Onyx Boox Poke 3 e-reader Review
The Onyx Boox Poke 3 is designed to be a dedicated e-reader and doesn’t have any note taking functionality. The lack of a WACOM screen really drives down the price, making it an affordable option. The big selling points, is that it is the first six inch device that has full access to Google Play and has a modern OS, Android 10. If you do business with Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble or other online digital retailer, you can simply install their app and read all of the ebooks you have purchased from them in the past. If borrowing is your jam, you can install Overdrive, Libby, RB Digital and many other library apps from around the world.
The Poke 3 features a 6 inch E INK Carta HD capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1448×1072 and 300 PPI. It has a glass based screen that is flush with the bezel. The glass is really durable, making it easier to carry with you. It comes with a free case, so it adds an extra layer of protection.
It has a great front-lit display with white LED lights, that provide a great reading experience when in dark rooms. There are amber LED lights, they provide a warm candlelight effect, so you can read at night, and help mute the white light. This is ideal if you are sleeping with a partner and don’t want to disturb them with a bright white light. There are 10 LED lights total, 5 white and 5 amber.
Underneath the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, 2GB of DDR4X RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The Poke 3 now has a USB-C OTG port to power and transfer documents. It also has Bluetooth 5.0 to connect up wireless headphones or an external speaker. It has a microphone and powered by a respectable 1,500 mAH battery. On the software side of things it has Android 10 and Google Play, so there is no shortage of apps to install. If you are new to Onyx Boox, I recommend Moon+ Reader, Overdrive Libby for library books and Libovox for free audiobooks.
How is the Poke 3 different from the Poke 2? It has a faster Snapdragon processor and DDR4X RAM. It has USB-C, whereas the old version had Micro USB, these older ports tend to break the more you attach and detach the cable . Bluetooth has also been upgraded from 4 to 5 and it supports both analog and digital audio, which primarily just applies to USB-C based headphones, digital provides better audio quality, but the headphones are normally more expensive.
The overall color scheme of the Poke 3 is black. It has a two tone bezel. Surrounding the bezel is piano black and on the bottom is a very dark grey, this is where the home button is. The back of the device is a one tone black. At the very top is a power button and status indicator light, on the bottom is a USB-C port and microphone port. The microphone is not only used for voice chat, but also video chat, through apps like Discord.
The Poke 3 retails for $189.99 and it competes against many other six inch e-readers. This includes the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Nia, Barnes and Noble Glowlight 3, Tolino Shine and other devices such as the Bookeen Diva. All of these other devices have a digital bookstore, so it only makes sense to buy the Nook, if you have had other Nooks in the past, or a Kindle if you have bought the vast majority of your audiobooks and ebooks from the Amazon ecosystem. The Poke 3 basically is reliant on apps, so if you have split your purchases from many other retailers in the past, you can read all of them. If you have earlier models, from any of these brands, the Poke 3 has killer hardware and specs, so it will outperform most of the modern e-readers. The Poke 3 is the only one on this list that has Google Play right on it, making it a very compelling value proposition.
The Onyx Boox Poke 3 does not have a vanilla Android 10 experience, instead it is going Boox OS, which is basically a skinned version of Android. They have their own unique Launcher, which makes it ideal for E INK screens. There are tons of features that come directly from Android, such as pull down notifications, and pull down options, such as Bluetooth, WIFI, Airplane mode. Some advanced options exist on this e-reader that is indicative just to Onyx products. You can screencast to your PC, adjust the contrast, speed mode and split screen view. Contrast is a neat feature, you can deepen the blacks, so they are more pronounced, or make everything lighter. There is also a manual refresh button. You can also adjust the luminosity of the front-lit display and color temperature system, which both have individual slider bars. You can just have the white LED lights on if you want or all of the lights off, or a blend of white/amber led lights.
Google Play comes installed on the Poke 3, except you have to activate its support from the settings menu, add in your Gmail account and download the framework from the Onyx Boox App Store. It is very easy to do, and normally people have zero problems, since its just check marking boxes and downloading a few files. If you have any problems, Good e-Reader produced a YouTube video that walks you through the process. Once you activate Play from the settings menu, you need to wait around 15 minutes for your device to become certified, sometimes after this time period has elapsed, you also need to restart.
