Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 Review: Simple does it

ADVANTAGES:

  • Special buttons for turning pages
  • Very useful for left-handed readers
  • Runs Android 11 with Google Play Store support
  • Affordable price tag

Cons:

  • No stylus support
  • No rating for dust and water resistance
  • Not ideal for newspapers and magazines

RATING:

DURABILITY / REPAIRABILITY

QUOTE FROM THE EDITOR:

The Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 offers a powerful, no-frills eReading experience wrapped in an elegant and ergonomic package with an accessible price tag.

Our smartphones are true gateways to wonderful new worlds, and tablets are their bigger cousins ​​that can literally expand your horizons. The powerful features they offer and the colorful screens they offer provide rich experiences that perfectly suit modern lifestyles. However, they come at a high price, both literally and figuratively, especially when it comes to comfort and eye health. If you read a lot of things like books or even websites, a smartphone or even a tablet might be the worst device for you. Thankfully, eBook readers have been around for a while now, offering much-needed reprieve and a better experience that now come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 is one of the latest to join that growing army, and we’re testing it thoroughly to see if going back to basics means its victory or its downfall.

Designer: Onyx

Aesthetics

Ever since the first generations of eReaders came about through Amazon’s Kindle brand, expectations for these devices in terms of aesthetics have been pretty low. They’re generally little pieces of black plastic that are handy, portable and utterly uninspiring, designed to let you enjoy content without distraction or getting in the way. While the aim may have been good, it is assumed that book lovers don’t really pay attention to the appearance of their reading material, which is quite the opposite when you consider how much attention they pay to book covers.

Fortunately, the Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 has learned from the lessons of the past and arrives as a pretty good looking piece of hardware. Yes, it’s still plastic, which has both pros and cons, plus it’s a grubby piece of plastic. You may obsessively wipe his back very often just to maintain his pristine appearance. It has nothing in the way of decorative elements, and the only parts that literally stand out are the power button and page turn buttons. It clearly embraces the best aspects of minimalism.

It also adopts a design language now common to phones and tablets, meaning it’s mostly flat on all sides except for rounded corners. The edges are clear and clean, interrupted only by holes for the speakers, the microphones, the microSD card slot and the USB-C port. The back is completely flat too, contrary to the tendency of most eReaders to bulge out a bit. Fortunately, it does not affect comfort and practicality at all.

The BOOX Leaf 2 comes in two colors that differ in small but important ways. The black review unit we have has the E INK screen completely flush with the frame, protected by a layer of glass. This makes it trivial to wipe off any dirt or anything else that accidentally falls on the screen. On the white variant, on the other hand, the E INK panel is fully visible but recessed into the body of the device. The advantage is that there is no glare or reflection from a layer of glass that could interfere with reading.

Ergonomics

Despite their basic and almost crude appearance, eReaders have always been designed to be easy to carry and hold in one hand to make hours of reading a comfortable experience. It has remained that way except for larger devices, and the BOOX Leaf 2 happily is no different. With only a 15 gram difference in weight (the black model is heavier because of the glass), both variants are light and small enough to carry in a large pocket. Considering some of Onyx’s devices have been growing in size lately, it’s definitely a nice break and a return to the roots.

What makes the BOOX Leaf 2 even more ergonomic is that one of the edges sticks out slightly, creating an area that your hand can easily hold without accidentally touching the screen. Better still, there’s a toggle button you can press to turn pages, so you don’t have to lift your other hand to touch or swipe the screen. Admittedly, the lack of demarcation between the two halves of that button can be a little disorienting, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker.

Even better, the device has a G-sensor that can detect the orientation of the device and adjust the content accordingly. This means you can comfortably use the BOOX Leaf 2 whether you are right or left handed as you can rotate the device to where you are most comfortable rather than letting the shape dictate how you use it. This is one of the biggest shortcomings of eReaders with such “backbones”, so it’s great that Onyx has finally fixed it.

Like all E INK displays, the BOOX Leaf 2’s screen itself doesn’t emit any light, but it does have front lighting so you can read in the dark. These lights don’t shine in your direction, so your eyes don’t get tired. There are two lights, cold and warm, that you can adjust independently to mix to your taste. The contrast can also be adjusted on a per-app basis, so you can have different settings for different reading apps depending on what you’re comfortable with. All in all, the BOOX Leaf 2 lets you decide how you want to use it instead of dictating the terms.

