Onyx Boox Palma review: Android-powered e-ink bliss

Onyx Boox Palma review: Android-powered e-ink bliss

The Onyx Boox Palma ebook reader looks like a phone, unlike most e-ink devices. We try to find out if it is worth all the hype.

When someone talks about ebook readers, Amazon’s Kindle is probably the first name that comes to your mind. While I love reading books and comics, it can be difficult to justify a dedicated device just for reading.

We’ve got so much tech at our disposal already, do we really need to keep using dedicated devices for such a singular purpose while tablets and phones can still do it all?

Here’s where Onyx’s Boox Palma comes in: The device is as big as a smartphone, has an e-ink display, and is ideal for reading books, while still running a full version of Android.

I’ve been using the Onyx Boox Palma for over a month, and it has become one of the most straightforward recommendations for people looking to buy an ebook reader in 2024. Here’s why.


Pros Cons
Gorgeous display Stylus support missing
Snappy performance Dated OS
Long battery life No headphone jack
Pocketable size Price
Feels light  
Official support for Play Store apps  


I won’t fault you for mistaking the Onyx Boox Palma for a budget Android phone from the late 2010s, after all, it looks and feels exactly like one. You have a 6.1-inch e-inch display at the front, which might be smaller than most ebook readers but is perfect for people who are used to browsing and reading on smartphones.

The display has massive bezels on all four sides and a substantial one at the bottom, making it easy to hold while reading books. There’s also a front-firing speaker where you’d typically have an earpiece on any smartphone. Palma has stereo speakers, meaning you can multitask on the device by listening to music while you read. While it does have Bluetooth to connect to accessories like wireless earbuds, it would’ve been great if the Palma also had a headphone jack, which is becoming increasingly rare.

The device has a textured back, which feels good and makes the Palma easy to grip. It is one of the few ebook readers with a rear-facing camera, equipped with a flash to scan your documents. On the bottom, you also have a USB-C charging port and bottom-firing speakers. On the right, there’s a power button alongside a volume rocker. Finally, there is an iPhone 16-like customizable action button on the left. Using this, you can refresh the screen or assign it to a multitude of other tasks.

While the Onyx Boox Palma resembles a smartphone and can run apps like an Android phone, it’s not a replacement for one and doesn’t have any functionality to make calls, send texts, or use a SIM card.


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Performance and software

Onyx Boox Palma review: Android-powered e-ink bliss

The Boox Palma runs Android 11 out of the box. While it natively supports multiple ebook formats, Android support also means you can download apps for almost every electronic reader service under the sun, including Kindle, Nook, Google Play Books, and Kobo. This is super-handy, as it does not lock you into one library or service.

Moreover, you can download “regular” apps like WhatsApp, Google Meet, Slack, and others if you need them. I even used the device to attend meetings via Slack and encountered no issues whatsoever. While it’s not designed for the device, it can be used for other things in a pinch, which is the real strength of a ereader like this.

Onyx has added several apps to help you transfer ebooks to the device, with on-screen buttons present when flicking through your ebook of choice. But, something is missing; The Onyx Boox Palma lacks haptic feedback, which could stand to be a dealbreaker for some users, as it could lead to accidental clicks.

The Android skin used on the Onyx Boox Palma is highly optimized but is extremely simple to use. The icons are well laid out, and many options let you tweak performance according to your preferences.

During testing, the Palma also received updates, including the latest security patches. Despite the aged OS, it still has January 2024’s security patch, so you can take it online without the fear of attackers. Despite this functionality, it’s still better to have your smartphone with you to complete tasks like banking or working. This device is simply not built for that.

Onyx Boox Palma review: Android-powered e-ink bliss

Under the hood, the Onyx Boox Palma has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC. This is the same chipset that powered lower mid-range Android phones back in 2017, and this is why Palma impresses with its performance.

It’s one of the only ebook readers that happens to ship with a camera. While it’s nice to have, it is best suited for scanning documents and papers instead of capturing life’s more unforgettable moments.

You’ll not be using the Onyx Boox Palma to multitask or play games, as its display isn’t geared toward fast refresh rates or rapid, precision work. Instead, it’s for reading books, browsing the internet, and listening to music. For these tasks alone, it excels, thanks to its monochrome display, which will also be its main limiting factor: I couldn’t finish a day of Wordle using the device, so bear in mind that the use case for something like this is fairly limited. So, keep your expectations in check.

Display and battery

Onyx Boox Palma review: Android-powered e-ink bliss

The 6.13-inch display and 170 grams of weight make the Boox Palma pocketable. After having used a series of phones weighing over 240 grams each, the Palma seems weightless, at times, I even forgot that it was in my pocket.

While I prefer its enjoyed the Onyx Boox Palma’s display size, it might not be ideal for others who are used to reading with larger fonts, as tablet-sized readers may be more suited for them. But, if you’re looking for something a bit smaller, this might just fit the bill.

At this size, the Palma, fittingly, fits right in your palm. The display can get extremely bright, and its brightness can be adjusted automatically or manually. However, I wasn’t happy with the automatic adjustments and preferred to crank the brightness up or down manually, which is likely down to the sensors onboard the device.

Onyx Boox Palma review: Android-powered e-ink bliss

You can adjust the refresh rate between HD, Balanced, Fast, and Ultrafast. While the ultrafast mode drains the battery faster, it is ideal for watching videos or viewing moving content. The display can get bright and is usable even in direct sunlight.

Battery is another impressive aspect of Boox Palma. Compared to the battery on a regular smartphone that lasts around a day or so, the Palma can easily be used for over a week without the need to reach for a charger.

I used Palma for a couple of hours every day for seven days with the ultrafast refresh rate turned on, and still had more than 55% battery at the end of the week.

You might get way more battery life if you use the HD or Balanced modes. Moreover, it supports Type-C fast charging, so you can most smartphone chargers to juice yourself up in a pinch.

Should you buy it?

You should buy the Onyx Boox Palma if you need a versatile device that can do more than just let you read books from one service. If you don’t need a large screen to read books on, this lightweight gadget punches way above its weight, thanks to regular security updates and all the possible functionality you could get out of it.

Verdict: 4/5

Onyx Boox Palma review: Android-powered e-ink bliss

The Onyx Boox Palma is an exciting and helpful device that’s perfect for reading books and listening to podcasts, or even reading the odd article or two. Its matte e-ink display is fantastic since it doesn’t strain your eyes. But, remember, it’s not a smartphone, even though it has many functions similar to one.

It doesn’t come with a SIM card slot for wireless connectivity, so you’ll have to rely on WiFi to download your ebook library, or create a hotspot when out and about.

Also, it is a perfect device to help reduce your smartphone usage. If you’re used to reading text on your phone, you can easily replace it with the Palma, so long as you’re willing to spend $280 on a niche, but very accomplished device.

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