Onyx Boox Palma review: The bite-sized e-reader

The perfect bedtime device.

Looking at the Onyx Boox Palma's E-Ink display in sunlight
(Image: © Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

It's hard to imagine a more perfect small e-reader than the Onyx Boox Palma. The display's ultrafast refresh rate is a sight to behold, the backlight is PWM-free and has color temperature adjustments, and it even has a surprisingly loud speaker as well as a camera on the back. You'll only need to charge it once every few months despite it running Android, and it's so powerful it can even run graphically impressive games if you want to. The only thing that would make it better is the inclusion of a SIM tray or eSIM so it can also be used as a phone.


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    Perfect handheld size

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    Very light and comfortable to hold

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    Gorgeous e-ink screen with ultrafast refresh rate

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    Speakers and a camera

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    Months-long battery life

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    Can run all Play Store apps


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    No SIM tray

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    No haptic feedback

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    No stylus support

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When I think back on all the years I used a Kindle, I'm amazed it took so long for a thriving alternative to pop up. Kindles are great, don't get me wrong, but they're very much entrenched in Amazon's walled garden, and it takes a lot of work to get out of that.

Enter Onyx, a company that makes the best e-ink tablets that are all powered by Android. The Boox Palma is one of the newest "tablets" by the company, but it doesn't fit that description particularly well because it's the size of a phone, not a tablet. And this size is just one of the many things that makes the Palma the perfect e-reader.

Unlike a Kindle, you can get your books, apps, or whatever you want from anywhere you want. It's got the Google Play Store preinstalled, but any Android app can be installed here, opening up the number of reading resources by several magnitudes. The display is even good enough to watch videos or play games on, and the processor delivers not only impressive power but also better battery life.

In a nutshell, you won't find a better e-reader anywhere unless you want something larger, of course.

Where can you buy the Onyx Boox Palma?

The Onyx Boox Palma's E-Ink display in the sunlight, reading on the Google Play Books app

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Onyx Boox Palma released in mid-September at a price of $279.99. The Palma comes in white and black colorways and is sold at retailers like B&H Photo as well as the official Boox website.

In the box, you'll the the Palma unit, a USB-A to USB-C cable, a tool to eject the MicroSD card tray, and a small manual. At the time of this writing, Onyx ships each Palma with a free TPU case, although that could change in the future.

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Onyx Boox Palma specs
Display6.13-inch, E Ink Carta 1200, 824 x 1648 resolution (300 ppi), variable refresh rate
CPUQualcomm Octacore processor (4 cores @ 1.8GHz, 4 cores @ 2.02GHz)
Storage128GB UFS 2.1
ConnectivityWi-Fi 5 (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0
BacklightFront light with color temperature adjustment
Auto rotationYes
Camera16MP rear camera, LED flash
OSAndroid 11
Battery3,950mAh, USB-C charging
MicroSD card supportYes
Dimensions6.3 x 3.1 x 0.31 inches / 159 x 80 x 8mm

Comfort at the forefront

Reading a book on the Onyx Boox Palma

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Onyx Boox Palma feels incredibly good to hold in hand for a long time. It's far more comfortable than any book I've ever held, and it's 20-30% lighter than popular e-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite.

Onyx even decked out the back with a rough paper-like texture, which can add some minor additional grip. I still prefer a soft-touch or leather-like material, but there's no case that offers this just yet.

It's a phone-sized e-reader that's at least 20% lighter than a Kindle. What's not to like?

Onyx has its own TPU case that ships for free with any Palma, but I'm not a huge fan of these kinds of rubbery, flimsy cases. Hopefully, someone will have a decent case for the thing on Amazon soon.

Since it's the size of a phone, it's easy to bring with you anywhere you want to go, and the all-plastic build — yes, even over the display — means it's not likely you'll break it even if you drop it.

It's got a USB-C port on the bottom, a single bottom-firing speaker, a power button and volume rocker on the right side, and a microSD tray next to a customizable side key on the left side. There's even a camera around the back with an LED flash that can be used for anything, although Onyx intends it mainly for document scanning.

The sides are nicely contoured and built with a plastic that's grippier than the hard, slippery plastic that some cheaper phones are built with. That's great for holding in the hand for long periods of time.

The only thing really missing from the hardware is a haptic feedback engine, which means you won't feel rumble feedback when typing on the virtual keyboard or playing games.

