Mobileread
Boox Poke 2 Review
#1  draw2much 09-26-2020, 08:02 PM
Part of how I found the Onyx brand was through a search engine bringing me to this forum. With that in mind, I thought other people looking to buy might want to know what a first time Boox user might think. I come from a Ye Old Kindle Paperwhite, so you can imagine my delight at using Poke 2!

These are just my impressions. If you'd like to see it in action, you can go over to this gentleman's video and get an indepth look at it.

The Poke 2 has a beautiful screen and is smaller than my Paperwhite without being uselessly tiny. It's very light and pleasant in my hands. The ability to mix warm and white light is a must, as is setting refresh rates (Modes) which substantially speeds up moving through various screens, and fiddling with Contrast to see details for images. As long as the wireless is off, the battery life is more than enough. With the wireless on, it's about the same as what one could expect from a tablet. Because of the hardware, everything is super snappy and fast, with no delay. Very pleasant to move around in.

Other people dislike the micro-usb but I've no problem with it. I do have a problem with having to plug Poke 2 directly into my computer, not through my usb hub, for my computer (Windows 10) to "see" it. With Wi-Fi on, battery is mediocre at best. The screen can crack just like a regular tablet, which I find worrying. I want to purchase a case but this product is so niche there aren't many options. I'm thinking of getting this case, but we'll see. It's also a little sad to pay so much and not even have water resistance.

In terms of software, the eReader is very barebones, as it should be. You've got the default reader, library, "store" (use that term loosely) and a few other options. Anything else you'll need to install from an outside source. Fortunately, the only thing that limits you is the black and white, low refresh rate screen. Otherwise you can install any android app you want.

All Android apps are designed for color and will have buttons so light they are viewed as white on e-ink screen. You have to click around where you THINK a button is to get to it. I got rid of some apps simply because they lacked proper button contrast to the point of being unusable but there were many that worked just fine.

I did initially activate Google Play on it but later decided this wasn't worth it. Right now I have APKPure and it's been doing what I need perfectly. Anything I can't find on there, I can download directly with a simple search online through my computer.

The default NeoReader is surprisingly good. I know a lot of people use Moon+ Reader, allowing them to sync across devices, but after poking around, I found the NeoReader just worked better for an e-ink screen. I don't use the sync feature so, in terms of interface on an e-ink screen, the NeoReader just works better for me. If I had one complaint it's the inclusion of the Floating Toolbar. That would work great on a much bigger screen, but on 6" it has no use at all. It should be turned off by default instead of making the user do it. (You can hide it in settings, for those who are curious.)

For library organization, Calibre Companion is still the King. Not the default library and no other other app can compare to it. I think if you don't use Calibre you won't notice how bad most library management is in apps. But as someone who uses the PC version, Calibre Companion is worth it. I can easily port my library over and have it organized the way I like thanks to this app. So just pony up the cash and buy it.

One of the big reasons I got this is because I'm a heavy online reader (online writers and translations). You would think the default browser would be just as good as the NeoReader but it's unfortunately not. I downloaded Brave instead, which has a solid ad-blocker built in, and not only was it faster, it actually looked better too. I can use the Simplified View feature, which turns a webpage into a solid wall of text (I can change font in a similar fashion as NeoReader). I've been immensely pleased with how it works.

As a side note, the Navigation Ball is surprisingly handy. You can set different actions to it (Apps - Navigation Ball). Right now I have Back, Home, Screen Refresh, A2 Mode, Multi-Task Windows, and Collapse Nav Ball. I use it all the time and it's made getting around a lot easier.

What else?

Oh!

You can DEFINITELY read comics on this, up to and including web comics that scroll vertically. Most apps allow Zoom in for small text and the Contrast setting can help with dark colors as-needed. Of course I'd love for there to be color, but I adore e-ink screens and I'm too impatient to wait for color to "catch up" to black and white e-ink. Because of the high quality e-ink screen even color comics in black and white look good!

I really wish it had an SD card slot is so I can read all my comics on this device. Alas, it is not to be and I've too many comics. That said, I can put my favorite comics on this device without worrying about using up all the space. I'm immensely pleased thanks to that. NeoReader works great as a comic view, though for vertical comics it might be better to use Challenger Comic Viewer.

