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Old 08-13-2016, 08:07 PM   #1
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Onyx Boox M96 to N96ML upgrade impressions

Hello eink addicts,

I thought I would share my feelings with those of you who are also thinking about an upgrade from M96 to N96ML.

As usual flawless ordering process and communication with Ereader Store, the reader arrived after 3 days within Europe (I waited with ordering for the reader's status to become 'in stock').

Some of the differences may be to do with the versions of firmware my devices run on. My M96 is on 2014-10-16 while the N96ML on 2016-05-31. I can see in Ereader Store there is a 2016-07-02 upgrade for both devices. Will soon update it on both units and see what happens.

Until then this is how I feel after owning N96ML for 2 days compared with M96 for 2 years

Positives hardware:
+ Has light (more about the light in the next post).
+ Larger pen more comfortable to hold and harder to lose (I can also scratch my back properly now, some places couldn't reach before).
+ The tip of the fat stylus is kind of less scratchy, has a bit rubbery feel to it, I think it's better than the skinny one.
+ You can enter scribbling mode with a button on a side of the pen and use springy end of it like a real eraser.
+ The skinny pen also works.
+ The reader comes with much nicer case that puts it to sleep after closing.
+ More modern look with rounded corners and nice matte finish, the reader has a real quality feel to it now.
+ Nicer and with better tactile feedback physical buttons.

Positives software:
+ More options in the 'Library': filtering, tagging etc.
+ I get the feeling the 'Scribbler' app works faster now (adding new page, closing etc.), but see 'Negatives' for more.
+ Nicer implementation of the eraser in 'Scribbler' app - you get more feedback on how far it goes.
+ Notes in 'Scribbler' can now be exported, although only to separate PNG files (no PDF option).
+ You can now add custom names to notes in 'Scribbler'.
+ English dictionary works in 'Neo PDF Reader' out of the box.
+ Highlighting PDFs in 'Neo PDF Reader' can now be rendered as highlight or underline, I prefer highlight but it's nice to have a choice.
+ The scribble menu in 'Neo PDF Reader' can be temporarily taken out of the way when scribbling at the bottom of the page.
+ The menu in 'Neo PDF Reader' got improved a little, but still no user customisation possible.
+ 'Table of Contents' of 'Neo PDF Reader' opens on the page showing the area where you are currently at in the book.
+ Hyperlinks now work within PDFs.

Negatives hardware:
- No more 5-way joystick so no way to use the reader without a stylus.
- No more physical volume buttons.
- The fat stylus is more expensive.
- The on/off switch located at the bottom of the unit too easy to accidentally press.
- The pen holder/loop together with the pen are exposed when the case is closed. Can get damaged or lost when, for example, taking out of a backpack.
- The fat pen difficult to calibrate (default calibration is not accurate).
- Calibration process needs to be improved (works with the skinny one perfectly but you don't get one).
- Because of the calibration differences you can use only one kind of pen at a time.
- Nowhere to store the skinny stylus (no place in the case, and no place inside the reader).

Negatives software:
- Dropbox won't install.
- No backlight on/off indicator on the system bar - you can't tell if it's on or off during a day.
- Stroke rendering doesn't have that nice effect of gradual changes of thickness any more. I thought it was a really cool trick to achieve this without hardware pressure sensing, but sadly seems to have been removed.
- Tapping on battery icon does not show percentage left any more. However, you can show it on the status bar in 'Neo PDF Reader'.
- Strange 'Scribbler' app behaviour - the doodles are not saved immediately. If you scribble a lot, then close and open the document, you will see... nothing much. That's because, presumably, 'Scribbler' hasn't managed to dump all your doodles to the database yet or something like that. Makes me wondering what happens when you turn off or put the device to sleep before the reader managed to save your scribbles.
- In 'Neo PDF Reader' eraser turns itself off after a single use.

Last edited by machinogodzilla; 08-21-2016 at 04:04 PM. Reason: updated
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Old 08-13-2016, 11:56 PM   #2
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How's the light? Too dim? Not strong enough? OK and with no issues? Adequate? Not adequate?

Thanks.
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Old 08-16-2016, 01:18 PM   #3
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I found pre-processing files MUCH better than relying on this crappy onyx/ereader software to do the job (e.g. with k2pdfopt). I'm surprised you trusted them again I've lost all hope after 2 years of waiting.
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Old 08-17-2016, 06:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drib View Post
How's the light? Too dim? Not strong enough? OK and with no issues? Adequate? Not adequate?
Heh, I forgot to mention the main reason for upgrading in my lists Light sensitivity will differ from one person to another but here are my thoughts. There are 10 increments.