Performance

Today’s eReaders are a far cry from the models of yesteryear when it comes to hardware and power. While not in the phone and tablet realm, the BOOX Leaf 2’s quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of expandable memory are plenty for something designed for just reading. But again, the device is definitely more than your average reading device.

It runs on Android 11, which means you can install a wide variety of apps on it, even apps that might not make sense on an eBook reader. It also supports running Google Play Store, and while it takes some extra steps to enable it, you don’t have to go out of your way to get it up and running. These two facts alone open up a whole world of content and applications for the device, including watching videos or playing mobile games. For reading, it also means you’re not tied to a single content provider and still have access to Amazon, Kobo, and other libraries of your choice.

The BOOX Leaf 2 has a 7-inch E INK Carta 1200 display with a resolution of 1680×1264, giving it a rather high pixel density of 300PPI. That means the content will always be crisp and clear, at least as far as grayscale content goes. It’s definitely a pleasure to read eBooks and manga on the device, although the size makes it less ideal for certain types of content. You will find that you have to zoom in a lot on newspapers and magazines, which can be inconvenient but certainly not unusable.

Like almost all of Onyx’s devices, the BOOX Leaf 2 offers four display modes that speed up the refresh rate at the expense of resolution and quality. For most reading content, you’ll want to be on normal mode for the best quality with a little bit of ghosting. But if you ever feel the need to watch black and white videos or play games, the highest “X” speed will suffice. The device does have two speakers and two microphones for multimedia, but these are more for recording voice notes or playing podcasts than a multimedia experience.

What the device doesn’t have is a Wacom digitizer layer, which means it doesn’t support using a stylus for taking handwritten notes or sketches. That feature has always been a perk for eReaders, though it’s become more common now that even Amazon has added it to the Kindle Scribe. It doesn’t take anything away from the BOOX Leaf 2, though, and its simplicity might even appeal to more readers, especially those on a tighter budget.

Sustainability

Due to its plastic construction, the Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 suffers from the same sins as almost all eBook readers when it comes to environmental impact. There are some eReaders, including a few from Onyx, that do use metal, but they come at the cost of adding some weight to the device. Given its goal of being a basic eReader, Onyx had to prioritize portability and price over other aspects, and we can’t really blame it.

However, what makes the overall longevity of the device a little more concerning is the lack of any kind of dust or water resistance guarantee. Given how wonderful it is to use, owners may be tempted to carry it around with them everywhere, forgetting that it may not be accident-proof. That in turn would mean repairing or replacing damaged parts, adding to the BOOX Leaf 2’s negative impact on the environment in the long run.

Where the

Onyx is one of the most prolific eReader manufacturers today, targeting almost every market segment and price point. The most recent lineup of devices has put a lot of focus on powers and functions, even going so far as to introduce a true Android tablet with an E INK display and user experience. Given that trend, some fans of the brand may have worried that Onyx had forgotten its roots and was rejecting those with simpler needs. The BOOX Leaf 2 is clear proof that this is not the case.

At $199.99, the BOOX Leaf 2 is clearly aimed at entry-level users, those who just need a no-frills eBook reader without the extra bells and whistles. At the same time, however, the device is not lacking in any features, especially when it comes to support for apps and almost every kind of digital content imaginable. As far as a comfortable and enjoyable reading experience goes, the BOOX Leaf 2 is just about spot on, and that price tag easily pays for itself over time if you’re something of a bookworm.

Verdict

It may come as a surprise, but people read a lot on their phones compared to watching videos or playing games. That includes reading the internet or social media, activities that would eventually tire the eyes, if not damage them in the long run. E INK displays are precisely designed to make reading comfortable and enjoyable, and the Onyx BOOX Leaf 2 delivers that kind of experience in an ergonomic and flexible package. Of course, we wish the device had a more durable shape and the company would take bolder steps in that direction, but other than that there are very few flaws to note about this device. Simple yet elegant, simple yet powerful, the BOOX Leaf 2 offers a well-rounded eReading device with a price tag that many will be able to reach.


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