Current apps: APKPure, Calibre Companion, Brave Browser, TachiyomiJ2K, Neko (for importing Mangadex list), Kindle, Kobo Books, Nook, Google Books, Wattpad, Facebook (for signing in to apps only), Moon + Reader, Challenger Viewer, and the Bible.

I have not owned this long enough to talk about longevity and construction quality. Once I've had it for a while I can talk about that in detail if need be, but for now it's working as advertised.

As for the price, I won't say much. Yes, you're paying out of the nose for what amounts to a 6" android tablet with a black and white screen. BUT if you're looking for an super compact eReader that you can install apps on and has a newer OS and has a decent amount of memory and a good black and white screen that allows you to easily read comics AND is fast as heck, look no further. The Poke 2 is excellent and is well worth your money.
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#2  salamanderjuice 09-27-2020, 06:13 AM
I recently got a Nova 2, and one of the things I learned is the app button issue is actually the Boox software automatically optimizing the app and is the result of the "Whiten Apps Background" setting. If you long press on an app and click "optimize" and then uncheck that you'll be able to see the buttons because they'll be on the proper non-white or whatever background it's supposed to be. I put app optimization in the navigation ball so I can easily see what effect it has on apps and that's been useful to minimize the effects of page turn animations in apps like comixology.

And while the Poke's screen can crack, so can a Kindle Paperwhite's, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I've been very impressed with my Nova 2 so far. It's the first eInk device I've had that feels slow because of the screen and not because it's slow.

I haven't though been as impressed by NeoReader or other openish Android reading apps like Moon+. None seem to handle vertical writing for Japanese which is something Kobo's and Kindle's can do. Fortunately I can just run those apps but it's kinda mystifying they don't seem to have put ePub3 support into NeoReader or Moon+.
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#3  azayn 09-27-2020, 09:03 AM
Thanks for the detailed review, especially the tip about Simplified View in Brave. I was excited about the possibility of using Moon+ Reader on eInk and syncing with my phone but I’m having second thoughts now. It seems that while one can theoretically run any app on an Onyx device, the reading experience won’t be optimal unless the app is specifically designed for an eInk screen.

I would still take this over any 6” reader out there but I’m a little reluctant now to switch from my larger Oasis. If only Onyx made a 7” Poke 2.
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#4  salamanderjuice 09-27-2020, 09:32 AM
Oynx makes a 7.8" eReader. The Nova 2. Granted there's a bit of a premium over the Poke for the note taking capabilities but it's not much more than a comparable 32GB ad-free Oasis. And for what you're getting IMO is well worth it. Likebook Mars is another option to consider.

There is a little bit of fiddling with the app optimization settings to get things working better for eInk with random android apps, but basic reading applications work really well IMO.
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#5  Futuregrace 09-28-2020, 10:06 AM
Can Google Play Books be used on the Poke2 or Nova2? If so does it work well?
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#6  draw2much 09-28-2020, 05:31 PM
Quote azayn
Thanks for the detailed review, especially the tip about Simplified View in Brave. I was excited about the possibility of using Moon+ Reader on eInk and syncing with my phone but I’m having second thoughts now. It seems that while one can theoretically run any app on an Onyx device, the reading experience won’t be optimal unless the app is specifically designed for an eInk screen.

I would still take this over any 6” reader out there but I’m a little reluctant now to switch from my larger Oasis. If only Onyx made a 7” Poke 2.
I've used brave on other android devices and liked it for it's simplicity. Turns out it works exceptionally well on e-ink devices for the same reason.

With ereading apps, it's all about PREFERENCE. Don't take my opinion about Moon+ Reader as the norm. I tried a bunch of different ereaders first and found that, as far as my preferences go, I just liked the NeoReader better. There's some people like me and some people who love Moon+. So I think it's more a personal opinion thing rather than a "hard facts" type of deal.

Plus Salamanderjuice offered a good solution for apps working on e-ink screens. It works! I tried it myself!


Quote salamanderjuice
I recently got a Nova 2, and one of the things I learned is the app button issue is actually the Boox software automatically optimizing the app and is the result of the "Whiten Apps Background" setting. If you long press on an app and click "optimize" and then uncheck that you'll be able to see the buttons because they'll be on the proper non-white or whatever background it's supposed to be. I put app optimization in the navigation ball so I can easily see what effect it has on apps and that's been useful to minimize the effects of page turn animations in apps like comixology.

