Onyx Boox Nova 3 Color quick review



Some days ago, I quick reviewed the PocketBook InkPad color with the new Kaleido Plus display and was utterly disappointed. I absolutely love my Onyx Boox Nova Pro and use it a lot for note taking, the option of color would be quite useful for schematics. That’s why I decided to give it a try, again, hoping that Onyx Boox would have made some things better.

For more details you may read my quick PocketBook Inkpad Color review.

What are onyx boox e-readers ?

These devices are Android e-ink readers / tablets. You can activate Google services and app store to install most regular android apps and use it within the limits of e-ink displays : low refresh rate, quite low contrast but with longer battery life and a display incredibly better for your eyes. Things moving on the screen, like in video or 3D games or simply scrolling are messy, sometimes to the point of being unuseable but this is expected from an e-ink panel. 

On the other hand, quite static contents are nice to read on such a device : reading Reddit, web browsing (without video and not too many pictures, Twitter ... anything text based is good. You can install any e-reader app from any brand and read on the same e-ink tablet contents from the Kindle market as well as from Kobo or other virtual shops. But the included Neo Reader from Onyx Boox is probably the best reader for its ability to display large files and its wide settings options.

Another wonderfull aspect of these devices is their Wacom style pen support. And the amazing quality of the note taking software which lets you write like on paper. On e-ink and with minimal refresh issues. I have a new iPad Air with the Apple Pencil ... and this white stylus is not as precise and far less convenient than the Boox stylus. And anyway most of the time it’s just completely discharged. So I don’t use it. Boox stylus doesn’t even have a battery and is always ready to use.

The Nova 3 Color is just a Nova 3 with the new Kaleido Plus display

Alas, this is obviously the same new Kaleido Plus display used on the PocketBook Inkpad 3 Color, so it has exactly the same limits and my conclusion is not different.

One thing is slightly better on the Nova : the blue frontlight strength can be set to very low, low enough to let you read in dark ( the InkPad minimal setting was way too bright to be used in the dark). But it is still very blue and that’s definitively not good for night reading.

Rather than long explanations, here are some pictures showing the quite ugly truth about Kaleido Plus on the Nova 3 Color :

Black & white rendering

Display is dark :

Nova 3 color / Nova Pro no frontlight, evening light on the dinner table B&W title

Nova 3 color / Nova Pro no frontlight, evening light on the dinner table, color cover

Frontlight is extremely cold :

Nova 3 color / Nova Pro with frontlight, evening light on the dinner table, B&W manga

Nova 3 color / Nova Pro with frontlight, evening light on the dinner table, color cover

No I didn’t crank the blue frontlight too high, it’s just a very cold light

Color rendering

Colors are dull to the point of being useless under indoor evening light :

Nova 3 Color VS Nova Pro indoor, evening light on the dinner table, color cover

Even under daylight, indoor, colors are quite ugly :

Nova 3 Color VS iPad Air indoor, natural daylight, color cover

Nova Pro / Nova 3 Color / iPad Air indoor, natural daylight, color comic

Nova Pro / Nova 3 Color / iPad Air indoor natural daylight : reflection on the matte glass

 Colors are quite good under full sun

Nova Pro / Nova 3 Color / iPad Air (max brightness) indoor under direct sun, color comic 

The color e-ink panel is disappointing, not only for color but also for everything else.

We have been warned, colors are subdued and quite dull. Pictures won’t look good either because of the small number of colors and dithering. But what was not expected is that this new color panel is also a lot worse for black and white content, even text. If I compare with a modern  e-reader :

- whites are grey, significantly darker

- contrast is not as good

- there is a filter above everything that makes the display less sharp and less smooth

- frontlight makes the screen even more washed out as soon as you set it strong enough to balance the dark white

- frontlight is very blue, that's disturbing most of the time for indoor use and probably not good for your eyes and your night time reading

The benefit of color is not worth the flaws of Kaleido Plus

The only usecase that may make sense with this screen is :

- if you spend a lot of time reading comics UNDER THE SUN

- and have a very GOOD EYESIGHT because 7.8" is small for a comic

- and absolutely won’t use the tablet indoor where it’s often un-readable due to the lack of contrast and the excessively blue frontlight

For any other use, a regular black and white e-ink panel will be incredibly better and cheaper. The Nova 3 is clearly better than the Nova 3 Color.

For comics and anything with color, a good tablet will be absolutely better, even the basic iPad, with a larger screen, incredibly better colors and a very good NIGHT SHIFT setting designed to actually make the screen a lot softer to your eyes. You can dim the screen enough to read safely in quite dark places too. And you know what ? 

The basic iPad, which is an excellent device, is significantly cheaper than the Nova 3 Color.

The only case it will not be as good is under a direct bright sun, as shown in one of the pictures above.

Even for note taking, where colors would be welcome, the dirty greyish whites and the blueish frontlights are disturbing and the subdued colors somewhat frustrating and of limited use.


Kaleido e-ink color is not worthwile for most uses as it is very dull and not satisfying to see, unfit for picture watching, unfit for indoor reading.

The black and whites are significantly degraded by the color filter, making the tablet hard to use indoor.

The frontlight is so blue that colors look even more washed out and this cold light seems difficult to use when it’s most needed : indoor during the evening and even more at bed before sleep.

I sent the Nova Color back and ordered the excellent Note Air which is a wonderful device.