[+] In complete darkness, level 1 is enough for reading I believe. I think it is a good minimum setting. I don't think anyone will need to go beyond level 5.

[+] With a dimmed light on around I feel level 5 provides adequate brightness for reading. Level 10 is quite bright but not very bright, it doesn't make me squint. I wish the glow was a bit warmer but it's not too bad.

[-] Unfortunately you don't get direct access to the light setting. You have to open a menu, tap on the lightbulb icon, and then you can adjust brightness. Too complicated to my taste. The brightness option should be added to the top menu bar and also serve as an indicator whether the light is on or off. Luckily somewhere in the settings you can set it to stay off when the reader is turned on or awaken, regardless whether it was on or off before the reader was turned off.

[-] My unit has this line of brighter light around the bottom left corner. I'm sure I'll get used to it because it's not that much brighter or very visible but it is noticeable. I would understand if this bright line stretched all the way from one corner to another, but it's not, just that bit on the left. I would classify it as a minor defect that shows that the assembly process has room for improvement. Has anyone got bright line on the right? Or any lucky people here with no line?

Here is a photo taken from the angle your eyes are unlikely to be at while reading just to highlight what I mean:



Hope this helps Dr. Drib.

Quote:
Originally Posted by doktorek View Post
I found pre-processing files MUCH better than relying on this crappy onyx/ereader software to do the job (e.g. with k2pdfopt). I'm surprised you trusted them again I've lost all hope after 2 years of waiting.
I guess you refer to the missing Auto-Crop. Well, what I find crappy is that this fine feature was removed, it works very well in M96 in my opinion. Why would they take it away? If I remember correctly, this feature was also missing in i86.

Good there are ways around it, thanks for the suggestion, but I'd rather just drop the files on the reader without extra hassle which is possible with M96. I use it daily for taking notes and reading. I learnt how to live with its hiccups and it's my best buddy in the office now, despite not being perfect.

Last edited by machinogodzilla; 08-21-2016 at 04:06 PM.
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Old 08-18-2016, 04:59 AM   #5
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On i86 onyx neo reader there is an autocrop option, it is hidden under navigation > more , or something like that. It might be the same on the m96ml

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Old 08-18-2016, 10:20 AM   #6
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Thank you, machinogodzilla, for the detailed information on the light and for your impressions and thoughts on it.

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Old 08-19-2016, 09:46 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by machinogodzilla View Post
I guess you refer to the missing Auto-Crop. Well, what I find crappy is that this fine feature was removed, it works very well in M96 in my opinion. Why would they take it away?

Good there are ways around it, thanks for the suggestion, but I'd rather just drop the files on the reader without extra hassle which is possible with M96. I use it daily for taking notes and reading. I learnt how to live with its hiccups and it's my best buddy in the office now, despite not being perfect.
Yeah, taking it away doesn't make sense, maybe it's just a bug, like many others. I'm glad it worked for you on M96, it never worked correctly for me, though. It used to work for a few pages, then crop too much on one side (eating out part of the text) etc. Completely unpredictable. I'd tried to live with it too, but one day I had enough.
It seems that these companies just don't have enough time/resources to do a decent job, shortly after release there are plans for a successor, focus shifts and we're left with a half-assed software. Wish there was some alternative like cyanogenmod etc. on the phones. Then we could care less about the software and just look for a best hw.
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Old 08-20-2016, 05:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nivieru View Post
On i86 onyx neo reader there is an autocrop option, it is hidden under navigation > more , or something like that. It might be the same on the m96ml
It's the same in the m96. Auto-crop dissapeared somewhere around 1.7.2, but you can go to Navigation > More Settings > [first row - crop image]
The setting on the far left is actually auto-crop.

Using various combinations of the boxes in the navigation menu can get you pretty good results without pre-processing. I usually just auto-crop the file and read on.

All these devices use similar firmware so it's probably the same in n96ml. Many things changed on the m96 since 2014-10-16 update. From what I see all (or most) of the things mentioned by machinogodzilla under "Positives software" got implemented in the m96 updates as well.

