This was my favorite tech device of 2021

Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review
Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Review (Image credit: Michael Hicks/ Android Central)

It's been a fabulous year for the tech industry, with fun Android phones that flip and fold breaking into the mainstream. Between all the hustle and bustle, there were a few noteworthy launches that caught my eyes in particular. Samsung's chic Z Flip 3 stood out as a stylish accessory, making a bold statement and leaving its mark on the world. From a more practical perspective, the larger Z Fold 3 equipped with the S Pen Pro took its place as the best foldable we've seen to date.

Let's not forget other awesome releases like the Amazon Echo Show 15, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds, and the Google Pixel 6 series. Pre-existing features were finessed and newer technologies made their debut. Despite all the outstanding new devices we've seen this year, the one that captured my heart was the Onyx Boox Nova3 Color. Confused? Let me explain.

We constantly see crazy new specs obliterating the barriers that we previously thought to be our upper limits.

Taking its place as the best E Ink tablet all around, the Nova3 Color isn't exactly a remarkable feat of innovation. The tech industry has become so fast-paced that we constantly see crazy new specs obliterating the barriers that we previously thought to be our upper limits. Ten years ago, the idea of having a 100MP camera or 128GB of storage in our Android phones was unthinkable. Getting rid of the headphone jack was even more preposterous, and yet it is fast disappearing from flagships and mid-range phones of today.

With all the commotion and this constant need to show large numbers and on-paper specs, we're starting to forget the point of those fancy specifications and features. After fulfilling their primal roles as tools of communication and sharing data, everything else in smartphones and tablets is an add-on. We still prioritize things like browsing social media, listening to music, or taking photos because that's a personal choice. Individual preferences, tastes, and style dictate what sort of technology we lean towards.

Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Lifestyle

Source: Onyx Boox (Image credit: Source: Onyx Boox)

Now that smart devices and gadgets have become so cheap, we have the buying power and the ability to choose from a galaxy of exciting products. There are broader categories and then more detailed, zoomed-in sub-groups within those categories. For example, a very specific user could be in the market for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that are built from the ground up for robust gym workouts. This user would want the earbuds to carry out all the functions of a pair of wireless headphones, but also expect extra features like an IP65 rating or ear hooks.

The bottom line is, a product may not tick all the right boxes for you, but it could still be the exact thing a specific user is looking for. And that's where the Onyx Boox Nova3 Color ties in as my favorite tech device of 2021. Sporting a 7.8-inch Kaleido Plus e-paper display, Android 10, a 3,150mAh battery, USB-C charging, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, speakers, and a Wacom stylus, you get an unusual mix of specs. It's certainly not the best Android tablet out there, losing to older models like the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 by a mile. But the fact of the matter is, that's not what it's trying to be. It isn't meant to compete with mainstream tablets.

A product may not tick all the right boxes for you, but it could still be the exact thing a specific user is looking for.

Our basic everyday necessities are taken care of by our primary devices like phones, Chromebooks, and traditional tablets. To make that experience richer, we get secondary devices like earbuds, smartwatches, or smart speakers. Those of us who are fortunate enough to afford it indulge in our hobbies and interests by getting tech designed for readers, artists, or writers. This is where e-readers, full-fledged drawing tablets, and dedicated note-taking devices come in.

Even if I have the space in my budget for a secondary tablet dedicated to the task of reading, I like to have the ability to do a bit more with the device. As an avid reader and a casual creative, the Onyx Boox Nova3 Color fits like Cinderella's glass slipper. It offers the exact assortment of features on top of being a native e-reader that I enjoy as a bookish, somewhat artsy, tech enthusiast. Looking at a colorful display is important to me, but not even the best Amazon Kindle e-reader comes with one. Getting a Kindle would also mean that I would be stuck in a limited ecosystem, with barred access to third-party reading apps and no stylus to write or draw.

Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Lifestyle

Source: Onyx Boox (Image credit: Source: Onyx Boox)

Color E Ink technology mimics the riveting paper feel and inky texture of print books. Unlike conventional Android tablets, e-paper devices are built from the ground up with long reading hours in mind. I could stare at the Onyx Boox Nova3 Color's 7.8-inch Kaleido Plus display for hours on end and still feel close to no eye fatigue. In comparison, the level of eye strain that LCD and AMOLED screens put on our eyes is enormous. Another plus point of e-paper displays is their battery life, going on for weeks without topping up.

The Onyx Boox Nova3 Color does what it is meant to do with elegance. Capitalizing on the new Kaleido Plus technology from E Ink Holdings, it delivers the absolute best reading experience. The e-paper tablet displays novels, textbooks, illustrated storybooks, comics and magazines beautifully in 4,096 subtle colors. It offers a world of customization and an exhaustive set of options to tweak the font, line spacing, color contrast, warmth, brightness, and so much more.

The Onyx Boox Nova3 Color does what it is meant to do with elegance.

You can link text in books, write into them, have them read out, look up bits of text on the internet, and translate content without ever leaving your e-book. The Nova3 Color supports a wide array of file formats including CBR, CBZ, and ePub — one of the most popular formats that is not supported by Kindle. You can install third-party ebook apps and libraries like Scribd, Dark Horse Comics, Comixology, DC Universe, and Webtoon. Sharing e-books to and from the Onyx Boox device is easy and direct. You can even download books from your email or anywhere on the internet.

The Nova3 Color can play videos and animations, but it does the job horribly. You get a Wacom stylus and plenty of drawing and writing apps and features, but they pale in comparison to the best drawing tablets. However, this is easily forgivable in my eyes. I don't expect an e-reader with aces up its sleeve trying to pull off the duties of a flagship Android tablet. It's an e-reader first and foremost, and that's what it will always be. Everything else is an added bonus.

Onyx Boox Nova3 Color Lifestyle

Source: Onyx Boox (Image credit: Source: Onyx Boox)

To me, getting all that the Onyx Boox Nova3 Color can do for $400 is a bargain, as opposed to getting a commonplace e-reader like a Kindle and a Wacom tablet separately. That's because I am an enthusiast, not a professional. Even then, experts already have their tools of trade. This product fills in a very specific niche. After its base function as an e-reader, none of it is essential per se. But the fact that it can connect to a pair of Bluetooth earphones or speakers, work as a note-taking device, play video content, browse the interweb, sideload Android apps, and display everything in color is pretty sweet.

To me, the Onyx Boox Nova3 Color is a very clever, functional, and exciting e-reader. It isn't trying to excel at everything, but it goes above and beyond in the areas that matter. Reading books of all sorts is a delight and when I'm feeling lazy to go and get my main device, I can just as easily check my email or read an article on the internet on the Nova3 Color. That is why this colorful E Ink tablet from Onyx Boox is my favorite tech device of 2021.

Namerah Saud Fatmi
Senior Editor — Accessories

Namerah enjoys geeking out over accessories, gadgets, and all sorts of smart tech. She spends her time guzzling coffee, writing, casual gaming, and cuddling with her furry best friends. Find her on Twitter @NamerahS.