’m pretty sure Onyx Boox’s new $199 Leaf 2 has it. This is, at least for now, my final e-reader.


You may not be aware of Onyx Boox, and that’s okay. The company is based in China and the only way to get their products in the US is from Good e-Reader (a site that reviews e-readers and also sells them), the Onyx Boox website (boox.com ) or Amazon. And because the company is largely based in China, tech support is patchy at best. Complicating matters further is the fact that Onyx Boox also shares its name with what appears to be a Russian company with a virtually identical URL and absolutely identical product line. The feeling of scam is strong with this brand.

But I’ve interacted with real people from the (Chinese) company, received embargoes and pricing information, and now bought at least three different products from their website with no issues, so the Boox found on boox.com is, at least in my opinion. experience, on the up and up.

Onyx Boox has been making Android E Ink tablets for years, but they tend to be extremely expensive compared to a Kindle or a Kobo. The Leaf 2’s $199 price is a lot more than you’d pay for a basic Kindle or even a Paperwhite, but it’s $150 less than the premium Kindle Oasis. For the price, you get 32GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, a seven-inch 300ppi e-ink display, warm and cool headlights, Android 11, and a microSD slot. The only thing missing is waterproofing, but I’m not normally taking a bath to read, so this isn’t a deal breaker for me.

Its screen is virtually identical to the one found on the latest Kindle Oasis, and the text is crisp and easy to read. Black and white comics look just as good on it as they do on an iPad, and the front light gives you the ability to adjust the brightness of the warm and cool lights individually or separately so you can always set them to the perfect brightness for any situation. given reading. (I usually leave them off if I have other light sources around.)

But the feature that really sets the Leaf 2 apart from any other Android E Ink tablet (or its well-known less flexible e-readers) is its page-turn buttons, which magically make this one of the best e-readers I’ve ever used. The Leaf 2 comes with two physical page-turning buttons on the left side of the device, and thanks to the internal G-sensor, the page will quickly orient itself when you switch hands.

Plus, new to the Leaf 2, the buttons will work with almost any app, regardless of whether it has a built-in feature to recognize page turn buttons. Typically, Onyx Boox and other Android e-ink tablet makers have relied on an accessibility feature that turns a phone’s volume buttons into page-turning buttons. E-readers would simply map the page turn buttons to volume and voila: a Kindle or Nook experience as natural as their native e-readers.

But with the Leaf 2, there’s an alternate setting in the menu (in the side key settings) that lets you force other apps to recognize the page turn as well. So with the Nook and Kindle app, I use the Volume Button setting, and with apps like Libby, which doesn’t have any page turn functionality, I go back to the Page Turn button setting. It’s a bit finicky and could be annoying if you’re hopping between multiple apps to read every day, but it also allows me to turn pages in Libby neatly, something I haven’t been able to do before!


As for battery life… it depends. If you have a lot of Android apps running and Wi-Fi active, you can expect a week or less of battery life. But turning Wi-Fi off means I usually only have to upload every few weeks.

Android apps can drain the battery, but they also give this device flexibility, and it’s the Leaf 2’s flexibility that I love. The Leaf 2 comes with its own mediocre built-in app store, and because it’s a Chinese e-reader, Google Play isn’t available out of the box. But Onyx Boox provides a guide to get the Play Store working, which mainly involves registering the device with your Google account and waiting for the Google servers to acknowledge its existence (from my experience this takes about two to three hours, but Onyx Boox warns you). may take up to 48 hours).

Once the store was up and running, it became a full Android E Ink tablet, and it was easy to download apps for Libby, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and even NetGalley, which handles book galleries for publishers. You can add video apps too, if you want, but the slow black and white versions of YouTube and TikTok aren’t an ideal way to use either app, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin [&>a]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-highlight-franklin dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-white md:text-40 lg:-ml-100″>I agree to continue: Onyx Boox Leaf 2

All smart devices now require you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use them, contracts that no one actually reads. It is impossible for us to read and analyze each of these agreements. But we start counting exactly how many times you have to hit “accept” to use devices when we review them, since these are deals most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.

By configuring the Onyx Boox Leaf 2, you agree to the following:

Optionally, you can add the Google Play Store. If so, do you agree to:

  • Google Terms of Service
  • Google Privacy Policy

Final count: one mandatory agreement and two optional.

A real push downloader for me was EinkBro, a browser designed for E Ink. That sounds silly given that the Leaf 2 comes with its own browser, but EinkBro is fast and will paginate websites instead of forcing you to scroll—extremely useful if you’re reading a 200,000-word AU coffee shop on the Archive of Our Own.

Besides the built-in browser, the Leaf 2 has plenty of other apps aimed at making it act more like a tablet than I’d like. There’s an audio recorder, a gallery, a music player, and unlike the iPad, even a calculator. With the Play Store installed, I never bothered to use the Boox app store; the same goes for BooxDrop, the native cloud storage app. Both require an Onyx account, but I’ve never set one up and missed nothing as a result.

Despite the many, many caveats, and despite all the ridiculous built-in apps trying to present this as a competitor to traditional tablets, the Leaf 2 is simply one of the most enjoyable ways to read books. I’m not constrained by anyone’s walled garden, and I don’t have to make strange sacrifices to read what I want when I want. I have actual physical buttons to press to turn the pages. The Onyx Boox Leaf 2 has finally taken away that itch I had for an ideal e-reader, and I don’t see anything displacing it any time soon.

photography by Amelia Hollowaty Krales / the edge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *