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Old 05-18-2023, 08:39 AM   #1
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Posts: 1,993
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Ireland
Device: Onyx Poke 5
Onyx Boox Poke 5 review

As Renate's thread is more geared to the current delving into the device, I'd like to make a separate thread for some impressions.

I want to preface this saying that I've been out of the "game" for a long while. I had a Pocketbook 360, then some BQ device before they folded, then a Kindle (2016, I think? It wasn't my cuppa), more recently a Kobo Libra H2O and now this. I had been researching for a bit because I wanted a new reader and I was veering towards another Kobo, but the moment I saw this guy I knew it would be an impulse purchase.

The construction of this device is remarkable. It's one of the smallest readers I've ever seen altogether, but it packs a 6 inch screen. I appreciate the symmetrical design, and I feel that the (quite small) bezels being flush with the screen is a better choice than the more standard raised ones.

The status LED is embedded on the power button, which is a good choice in terms of maintaining the clean design but makes it significantly harder to see the LED itself: this is obviously a rather niche concern in most situations. In the same theme of keeping the device's lines as clean as possible, the company has decided to use a SIM-tray like system in order to lodge the microSD card. The only issue is that they've managed to place the card tray pretty close to the microphone slot, so be careful not to poke on the wrong place lest you damage the mic.

The only negative mark I'd give is that the back has no texture. This makes it a fingerprint magnet but, more importantly, a bit slippery on hand. I had no choice but to go for the magnetic cover as it was the only bundle in stock, but I believe it it's very much worth the surcharge because it hardly sticks to your hand otherwise.

The magnetic cover itself has rather strong magnets, and keeps the same sleekness, with the only decoration being the "BOOX" embossed next to the spine. It works reliably in my experience for enabling and disabling standby when you close or open it respectively.

Once it's been turned on, you find yourself in a heavily modified Android interface with 5 buttons on the bottom: Library, Store, Storage, Apps and Settings. By default the navigation is done via gestures, where you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The system also lets you use buttons, but given the relatively small real estate available you have I think the swipes are more sensible. You are also presented by default with a "Navigation Ball" which is supposed to offer some quick actions by making two taps: I disabled the thing right away.

On the top of the screen you find the clock on the left side, where you can check the notifications once you tap on it; the battery/Wifi/sync indicators are on the right side, and tapping there shows you a control-centre like interface where you can toggle Wifi and Bluetooth, set up the frontlight and also configure minutiae of the e-ink screen. These sorts of settings make it clear that this is a tablet first of all, coded in an environment where the developer is comfortable throwing all these settings at you.

On the Library section, you will three icons right under the notification bar: Recent (clock), Library (books), and Cloud Books (Cloud). Under the control centre you find three more buttons: Search, Reading stats (that get synced to Onyx if you don't opt out) and one which displays the three lines that typically indicate More settings.

The Store part has a rather haphazard collection of free books, and is one of the many ways to get books in here.

The Storage section has a Recent view as well as a Folder view, which is the standard. This allows you to see different kinds of files like books, pictures, audio files, fonts and APKs so that you can expand the tablet's function.

Apps is where you find the preinstalled apps. On the right side you find a bunch of icons: Search, Create Folder, Bulk Select, Sync from Cloud, Freeze, and More Settings. The "Freeze" command is unclear to me, because you can still see and run "frozen" apps so it doesn't seem to disable them. Among the apps is an App Store, which lets you get other readers than the standard one, and access some apps and subscriptions like Scribd. As mentioned before, you can download APKs outside of this store and install them as well.

On the "More Settings" button there is a button called "App Management, which among several settings for per-app presentation of the screen, refresh rate and the like, hides the important settings for the majority of us: it allows you to activate the Play Store by way of what seems like a workaround, and it also lets you activate ADB debugging if you want to push apps that way.

The Settings section has a way to activate the 10 GB Onyx Cloud account, a section with the name of the device, the MAC and the current software build, and a bunch of different settings and options, many of which are actually redundant. The most annoying one is the "Store" setting, which lets you disable the "Book Store" but doesn't take out its position on the bottom bar.

I won't comment much on the battery life because so far I haven't been using it but tinkering with it, which takes more battery life than you'd do by simply flipping pages.

I'll field any questions you have, although I'm sure you are much more acquainted with the software than I am since this is my very first Onyx product. All in all, I'm really pleased with the device as an object, and slightly less pleased with the device as a product. Still, this seems so far like a terrific buy.
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