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Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 Review – The best 13.3 e-note money can buy

Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2

Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 Review – The best 13.3 e-note money can buy

The Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 is a 13.3 inch digital note taking device that was designed to read A4 documents, so it is ideal for PDF files, comics, magazines, manga and newspapers. There are some key features that really make this the best e-note that money can buy. It is utilizing one of the latest generation Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 6GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, so you can sideload in tons of content. It is running Google Android 11 and has full access to the Play Store, so millions of free and paid apps are available. The Lumi 2 really shines when used to draw and edit PDF files and ebooks. Onyx has one of the best drawing apps in the business, that is more advanced than Remarkable.

Hardware

The Max Lumi 2 features a 13.3 inch E INK Carta 1250 and Mobius display with a resolution of 2200×1650 with 207 PPI. The screen is completely flush with the bezel and there is a protective layer of PMMA glass substrate that is made of acrylic. You will be able to read at night with the front-lit display via the white LED lights, and it also has a series of amber LED lights to provide a warm candlelight effect.

There are very few E INK devices on the market that are using the new Carta 1250 display. The technology took three years of development and was only released in February. It provides e-notes with a higher higher contrast ratio. It also leverages the same updates from Carta 1200, which is a faster ink, enabling faster page turns and faster pen input, which reduces latency. Overall, performance has been increased across the board by about 20%.

The primary reason why 13.3 inch e-notes cost a lot, is because there really isn’t that many that are being made anymore. The chief benefit of buying this model is the support for A4 documents. A4 is a paper size that is used for a wide range of documents, including magazines, catalogs, letters and forms. A4 measures 210 × 297 millimeters or 8.27 × 11.69 inches. In PostScript, its dimensions are rounded off to 595 × 842 points. It is basically the same size as a standard 8.5/11 piece of paper, which means it will read PDF files natively, without having to pinch and zoom. This is also the ideal screen for replica newspapers and also digital comics.

Onyx has developed a new stylus for their latest generation hardware. It has an improved nib, which renders a close-to-paper writing experience. Ergonomic shaft with grooves can help you grip firmly. This pen is magnetic and can attach itself to the side of the Note 5 and Note Air 2, but does not attach itself to the side of the Max Lumi 2. The nibs don’t need to replaced as often, which should save some money.  The new stylus was developed in conjunction with the new writing film that is installed at the factory level. It is designed to provide some friction when writing on the display. The only other company that did something similar is Supernote, but their film depth is larger than Onyx, which means you will not be able to use ceramic nibs on the Lumi display.

Underneath the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 octo-core CPU with 6GB of RAM.  There is 128GB of internal storage, which should be enough for your PDF and ebook collection. There is no SD card to expand the storage further, but it does have access to the Onyx Boox Cloud. There are two stereo speakers on the back of the device, that are positioned near the bottom. This does not muffle sound as much as I would have thought. This provides a clear avenue to listen to audiobooks, music or podcasts, without having to utilize Bluetooth for wireless headphones or speakers. It also has USB-C OTG, so it can also support not only headphones, but also wireless accessories such as keyboards or page turn buttons.  Next to the USB port is a small microphone, this was put there to take advantage of the voice to text system in the Onyx drawing app, where you can make audio dictations and will convert it to text. It also works for voice communication apps such as Discord, Whatsapp, Facebook message or iMessage.  The dimensions are 310 × 228 × 7.9 mm and weighs 570g.

The Lumi 2 is powered by a 4300 mAh battery, which should provide a couple of weeks of constant usage. There is a fingerprint scanner to unlock your device, which should help with unauthorized access. One of the downsides of this generation is the lack of an HDMI port,  this is something that has bene a staple of the MAX franchise since the Max and then carried over to the MAX Carta, Max 2, Max 3 and Lumi 1.  I believe that Onyx decided to forgo this port because they recently released the Mira and Mira Pro dedicated E INK monitors and they did not want e-notes to compete against them and canalize their own products. However, Onyx told me that you can use software for Android, PC or MAC for the Lumi 2 to be used wirelessly as a secondary monitor, but nothing beats a dedicated HDMI port for better communication protocols.

When buy buy the Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 for the first time and take it out of the shipping box, you will be greeted by the retail packaging. The color scheme is  black on the front and sides, and has a big picture of the Lumi. On the back, there is a white color scheme and lists a bunch of tech specs, written in like 8 different languages, it provides the full breakdown on all of the key selling features. This is something that most e-reader brands don’t do. Amazon for example, never writes about what processor they are using or how much RAM a Kindle has, they say things like “battery lasts for 10 weeks.” I have often found that the bigger the company, the more marketing speak you get, whereas Onyx really hypes up exact hardware specs.

