Boox Tab Mini C VS Kobo Colour VS Inkpad Color 3 : color e-ink mayhem


Tab Mini C was released by Onyx Boox some monthes ago. I wasn’t interested in color e-ink anymore after the huge disappointment of the Nova Color and the PocketBook Inkpad Color. So I skipped this device. Since then, Kobo has just released the Libra Color I wanted to try. I ordered it and got the Pocketbook Inkpad color 3 too for comparison.

Read : cross review Kobo Libra Colour VS Inkpad Color 3

The Kobo is an unexpected disappointment but the PocketBook is interesting as it offers colors that can prove worth the losses in contrast and clarity of the Kaleido tech. As you may already know, this color tech produces panels which are darker than black and white ones. The use of integrated light is needed most of the time. You should be aware that colors are still dull too, but can be much better than on the previous generation - with the right device.

As the PocketBook was more convincing than expected, I ordered a Boox Tab Mini C in order to compare and choose as wisely as possible. I wrote this comparison to help you get an idea too as most reviews seem to take a great care to avoid direct display comparison.

I have no partnership at all with any brand and don’t earn any money with this blog. I actually pay for my devices and am free to express my opinion.

1/ Boox has the best display, Kobo is the worst

- Best colors : Boox Tab Mini C (but it’s still quite dull)

Colors are dull on every Kaleido 3 devices but there are big discrepencies between brands and models. Kobo colors are so washed out that its worthless in my opinion. You mainly get grey shades with a light touch of color. It’s as disappointing as the previous Kaleido generation. It gets a bit better under direct sun or very strong and well oriented lights.

PocketBook colors are clearly more vivid (but still dull from a general point of view). Alas saturation is too heavily reinforced, crushing many shades, removing details and creating false colors on grey parts.

Boox colors are much better. As vivid as possible with Kaleido 3 but significantly better scaled to the limited color range of this tech. Shades and subtle details are much better preserved. Default settings are perfectly fine and you can custom the color rendering with several sliders … which are not really obious to figure out, I must confess.

- Best integrated light : Boox

Kobo Libra Colour light is a mess for two reasons :
- it’s never neutral, you will find it either too blue or too pink
- it clearly washes out blacks and dark colors. This is a hardware issue and no update can make it better.

Inkpad Color 3 light is a lot more neutral and doesn’t washes out the picture but it it’s not strong enough in some situations, to actually compensate for the darker display.

Tab Mini C has the best light, not as pink as the Kobo, giving more neutral whites. It’s stronger than the PocketBook. It doesn’t washes out dark tones like the Kobo except if you set it much too high for your environment.

- Rainbow effect

Can you spot the subtle rainbow on the table on the Kobo ?

The Kobo reader often shows a strange rainbow effect on greys. This is supposed to come from the filter in charge of color display, the Color Filter Array. This mildly annoying oddity is not as common or as strong on the PocketBook and the Boox but can still be spotted from time to time. The Kobo does have a setting to reduce this rainbow effect but it doesn’t seem to work at all … and activating it makes the text fuzzy and practically unreadable.

> Boox Tab Mini C has the best display without contest. Colors are quite vivid, details better preserved and rainbow effect is a bit less visible. The light system is better balanced and can be more powerful. Kobo has the worst colors, extremely dull and the worst light : it’s pink-ish and it washes out the display.

2/ Black & white reading 

- Display is darker than on a black & white e-reader
- There is a very subtle texture made of thin diagonal lines on all Kaleido 3 display
- Integrated light can actually compensate the darker display on the Boox
- Oddly, the Kobo display seems a bit darker and pink-ish even light off 
- Much larger battery on the Boox lets you use a lot the light without fear for your battery life
- Default fonts on the Boox and the PocketBook are not great but you can add new fonts.
- Like the Kobo, the Boox lets you fine tune fonts rendering to get it darker, thicker, easier to read.

> If you plan to read mainly Black and white content, it’s better to get a black & white device as the color ones are darker. The integrated light can compensate this issue but it’s really practical only on the Boox, with a large battery and the best light, this is the only device which will give you a satisfying experience close enough to a black & white one.

3/ Mangas and comics reading

- Text is easier to read on the Boox.

Boox does manage pictures in a much better way than the other devices in this review. On most devices, thin dark lines tends to be smoothed in a way which displays it weaker, but not on the Boox. Text in images is more readable on the Tab Mini C, even thin text, which is rendered like on a paper manga.

- Better pictures on the Boox

Red color is more vivid on the PocketBook but details in the outfit are gone

With a better color management, fewer rainbow effect, a better text rendering and a much better integrated light which doesn’t washes out dark tones and can be strong enough to compensate for the darker display, Boox is clearly the best option for manga and comics reading. On every device, red colors are closer to a brick color than actual red, this is one of the limits of Kaleido 3.

- A better reading experience on the Boox
It is worth noting the Boox is a much more powerful device, allowing a faster navigation, a more efficient zoom, better display options and more customization options. Right to left reading is available. Double page is available too but not automatically when you tilt the device, you will need to activate it in the menu.

The Boox is more open, reading efficiently more formats
More formats are available and actually useable than on the other two readers. Kindle’s AZW3 is perfectly managed as long it’s not DRM protected. The Boox PDF engine is the best and by far. As the Boox is an Android tablet you can install other reading apps like Kindle to read DRM protected books.