One of the best things that Onyx has ever done, is go far beyond the standard A2 mode, which degrades the image, with an increase in performance. Normal mode is the default e-reading experience or viewing PDF files. Speed Mode provides a little bit more ghosting and is designed for rapidly viewing pictures, this is ideal if you are browsing the internet via Chrome or Firefox. A2 mode which seriously degrades image quality and is only ideal for content with a ton of images. X-Mode is also a new feature, it was designed for watching Youtube videos, it actually performs really well. Other companies like Boyue only have an A2 mode, which results in a tremendous amount of ghosting.
On the homescreen is a little trackball icon on the bottom right. When you touch it, it provide radial options, such as volume levels, multitask windows, power and quick settings. Now, you can get more advanced and actually attach your own shortcuts on the track ball. You aren’t stuck with the defaults, which is cool. If you hate the trackball, you can disable it completely. You can also drag it from its default position and move it anywhere you want.
There are a few navigation options that are on the bottom of the screen. This includes, Library, Store, Storage, Apps and settings. The library menu basically shows all your ebooks that you have sideloaded on your device or have come for free with purchase. You can sort by grid or list view, fetch metadata, such as missing cover art and other useful sorting options. The Store, is basically Onyx’s own bookstore, mostly comprising of royalty free titles. The App Menu is where the Onyx App Store is, also all of the other preinstalled apps, and future apps you download. This is also where Google Play will appear, once you enable it. Storage, is basically a file explorer, so you can browse your devices internal drive. Settings is where you will spend the most time when initially configuring the Poke 3. You can search for firmware updates, establish your WIFI network, register your Google Account, and customize the device.
The Poke 3 on the software side of things has more advanced options to craft your own experience than other comparable e-reader. It is simple for new users to get started and learn about all of the cool new features as time goes on. Onyx is super reliable for firmware updates, they tend to release one every month, they squash bugs, introduce enhancements to the OS and even update the stock e-reading app. There are around 30-40 supported languages that will turn the entire UI and all of their devices keyboard into your preferred language.
The Poke 3 only has a six inch screen. So reading PDF files or Manga will warrant pinching and zooming, to view everything. The e-reading experience has multiple facets, there is a stock app called Neoreader, this is where you can sideload in all of your own content and begin reading with a ton of options for font sizes, font-type, alignment, line spacing and margins. This app is OK, if you are sideloading in all of your own content. It supports PRC, RTF, Doc, Text, DJVU, PDF, Mobi, FB2, EPUB, CBR and CBZ. You can turn the pages via swipes/gestures or tapping the screen. The refresh rate is very quick, it does not have flashes when it turns pages, or ghosting.
This e-reader really shines when you install apps. This is a personal choice, when it comes to reading. I know many people who have newspaper subscriptions, magazine subscriptions, like reading manga/webtoons or just have their own preferred reading app like Wattpad, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Overdrive, Libby, Moon+ Reader, Aldiko, Koreader. Apps perform really well, you can customize the different speed modes to enhance the performance of apps, if you notice them perfromencing sluggishly.
The Onyx Boox Poke 3 is a really good e-reader. If you purchase it, you can expect it to be relevant for 4-5 years. This is due to the octa-core processor, RAM and Android 10. Almost every single app will support this version of Android for years to come.
Should you buy this if you have a Poke 2? Likely, there is not enough upgrades for it to be worth it, although if you have a Poke 1, you should purchase it. The Poke 3 remains a very compelling ereader due to the sheet amount of customization and options. It is well designed, and if you buy it from Good e-Reader, it comes with a free case and screen protector.
Onyx Boox Poke 3
- Fastest six inch on the market
- Google Play and Android 10
- Competitive Price
- Form factor
- Screen is made of glass
- No speakers
- No SD card
- Minimal upgrades from previous gen
- Not great for PDF files
- Reliant on Apps
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.