Design wise, the Lumi 2  is a black writing slate, there is no gradient color scheme, instead it is mostly piano black. This emphasis the grey screen and the bezels melt away when staring at the screen for a few minutes. This is why most e-readers are using black bezels or completely black designs. There is nothing very flashy about the Lumi 2, but that’s ok, everything is basically about the drawing experience, writing, editing PDF files etc.

Software

Onyx is heavily invested in the Google Android ecosystem for all of their devices and each major product release often provides a new version, giving users not only a modern OS, but all of the benefits, including security. The Lumi 2 is running Android 11 and has full access to the Google Play Store, and they are the only brand besides Boyue to include this for their users.  Onyx runs a custom Kernel called Boox OS, which provides a ton of benefits and software enhancements. In this release they improved the Neoreader ebook reading software. The document layout engine now has better support for faster page turns for sideloaded EPUB/TXT/DOC/DOCX files. They have also introduced a new feature called Boox Drop, which makes it easy to transfer ebooks and notes from the device to your PC and from your PC to your Boox device.

The note taking app also has some new improvements, which helps make it a better creative tool. There is customized pen brush slot,  which you can establish your own pen layout and save it to the toolbar. There is also vector export, after you finish drawing, you can export it as a vector quality layout, for further editing on your PC with professional design software. Onyx Boox has made some software optimizations to some third party drawing apps. They have reduced the latency and improved stylus interactions with Onenote, Evernote and WPS, which now make them an extremely viable alternative to Onyx’s own drawing app.  This is sort of what they did with the Kindle app a couple of years ago, where they eliminated the animated page turns, making it easier to use the app. The 3.2 update is available not only the Lumi 2, but also Note 5 and Note Air 2. Onyx told me that they will be porting this over to their previous generation sometime in November.

The home screen is likely going to be the first thing that you see, and where you will spend most of your time. The UI is based on the sidebar and has icons that link to the bookstore, library, notes, storage, apps, and settings. On the settings menu there is a notification to signup for the Onyx Boox Account login, which provides 5GB of notes sync and cloud services, also it lists the serial number, mac address and what firmware it is running on. You can configure all sorts of options here, including Bluetooth devices and WIFI networks. Although this has a fingerprint scanner, you can also establish a password to lock or unlock it, and also run calibration and gesture processes.

The library is your default screen, it basically lists all of the content on your device, if you just bought it, this will be blank, unless you download content from the Boox Store, or sideload in your own content. You can sort books by format, author, date, and browse by list view or image view. The Store is primarily populated with royalty free books, such as the ones you would find on Project Gutenberg, they are all free and don’t cost any money.

Onyx runs their own app store, but it is barebones and they only have 48 apps to download. Although, they do provide enough to get you started. They have Kindle, KOREADER, Overdrive Libby, VIZ Manga and a bunch of others in the News, Study, Tools and Work categories. You will likely want to get Google Play to access a a wide variety of others, but it is not installed by default. You have to do a bunch of things in the settings menu and then reboot your device, we have a video tutorial that walks you through this entire process.  Notes leads you to the note taking experience and files is basically just a file manager app.

If you drag your finger down from the top, center of the screen or simply tap it, there is a dropdown menu that appears. This is quickly where you can establish a WIFI or Bluetooth connections, lock the orientation, to landscape or portrait mode or adjust the front-light or color temperature system via slider bars. Next to that is a volume slider. There are all sorts of icons here, to launch Miracast or a recording feature, that will record anything you do on the screen or initiate split screen view.

There is a brand new option on the Lumi 2, that it is not available on any other model. This is called E INK Center and it provides a number of advanced customizations. Dark color enhancement, which makes all of the blacks lighter or darker, depending on how you want your device to look. Light Color Enhancement basically emphasizes all of the greyscale, whether you want this lighter or darker.  You can think of these as global contrast settings, some users will really want to tweak these settings to get your ideal screen layout. E INK Center also provides quick access to the speed mode system, such as Normal Mode, which is the default. Speed Mode, which slightly degrades image quality and increases performance. A2 mode is typical for almost all e-readers and tablets. X-Mode is something very compelling, this is where you can actually do some light gaming and watching YouTube videos, although they still have framerate issues. I found that X-Mode is ideal for streaming music, podcasts or audiobooks from dedicated apps, like Spotify.

Persistently all over every screen, menu and UI element is a floating ball. This provides quick access to core functionality, and you can drag/position it wherever you want it on the screen. There are default things, but you can add in your own,  or disable it altogether. All of the settings on this ball are really redundant, and I disable it as soon as possible. This is because there is text next to the entries, and it is really hard to read, even on a 13.3 inch display.