Double the storage on the Boox
Boox Tab Mini C 64Gb storage capacity is large and more than enough to keep a lot of mangas and comics. It’s twice what offers the Kobo and PocketBook devices. Still no SD car extension slot, unfortunately.

- 7,8" is perfect for mangas
Kobo’s 7" display is too small for mangas, 7.8" is much better but still a bit small for full size comics or some very detailed large size mangas.

> The best device for mangas and small comics is clearly the Boox Tab Mini C. Best colors, best light, best text display, best compatibility, best zoom, right to left mode, double page … PocketBook could have been good too but without double page, without right to left and with an unuseable zoom it’s hard to recommend. Kobo Libra Color is unfortunely not fit to the task because of the display too small and frankly disappointing.

4/ Notes and stylus : Books are the best

PocketBook doesn’t support stylus notes. Its note system is extremely limited.

There is an optional stylus for the Kobo Libra Colour, which I didn’t buy, because the total price would have reached 300€. Hence I cannot talk about Kobo’s notes system. Given the overall Kobo software it’s probably best to keep our expectations reasonably low. I can only hope they integrated a notes function which can be simple but efficient, a bit like Amazon with the Kindle Scribe.

The Tab Mini C comes with a stylus but costs about 450€. Boox are the specialists of handwriten notes on e-ink since many years. They use a very powerfull software and writing with their devices is extremely fast and feels natural like writing on paper. Color is a real bonus for schematics and highlights. There is a background text recognition which can be activated. It will index any word you write without replacing it with typed text but will let you search for words in all your handwriten notes. This is magic. There is a regular text recognition option too. Export possibilities are very extensive. Note taking is perfectly integrated to the reading experience and lets you annotate books, take separate notes in a shared screen mode … this is a real productivity tool.

read my review of the Boox Note Air

There is no debate, Boox has certainly the best note solution but maybe for basic needs the Kobo could be an interesting option.

5/ Text to speech only on Boox and PocketBook

Kobo doesn’t offer text to speech, they want to sell their audio books, same for Amazon on their Kindles.
PocketBook uses a very good TTS solution to read aloud any text in a book. It sounds more natural than the Boox but makes a lot more errors too. 
Boox uses Google voice services which are more reliable and maintain a good voice quality. Once again, the Boox is a more powerful device, with a more powerful software and the best text to speech system.

6/ UI and software

Software is more powerfull on the Boox
How a user interface looks is mainly a matter of taste. I prefer Kobo’s beautifull interface. It’s focused on reading and stay pleasant but practical.
PocketBook’s software is not as beautifull. It’s a bit slow and frankly limited.
Boox is an Android tablet with a dedicated laucher and apps. It’s very customizeable and designed for e-ink. Many options give you a lot of freedom but a lot of settings too … which tends to make the device more complex to use and less reading focused.

Child mode on the boox
Boox offers a dedicated child mode to let you track and limit reading time as well as limit what books are available for kids, well done !

Best build : Boox, best design : PocketBook
Kobo’s build quality is good but the device feels a bit cheap and design is bland. PocketBook’s design is much more interesting and build quality seems a bit better. The Tab Mini C design is extremely bland but this devise offers the best build quality. It’s made of glass and metal. It’s heavier too.

7/ Freedom and privacy : PocketBook is the best

A Kobo account is mandatory
At the first start of a Kobo reader you will be prompted to sign in or log in to a Kobo account. You cannot use their devices without that. PocketBook and Boox let you free to use an account or not. You just start your device. Of course an account is needed for their book stores or sync options but you can perfectly enjoy your device without these functions.

Kobo store can be obnoxious
Kobo store is deeply integrated in the device software and you cannot completely hide it or its suggestions. They sell you a reader ton sell you books after that. With PocketBook and Boox you don’t need the shop, you can remove its shortcut and see only your books. You can even forget they have a bookstore.

Boox suspicious data upload
Some users have proven that Boox devices regularly send some data to the company servers based in China. There is no more information and Boox hasn’t commented on this. It could perfectly be about device usage statistics as well as anything else. This is a problem. But nothing proves that Kobo and PocketBook doesn’t do the same.

8/ Conclusion

I was quite happy to get the Libra Colour but ended quickly disappointed by it’s frankly awfull display. PocketBook reader is much better on this aspect but is too limited software wise. Boox Tab Mini C mixes a quite good display quality with a powerfull and versatile software. I finally returned both the Kobo and PocketBook devices.

Now I can say I finally enjoy a color e-ink device. I will probably sell my Kindle Paperwhite which is a very fine device but without color and text to speech.

Kobo Libra Colour is a mess
Kobo’s display is so bad this device won’t be good enough either for black and white content and color content. It’s only quality is the low price. But frankly, a Libra 2 is a much better device.

PocketBook software is too limited
The display is decent and colors more interesting but the software is definitively not up to the task. It’s too limited and slow. The integrated light is not bright enough. Manga reading is frustrating because of the limited software.

Boox Tab Mini C delivers for text and mangas
Display is quite good too but with a much better color management, a more versatile integated light and a larger battery to actually compensate for the kaleido darker screens. Software is powerfull and versatile, offering incredible possibilities. However with more power … more complexity, because this is an Android tablet. This is the most expensive device in this comparison but given its power, built quality, integrated stylus, double storage capacity and its incredible versatility the price can clearly make sense.