Onyx Boox Nova 3 Review

2020.12.09 14:41

The Onyx Boox Nove 3 is a lightweight digital note taking device that provides a ton of bang for your buck. 

The major selling points are Android 10, Google Play and a pocket friendly device, that is extremely portable. 

This device is 33% faster than the Onyx Boox Nova 2, primarily due to its faster Snapdragon processor. 




The Onyx Boox Nova 3 has a 7.8 inch capacitive dual touch display with an E INK Carta HD screen and 

resolution of 1872×1404 with 300 PPI. The surface area is made of glass, which makes drawing and touch

screen interactions very easy. It has a front-lit display to read in the dark and also a color temperature system. 

There are 17 LED lights in total, 8 of which are amber.


The Nova 3 is basically two different products rolled into one. It is a multimedia tablet, which you can use to install 

apps via Google Play. You can install all of your favorite comic books, ebooks, newspapers/magazines or even 

PDF files. The second, is an enote. It has a WACOM screen underneath the layer of glass. The accompanied stylus 

has 4,096 degrees of pressure sensitivity, the harder you press, the thicker the lines. It also has palm rejection tech-

nology, so it won’t recognize your hand resting on the screen as touchscreen interactions.


Onyx is a brand that really focuses on taking notes, freehand drawing or editing PDF files. The Nova 3 can be 

considered as their entry level device, followed by the Note Air, Note 3 and Max Lumi. I find if you want to away 

from using your iPad and Apple Pencil or the Samsung Galaxy Note, the Note 3 is a great device to do this. 

The big benefits is that e-paper is really easy on the eyes and works in direct sunlight. The battery typically lasts weeks, 

before it needs to be recharged.


Powering the Nova 3 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 Octa core processor, 3GB of DDR4X RAM and 32GB of 

internal storage. It has a USB-C port with OTG and also has Quick Charge 4.0, so you can power it up to full in under 

an hour. Unlike the Nova 2, this has speakers and Bluetooth 5.0, instead of 4.1. Since this does not have a 3.5mm 

headphone jack, you will have to plugin a pair of headphones/earbuds or an external speaker. There is a microphone, 

which can be used for a number of different things. You can obviously install Skype or Whatsapp and talk with people 

using voice chat. The note taking app also has voice to texts, so you can convert your audio notes, to pure text and 

save it. The Nova 3 is powered by a 3150 mAh battery and the dimensions are 196mm, 137mm, 7.7mm and weighs 265g.


The overall color scheme of the Nova 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, there is a single 

speaker. At the very top is a power button and status indicator light, on the bottom is a USB-C port and microphone port.


E INK devices are often more expensive to compatible Android tablets or Apple products. This is because there are only 

3 or 4 factories in the world that produce the screen tech and there are not many vendors making internal storage, 

motherboards, batteries and other things that are compatible with e-paper. Since these products are not brought down by 

scale, because e-notes are still fringe devices to the general public, the prices remain high. The Nova 3 is currently retailing 

for $339 from the Good e-Reader Store and comes with a free case, stylus and screen protector.




The Nova 3 is employing Google Android 10, which is as modern as your going to get with E INK products. It comes with 

a slew of security features that are updated automatically, without having to download them from Google. Many digital note 

taking devices do not have any type of app store preinstalled, they basically force users to source their own apps or disable 

sideloading altogether. Onyx has Google Play, but you need to do a few things to get it installed properly. We have a great 

video tutorial that walks you through the entire setup process, it is easy to follow along. Onyx also operates their own app 

store, but there are less than 50 on it, but it’s enough to get you started.


Onyx has their own fork of Android, which they use to provide a customized experience. They have a dedicated launcher app, 

that makes all of the UI elements and buttons easy to press down on. The main UI gives you the library, settings menu, apps 

drawer, note taking app and bookstore. There are also a bunch of typical Android functions, such as swiping downwards from 

the top of the screen to view your notifications, configure your wireless network and other settings.


There are a number of advanced settings that are important to note. You can change your global contrast levels, which means 

you can make black text darker or turn the background to darker shades of grey. There are also various speed modes you can 

employ that tremendously improves the performance. This is important if you intend on playing games that have lots of 

animations or use e-reading apps that were designed for smartphones, such really nice page turns. Maybe you want to make 

scrolling around on the Play Store more fluida and ditto with browsing the web. The default mode is reading mode, this provides 

a very clean experience, great for reading ebooks, changing settings or drawing. A2 mode is good for editing PDF files, 

this option subtly degrades image quality, with a boost to performance. Speed mode is an elevated form of A2, it is good for 

surfing the internet, accessing the Play Store or playing complex animations in apps, such as the animated page turns in Kobo 

or Overdrive Libby. X-Mode is ideal for really upping the framerate, so you can play games or watch Youtube videos. 

Some of the different modes have their drawbacks, such as ghosting on the screen, there is a drop down option to refresh 

the entire screen to remove it.


The main home screen has a persistent radial dial, which when clicked on, provides a number of shortcuts. There are six 

default ones, from launching individual apps or doing a full page refresh. It can be positioned anywhere you want, or disabled 

entirely. The dials can be customized and do different things, anything from launching apps to various system settings. 