Warcraft Rumble's intro video running on an Onyx Boox Palma

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The real star of the show is Onyx's E Ink Carta 1200 display which shines below the matte covering on top. This display isn't just beautifully pixel-dense and crisp, its ultrafast refresh rate means you can even watch videos or play games on this e-ink device.

This is the most incredible e-ink display I've ever seen, with an ultrafast refresh rate and a PWM-free, color temperature-adjustable backlight.

Not all games and videos will work as well, though, as E Ink still struggles with high-contrast or dark imagery, so your mileage may vary here. Still, I was impressed with the breadth of possibilities on what I initially only thought of as a fancy e-reader.

You'll be able to choose from five different refresh rate types by swiping up on the bottom-right corner of the display, each of which is built for different types of apps. Each selection sports an easy-to-understand description below, helping make your decision clearer. When in doubt, the Balanced mode is usually best.

Better yet, the backlight behind the display is completely PWM-free, making it the perfect choice for folks who are PWM-sensitive. It even has a color temperature adjustment option right in the notification shade, letting you effortlessly adjust the brightness and color temperature with a flick, no matter what app you're using.

Android does it all

Playing Minecraft on an Onyx Boox Palma

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Because this is powered by Android 11 and comes with the Google Play Store preinstalled, you can do quite literally anything you want on this pocket-sized e-reader. I promptly installed the library app Libby, as well as Google Play Books, the Kindle app, and the Bible, and I have regularly used all of these apps for the past few months since I started the review process.

Sure, you can link your Kindle or Kobo to the Libby app and have it sync with what you choose on your phone, but isn't it just nicer to do it all from one app on one device? Not to mention all the books I regularly buy on Google Play Books because of the regular sales Google holds.

You can install any app you want thanks to Google Play integration.

I can even read my legacy Kindle library on it, although Amazon makes it notoriously difficult to buy books from the Kindle app these days. Still, if you're already well-entrenched in Amazon's Kindle store and don't want to give up the library, this device is the perfect choice since you won't have to.

When using the Palma mainly for reading books or light web browsing, you'll find the battery lasts for months at a time. After the first 64 days of use, the Palma still had 24% battery left.

On my second charge, I installed a bunch of additional apps, watched a few videos for testing, and played a few games. After nine days of use, it's still at 67%, with the device estimating I'll get another 21 days of use before needing to charge it again. I mostly used it with the backlight off, but the Palma will still last you several days on a single charge if you choose to use the backlight all the time.

In other words, you'll never worry about battery life. And since it's USB-C, finding a charger won't be a problem, either.

You can play games like Minecraft or Vampire Survivors on it, but without color or a high frame rate, you probably won't want to.

Despite this epic battery life, the octa-core processor inside was powerful enough to run games like Warcraft Rumble and Vampire Survivors, although I probably wouldn't recommend the latter very much since the lack of color makes it difficult to identify things in the game when it gets hectic.

And don't get me wrong, this thing isn't blazing fast. It's not going to replace your phone unless you're very patient, and although you can play something like Minecraft on it, you probably won't want to. Still, it's impressive that both the processor and display are capable enough to run things like this, even if they're only mainly good for demonstration purposes.

A note on security

The e-ink display on the Boox Palma

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Over the years, a lot of accusations have been flung towards Onyx for good reason. The company's privacy policy was a joke for a long time, although they've substantially improved it since.

One Reddit post from 3 years ago noted that the privacy policy allowed Onyx to use your information for anything they see fit. These days, you'll find no such mention in the privacy policy. Instead, most of it is pretty standard fare, including a note that Onyx does not share data with third parties.

Videos as recent as last year show the Ksync process "phones home" at regular intervals but doesn't transmit any data beyond a ping. Using the same NetGuard tool, I was able to verify that Ksync does not ping QQ servers or Ali Express on the Palma.

From what I can tell, this is a far more secure and private device than Onyx Boox devices of old.

The best small e-reader today

Playing Minecraft on an Onyx Boox Palma

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

If you're buying the Palma as an e-reader to replace an old Kindle or are just looking into getting something a little more eye-friendly than your phone for reading or browsing, the Onyx Boox Palma will blow you away.

When I started looking for e-readers with more functionality earlier this year, I didn't imagine something like the Boox Palma would show up so soon. If nothing, the worst part of the Palma is finding where to buy one. The product has been notoriously out of stock since its launch.

But if you can find one, I guarantee you'll be impressed. This is the best e-reader I've ever used.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu
  • MattDC20008
    Are apps like Kindle eventually going to stop being supported/working on a device like this that's running an older version of Android?