On a pure software level, Onyx provides something that few in the e-reader and e-note industry can match. They always push out firmware updates to solve existing bugs and introduce new features. Each new generation has a new version of Boox OS, which has things not found on any other device, likely they do this to encourage people to  upgrade to the latest and greatest, although over time, they do push it out to older devices. I think overall, Google Play is a huge benefit, which should provide enough of an incentive for people to switch to Onyx, instead of going with a Supernote or Remarkable, which do similar things, but they are basically locked down ecosystems, whereas Onyx is more fluid.

Note Taking

Drawing is really where the Lumi 2 Shines and it all starts with the Note taking app. It has two main UI bars, one on the side and one at the top. The top bar is where you are going to make adjustments on what type of writing utensil you wish to employ. Options include: brush, pencil, pen, ballpoint ben and highlighter. Each one has 16 different shades, including very dark and ranges to very light. Although this is not a color e-note, it does have red, green and blue, which are only seen in color when the note is exported as a PNG or PDF file. You can create multiple pen templates on the UI, and quickly switch between them. For example, you could have a pen, with black lines and create a pencil with light lines, and just click between them, you can basically create 5 total.

Not matter what writing tool you are going to be selecting the Boox Pen Plus has 4,096 degrees of pressure sensitivity, which is fairly standard. The harder you press, the thicker the lines become. This is great tool for not only the average user, but also graphics, character or environmental artists.

The side bar can quickly become overwhelming with the sheer number of options. For example you can click on the lines icon and do 8 different lines, in addition to 6 geometric shapes, which can be imported into the document and resized. There are also various eraser functions, which is useful because the stock pen does not have an eraser button. There are lasso tools, text, AI (speech to text or handwriting to text) You can import in image files, do a full page refresh and tons of other things. You can actually configure the toolbar with things you use often and remove less often features.

One of the best features is the layering system. You can create 5 total layers, which is really useful if you are drawing with fine detail. Layer 1 can be a house, Layer 2 can be the hill, layer 3 can the sky, layer 5 can be fine details, and you can edit/erase/import things into each layer. This also ensures that you can get very detailed on what you want to do, this is very similar to Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

Notes also play a strong element in side by side view or split screen view. You can decide what you want on one side of the screen, such as a PDF file, app, web browser or anything else and have the note taking on the other side, so you can take notes or make references. You can also have 2 PDF Files side by side, or even two apps. I like being able to have 1 PDF open, in two page spread, in landscape mode, and being able to edit that PDF file with all of the drawing options.

Speaking of PDF files, if you are using the stock Neoreader, there are all sorts of options to make them look really good. You can embolden, sharpen image, bleach a watermark, dark color enhancement, change the contrast,  split screen view, access the table of contents or just jump to another page. It also has an OCR mode, which is excellent.

We will be doing an advanced note taking video and embedding it into this review when we are done, this should take a couple of weeks, although our review video at the end of this post, should provide everything you need to understand all of the core functionality. I really think that the Lumi 2 is one of the best e-notes in the world, in terms of options you can access for ebooks, PDF files and for drawing. Things can sometimes get overwhelming if you have never had an e-note before, or are switching brands, but there are a enough advanced options to really take customizations to a new level.

Wrap Up

The Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2 is the most powerful e-note in the world and nothing else comes close. From the processor to the RAM to the internal storage, there is enough to handle the most demanding tasks. Access to the Play Store cannot be understated, there are virtually no other e-notes out there that have it and this has built a very strong loyalty to the Boox brand as a whole.

Should you buy the Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2? There are some compelling reasons. There is basically only one other 13.3 inch on the market, the Fujitsu Quaderno A4, which is very good in its own right, but does not have all of the advanced features as the Lumi 2, but this is a good thing, it is more accessible to the average user and for businesses who want to replace paper in their office. It offers very similar features to the discontinued Sony Digital Paper. On the download, with the global EPD and chip shortages, the Quaderno is in short supply, but things should get better in December or January.

The Lumi 2 is a good upgrade if you have an older MAX, such as the 2 or 3. If you are a LUMI 1 user, there might not be enough reasons to spent almost $900 for more RAM, faster Snapdragon processor, more storage and a higher version of Android, well, actually, I would recommend that too!

If you are looking for a solid e-note that is geared towards A4 documents, there is nothing more customizable or advanced as the Lumi 2. If you buy it from Good e-Reader, you get a free case and stylus. It “>retails for $879.99 from the Good e-Reader Store.

Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2

$879.99

Onyx Boox Max Lumi 2

Pros

  • Powerful Hardware
  • 128 GB of internal storage
  • Best Note taking experience
  • Giant 13.3 inch screen
  • Google Android 11 and Google Play

Cons

  • NO SD
  • NO HDMI
  • Things are can get very advanced
  • Stock bookstore is underwhelming
  • Setting up Google Play is challenging

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