If you find yourself jumping between different menus to access the same things, you can link them to the dial to save time.


On a fundelemetal software level, Onyx is a trusted brand to do business with. Until 2015, they only released their products 

in China, but have since ramped up their global reach. They support dozens of languages and issue firmware updates regularly. 

Bugs, enhancements and stability is something they do on a monthly basis, but from time to time they totally change up the UI 

and introduce new features, such as being able to run 2 apps side by side, in split screen view, screencast what’s on the screen 

to a television or PC and tons more. You can read a rundown of their OS 3 unveiling HERE.


Onyx has really refined the concept providing a multimedia tablet experience on an E INK screen and also providing a robust 

note taking experience. The Nova 3 is not a one trick pony, that just does one or two things really well, but can do a bunch 

of different things. Most people who gravitate towards this device or the Onyx brand as a whole, is because when people 

buy it, they don’t want to lose access to their favorite apps on their Android or iOS device and wants something that can do 

everything their tablet or smartphone can do.


Note Taking


One of the best things about the Onyx Boox Nova 3 is the sheer amount of features they have added to the writing 

experience. It now has layers, similar to the Remarkable or Adobe Photoshop. You can establish 5 different layers, 

which allow you to do things like drawing various things in the background and foreground. 

This includes environmental art, character art, industrial designs and more use cases. OS 3 also has a number of new 

pens and pencils, such as a mechanical pencil and highlighter. It also allows you to run 2 apps at the same time, 

in landscape mode.


The UI is mostly on the sidebar, but there is also a top bar, that allows you to increase the number of pages 

in a document, save, sendto, and establish background templates, such as college rules or sheet music.


The pens and pencils allow you to draw in various shades of grey. You can select black, grey, medium grey, 

light grey, white, red, green and blue. The colors will not show on accurately on the E INK display, 

because the Nova 3 has a B&W display, and not color. If you want to draw in RGB you can simply export it 

as a PNG or PDF file and copy it it to your PC/MAC. Once it is opened on your computer, 

you can view the document in full color. This is useful for teachers who are grading students material.


In order to get started drawing you can select a fountain pen, paint brush, ballpoint pen, pencil, marker or text. 

Each one has various degrees of thickness or thinness, but don’t forget, the stylus has pressure sensitivity, 

so the harder you press, the thicker the lines will be. I like how Onyx gives options for the default size of 

a selected tool, so you don’t have to rely on pressure.


Onyx really hypes up AI on their line of products. The Nova 3 has a microphone at the bottom of the screen, 

so you can employ voice to text, to convert audio notes to pure text, and it works really well. This is useful if 

you are in a zoom session or a classroom and you can basically convert all audio to text, which makes taking 

notes much easier, then writing by hand.


The Nova 3 basically allows you to export notes to your PC/MAC in PNG or PDF and also from your PC/MAC 

to your computer. But what else can it do? You can screencast whatever is on your Note 3 directly to your PC. 

This is useful during meetings or to show people what you have been working on, rather than crowding around 

the e-reader. Onyx also has a companion app Android and they are working on an IOS version. This is optional to 

use. It lets you sync everything on the Nova 3 to your smartphone or from your smartphone to the Note. Onyx also 

provides 1GB of cloud storage for everything stored in their own cloud. You only need to use the companion app 

if you want smartphone integration.


I believe the Nova 3 provides a tremendously versatile note taking experience in a small package. You can edit and 

annotate PDF files, although the small screen does have some drawbacks. If you are buying something JUST to edit 

PDF files with, I would suggest something like a 10.3 or 13.3 inch screen, since most PDF files are either A4 or A5 

sized documents. The Nova 3 does handle these well, but for technical documents with very small text, you can 

expect to do a lot of pinching and zooming with your fingers. If you just want to read them, sign a signature for 

contracts or grade homework, this would be enough.


Wrap up


The Onyx Boox Nova 3 is a deadly e-note, providing a ton of extra functionality. Onyx is the only brand that has 

Android 10 on E INK devices, and they devote a ton of engineers to ensure it is providing a robust and fluid experience. 

You will want to buy this if you are new to e-notes and don’t want to spend $600 or more. If you have an older 

generation Nova 1, you will also want to upgrade. If you have a Nova 2, this is 33% faster, has  higher version 

of Bluetooth, but that might not be enough of a reason to upgrade.


All of my devices use large screens, I regularly use an iPad Pro 2019 edition as my media device and my iPhone 

12 MAX PRO as my smartphone.  The Nova 3 fits in really well, because it sits between the size of my phone and 

my tablet, making it really portable and lightweight. I normally throw it into my bag and use it to doodle, draw and 

make grocery shopping lists and then sync it to my phone. I also sign lots of contracts, it so easy to just scroll 

down a PDF, use a stylus, jot down my signature and send it back via email to the original sender. Alternatively, 

if it wasn’t email, just send it to Dropbox or Google Drive.


November 28, 2020 By Michael Kozlowski