And while the Poke's screen can crack, so can a Kindle Paperwhite's, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I've been very impressed with my Nova 2 so far. It's the first eInk device I've had that feels slow because of the screen and not because it's slow.

I haven't though been as impressed by NeoReader or other openish Android reading apps like Moon+. None seem to handle vertical writing for Japanese which is something Kobo's and Kindle's can do. Fortunately I can just run those apps but it's kinda mystifying they don't seem to have put ePub3 support into NeoReader or Moon+.
You totally blew my mind with that Optimize tip! I had no idea it was there much less what it did! Thank you so much for pointing it out! I might give Moon+ another try with the Whiten Background disabled!

I don't think I'll ever use it's syncing feature though. I use Google to backup my files and I've heard the Moon+ and Calibre can end up corrupting my library so... :/

I hope you're right about the screen. I don't mistreat any of my screened devices but I definitely have butter finger moments too, and of course it always involves a hard floor. I'm eager to get that custom case, for peace of mind if for no other reason.

I've not heard of ePub3, I had to look it up. I wonder why Moon+ hasn't included support for it yet? They do have a pro-version of their app so I'm a little surprised it's not included in that version at least.

Isn't Boox a Chinese-based company? I'm really surprised the NeoReader doesn't deal well with vertical script! I would think that's an app they built in Chinese and ported to other countries....

Well, I bet there's an e-reader app that can reader vertical script fine, but it's not easy to find in the English/Wester based servers and apk repositories. It's probably something created by someone in Korea or Japan and in their original language, so people outside those countries don't know about it.

I'm waiting for color e-ink to get better and come down in cost before I go above the 6" rank with an e-reader. I have a Sony Z3 tablet, which is around the size of a Nova 2. It's old as dirt now, but for reading comics in color it gets the job done. And it has a SD card reader (reads up to 128GB). I couldn't really justify buying a Nova 2 since my Z3 is still trucking along like a champ.

In case anyone is wondering, I use the Z3 primarily for comics and any 6" e-Reader primarily for eBooks. The reason I got the Paperwhite was for it's compact size and that it doesn't hurt my eyes when reading in darker environments. The Poke 2 does that too, but better than Kobo or Kindle (for me). It also happens to be a decent comic reader too, which just makes me love it all the more.

Quote Futuregrace
Can Google Play Books be used on the Poke2 or Nova2? If so does it work well?
Once you enable Google Play app, you can use Play Books just fine! I tested it just now to make sure and it worked.
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#7  salamanderjuice 09-28-2020, 06:10 PM
Pretty sure mainland China switched to horizontal writing mainly around the same time simplified Chinese became a thing so I don't think they care enough to implement it either. Kind of a bugger, but not a huge deal.
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#8  draw2much 09-28-2020, 07:37 PM
Quote salamanderjuice
Pretty sure mainland China switched to horizontal writing mainly around the same time simplified Chinese became a thing so I don't think they care enough to implement it either. Kind of a bugger, but not a huge deal.
I guess I just assumed they ported over their classics in the original format or something......

Well, I guess we can't get everything. All in all, Likebook and Boox already give us a lot of freedom. If Pocketbook would open up it's OS (like a proper Linux OS) to third-party apps, that e-Reader could do way more too.
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#9  azayn 09-28-2020, 08:10 PM
Quote salamanderjuice
Oynx makes a 7.8" eReader. The Nova 2. Granted there's a bit of a premium over the Poke for the note taking capabilities but it's not much more than a comparable 32GB ad-free Oasis. And for what you're getting IMO is well worth it. Likebook Mars is another option to consider.

There is a little bit of fiddling with the app optimization settings to get things working better for eInk with random android apps, but basic reading applications work really well IMO.
Yeah, I hoping to avoid going the Nova 2 route as the note taking functionality is overkill for me but that seems to be the most viable option. Likebook Mars comes close though, price is a lot more reasonable BUT it’s running an older version of Android, not a flush screen, and can’t mix front light colors.
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#10  Hrafn 09-29-2020, 04:04 AM
Quote draw2much
I want to purchase a case but this product is so niche there aren't many options. I'm thinking of getting this case, but we'll see. It's also a little sad to pay so much and not even have water resistance.
I bought this case for mine, which I'm very happy with.

If you're not comfortable with Taobao (Chinese language, Agents, & such), then Aliexpress has a similar case here.
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