It’s rare these days that a new tech device gets me excited. That’s not to say most segments in the market have gotten boring, but many have become somewhat predictable. I was truly intrigued to get my hands on the Boox Nova Air C e-reader. This completely color e-ink tablet brings a unique feature set to the oldie, but goodie e-reader.
If you’ve held any e-reader from the last decade, the Boox Nova Air C will be familiar. You have a 7.8-inch screen with pretty symmetrical bezels on the side that offer a good footprint to grip the tablet. There’s a lone power button on the top and pogo pins for a case on the left side. On the right of the screen is a magnetic strip for holding the included stylus, while the bottom houses the USB-C charging port and two speaker grills.
Internally, you have a decent combination of 3GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage. Dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 are also present. The entire back and edges of the device is also wrapped in a nice, soft-touch coating.
This is truly the star of the Nova Air C tablet. As we mentioned the all-color panel makes this the next generation of E-ink capabilities. For years this tech was limited to only grayscale images. The on-cell Kaleido Plus screen brings a much more vibrant array of output to the Nova Air C.
The resolution is 468×624 with 100dpi in color images and can increase that to 1404×1872 with 300dpi on black and white images. Both are impressive for something without a more advanced display like an LCD or LED panel we see in other tablets.
This translates to a good, but not a great experience overall. I had high hopes for the Boox Nova Air C but found the colors to be more muted than I expected. Maybe I had pumped it up too much as my ultimate comic reader but did take some getting used to just how the images are portrayed on the screen.
Even still, the addition of color e-ink makes this a much more superior option to its predecessors without color. Documents, pictures, and comic reading are much richer with the Kaleido Plus panel. The palette contrast does lend to a better experience with your media.
However, as mentioned you just need to have certain curbed expectations. Even with this leap, the Nova Air C only allows for around 4,000 color shades while a standard LCD can push up to 16 million. It takes your eyes time to adjust to just how this is displayed and to how the pages transition.
Finally, let’s talk about the refresh rate. Boox offers three different levels that can be accessed via the quick panel in both the reading view and in the settings shade. The lowest level is ideal for standard text reading. In the middle one, I found a good medium for magazines, the web, and comics. The highest really should just be reserved if you want to attempt to watch videos (more on that in a sec).
The last mention on the display is ghosting. Even with the advancements and all that I love about the Nova Air C, it’s hard to ignore that it still struggles with fragments of the previous image still being displayed after you move to the next page.
While this isn’t much of a distraction with textbooks or even the web as much, it really dampens the experience of comic books. I consistently had a hard time moving thru the action panels due to images of the previous page bleeding thru.
Software and stylus
The Boox Nova Air C runs full Android 11 and after the initial setup, you can grant full access to the Google Play Store to really add apps to this thing. I had zero issues installing any app from the Play Store, but compatibility may be a problem with some apps not playing nice with the specific compromises the Nova Air C brings to the table.
Personally, I didn’t see many trips when using Android apps. I was easily able to add my password manager, Firefox, and my favorite comic reader without fault. I even installed YouTube, but that should come with a warning.
Even the highest refresh rates seriously struggle with any video. Will it technically play? Yes, but I’d challenge almost any nerd to sit and watch it without flipping out. You can almost see the frames per second as they move through the video. It’s more like watching an original Disney animation where you can see each transition between the images.
What does great is the included stylus. This adds even more options for taking notes, annotating PDFs, and even navigating the OS. The capacitive screen easily picks up the pen input for scrolling and handwriting. The default keyboard even has handwriting recognition to text that’s pretty solid.
The optional official Boox case can offer even more functionality. When paired through a pogo connection, you get dedicated buttons that act as volume controls with audio and video. While in a reading app, these move you through the pages without having to use the screen controls.
As you may assume, the battery life is stellar. E-ink has always excelled in this regard and the Nova Air C is no exception. Boox rates the tablet to last up to four weeks in standby mode and I’d say this is accurate. I’ve seen almost no reduction in capacity while not using the tablet.
I’d say in general use you should get around two weeks of screen time before having to charge the Nova Air C. Of course, the more you try to use it as a traditional tablet, the battery life will suffer. In mixed e-reader and web browsing, this thing should be an endurance champ.
Even if you suck at managing the battery on your own Boox has you covered. The Nova Air C will automatically power off when left idle for longer than 30 minutes. This is a great way to ensure that the next time you pick it up you have juice left.
I had high hopes for the Boox Nova Air C tablet and it largely delivered on a few of those fronts. Even with the limitations of the display, the sheer fact that color imaging is a reality on this type of device is amazing. Reading, document management, and light app usage are a joy to use on the Nova Air C.
The last hang-up for many users might be the price. At $450, the Boox Nova Air C is far past the impulse purchase. For those consumers who have been waiting on this type of experience, it’s a trend-setting device. However, many may opt for a traditional tablet at this price point.
If you are in the crowd of adding this full-color e-ink tablet to your bag, be sure to head over to the company’s website to get your order in. You can also find it at a slight discount using the Amazon link below.