Onyx Boox Leaf 2 review: ebook freedom

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

So I started buying Android E Ink tablets in China and waiting for us to finally merge the flexibility of Android with Amazon’s superior design and build quality. And I’m pretty sure The New Leaf 2 at $199 from Onyx Boox does he have. This is, at least for now, my ultimate e-reader.


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

But I have interacted with real people from the (Chinese) company, received embargoes and pricing information, and have now purchased at least three different products from their website with no problem, so the Boox found on boox.com is, at least in my experience, rising and rising.

Onyx Boox has been making Android E Ink tablets for years, but they tend to be extremely expensive compared to a Kindle or Kobo. The Leaf 2’s $199 price tag is way more than you’ll pay for one Basic Kindle or even a white paper, 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 front lights, Android 11, and a microSD slot. The only thing missing is that it’s waterproof, but I don’t normally sit in a bath to read, so that’s not a deal breaker for me.

Close-up view of a microSD card slot, speaker and USB-C port.

Along the handle there’s a microSD card slot but also an oddly located USB-C port for charging. It would have been better on the bottom or the top of the device.

Its display is virtually identical to that of the latest Kindle Oasis, and text is crisp and easy to read. Black and white comics look as good as they look on an iPad, and the front light gives you the option to adjust the brightness of the warm and cool lights individually or separately so you can always adjust them to the perfect brightness for anyone. what reading situation given. (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 their less flexible eReader savvy) is its page turn buttons, which magically make it one of the best eReaders I’ve ever had. have 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 when you change hands.

Also, new to the Leaf 2, the buttons will work with just about any app, whether or not it has a built-in feature to recognize page-turning 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 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 another setting in the menu (under Side Key Settings) that lets you force other apps to recognize the page change as well. So with the Nook and Kindle app, I use the Volume Button setting, and with apps like Libby, which has no page turn function, I fall back to the Page Turn Button setting. It’s a bit finicky and can be annoying if you’re browsing through multiple apps to read on a daily basis, but it also allows me to turn pages neatly in Libby – something I haven’t been able to do before!


These buttons work surprisingly well.

As for battery life…it depends. If you have a lot of Android apps running and Wi-Fi is active, you can expect around a week or less of battery life. But turning off Wi-Fi means I usually only have to top up 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 charms me. The Leaf 2 comes with its own mediocre app store built-in, and since it’s a Chinese eReader, Google Play isn’t immediately available. But Onyx Boox provides a guide to make the Play Store work – which mainly involves registering the device with your Google account and waiting for Google’s servers to recognize its existence (in my experience this takes around two to three hours, but Onyx Boox warns that it can take up to 48 hours).

Once the store was up and running, it became a full-fledged Android E Ink tablet, and it was easy to download apps for Libby, Kindle, Barnes & Noble and even NetGalley – which runs book galleys for publishers. You can also add video apps, 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 not.

Accept to continue: Onyx Boox Leaf 2

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it – contracts that no one actually reads. It is impossible for us to read and analyze each of these agreements. But we’ve started counting exactly how many times you have to click ‘accept’ to use devices when we review them, because these are deals most people don’t read and certainly can’t negotiate.

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

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

  • Google Terms of Service
  • Google Privacy Policy

Final count: one mandatory agreement and two optional.

A real auto-download for me was EinkBro, a browser designed for E Ink. Sounds silly considering Leaf 2 comes with its own browser, but EinkBro is fast and will paginate through websites instead of forcing you to scroll – extremely useful if you’re reading a 200,000 AU word coffee on Archive of Our Own .

Besides the built-in browser, the Leaf 2 has plenty of other apps intended to make it act more like a tablet than I’d like. There’s an audio recorder, gallery, 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 never created one and didn’t miss anything as a result.

Despite the many, many caveats, and despite all the goofy built-in apps trying to portray it 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 any weird sacrifices to read what I want when I want. I have real physical buttons to press to turn the pages. The Onyx Boox Leaf 2 has finally scratched that itch I had for an ideal eReader, and I don’t see anything moving it anytime soon.

Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The edge

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