@machinogodzilla, did you experience any changes in the speed of the device? Do the pages change any quicker, etc.?
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Old 08-21-2016, 05:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doktorek View Post
It seems that these companies just don't have enough time/resources to do a decent job, shortly after release there are plans for a successor
It's probably true, but in all fairness, the updates do keep coming. The process isn't perfect (regression bugs, no official update channel, release notes from Google Translate, OTA updates not sure if fixed yet, destructive updates etc.) but if not Onyx then who? I'm grateful to Onyx and their distributors such as Booxtor that they keep working on these niche devices with whatever resources they can afford. I also want better software and hardware but have to be realistic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosa_WM View Post
It's the same in the m96. Auto-crop dissapeared somewhere around 1.7.2, but you can go to Navigation > More Settings > [first row - crop image] The setting on the far left is actually auto-crop.
Thanks for that! Apart from what you said I also had to select the very last icon in the menu to perform auto-crop (everything with a dot on it has to be selected):



Actually, the meaning behind all these icons is described in the manual (page 20) which I didn't bother to read So, another plus, the manual has improved!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosa_WM View Post
@machinogodzilla, did you experience any changes in the speed of the device? Do the pages change any quicker, etc.?
Nothing noticeable I'm afraid. The spec hasn't changed, from what the system reports the RAM is now 1GB, the storage 16GB but the cpu exactly as in M96 - Freescale i.MX 6SoloLite.

Onyx tried some tricks with the software, but it may not be news for you since you are on newer firmware. For example, now when you want to quit Neo you get asked if you want to go 'home' or really 'quit', the difference being from my observation, 'home' will let it run in the background and slowly write changes (scribbles, highlights etc.) to the memory, while 'quit' will kind of freeze the device until all the changes have been stored, so that you can safely power off the device. Similar approach with the 'Scribbler', that's why I wrote it behaves funny now, but you can go and do something else instead of waiting now.


Update


Positives hardware:
+ Has light.
+ The skinny pen also works.

Positives software:
+ Hyperlinks now work within PDFs.

Negatives hardware:
- The fat pen difficult to calibrate (default calibration is not accurate).
- Calibration process needs to be improved (works with the skinny one perfectly but you don't get one).
- Because of the calibration differences you can use only one kind of pen at a time.
- Nowhere to store the skinny stylus (no place in the case, and no place inside the reader).

Negatives software:
- No more 'Auto-Crop' feature in 'Neo PDF Reader'. (Auto-Crop was moved to Navigation menu)
- Dropbox won't install.

Last edited by machinogodzilla; 08-21-2016 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 08-21-2016, 05:47 PM   #10
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- Dropbox won't install.
For dropbox support I use autosync
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Old 08-26-2016, 12:06 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by machinogodzilla View Post
It's probably true, but in all fairness, the updates do keep coming. The process isn't perfect (regression bugs, no official update channel, release notes from Google Translate, OTA updates not sure if fixed yet, destructive updates etc.) but if not Onyx then who? I'm grateful to Onyx and their distributors such as Booxtor that they keep working on these niche devices with whatever resources they can afford. I also want better software and hardware but have to be realistic.
I wish they would just open source the stack and let us freely update the device. It's not like there is some magic intellectual property in the software, especially that they already use Android which is probably 95% of the SW part. Looking into the past, I believe community would do a much better job, like it did with my phone or my mp3 player.

I'm fine if they work on their official version etc. for regular consumers, but why not let the rest work their way. They wouldn't lose anything. I'm really buffled that after 2+ years my reader has still problems with READING a book. I use no features, just reading and yet it still fails quite often (stucking, freezing, forgetting the page I last read etc.). Isn't that ridiculous for a device whose sole role should be reading?

I'm realistic, I'm fine with the HW actually. Maybe not super fast etc. but it's ok. It's just the software that sucks big time and I don't believe it gonna change (soon m96 will be off the shelf, same as m92 was etc. and we will get 0 updates)
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Old 12-31-2016, 10:18 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doktorek View Post
I wish they would just open source the stack and let us freely update the device. It's not like there is some magic intellectual property in the software, especially tha

t they already use Android which is probably 95% of the SW part. Looking into the past, I believe community would do a much better job, like it did with my phone or my mp3 player.

I'm fine if they work on their official version etc. for regular consumers, but why not let the rest work their way. They wouldn't lose anything. I'm really buffled that after 2+ years my reader has still problems with READING a book. I use no features, just reading and yet it still fails quite often (stucking, freezing, forgetting the page I last read etc.). Isn't that ridiculous for a device whose sole role should be reading?

I'm realistic, I'm fine with the HW actually. Maybe not super fast etc. but it's ok. It's just the software that sucks big time and I don't believe it gonna change (soon m96 will be off the shelf, same as m92 was etc. and we will get 0 updates)
a-reader device is not a Tablet, but some makers (Onyx, Pocketbook) think just put an e-ink screen + Anfroid is enougth for the Job,, so if their applications are buggy , so the community will do the job.
I own N96ML, 450€ is a lot of money, i am an epub-reader, formatt 9,7 is perfect to read epub and some PDF format, in PDF format N96ML do the job, not in epub format!.
Only Sony anderstand what electronic reading is, but Sony stopped development!
Sorry for poorr english!
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