My Onyx Boox T68 has Arrived – What Should I Do With It?

T68_tapeta3After waiting nearly 8 months, I finally got my hands on the Onyx’s 6.8″ ereader.

The Onyx Boox t68 Lynx marries the 6.8″ screen from the Kobo Aura HD with Android 4.0 running on a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM. It has a screen sharper than on the Kindle Paperwhite, a capacitive touchscreen, frontlight, 4GB storage, and a headphone jack.

I pre-ordered mine from Arta Tech, Onyx’s retail partner in Poland, and it arrived today.

At $250 (prices plus shipping to the US), it’s a very pricy ereader. So rather than put readers in my position of taking an expensive gamble on an unknown device, I would like to help everyone make an informed decision about this ereader.

In short, what would you like me to try and comment on?

The T68 ships with Google Play, so if you suggest an app I will try to install it and then report back. I can also answer questions about Onyx’s software.

So far I have only set up the Lynx, added a few ebooks, and configured my Google account, and my first impressions are not favorable.

Update: But that changed as I figured out more of the settings and quirks of the T68.

I don’t think this will prove very useful as an E-ink Android tablet, and it’s a good thing I had already tried the Sony Reader PRS-T1 and found that device workable as an E-ink Android tablet. Otherwise the poor performance of the Lynx would be enough to make me give up on the idea.

  • The stock settings on the Onyx reading app combine illegible text with badly rendered images. And while I fixed the issues with the text I don’t see a way to get the T68 to render images properly (see below).
  • Google Play and a lot of other basic Android features are nearly unusable due to poor graphics; apparently no one at Onyx thought that it was necessary for color menus to be legible on grayscale E-ink.
  • The Kindle app crashed. I also cannot get it to sync correctly or download ebooks. Update: Changing the refresh mode fixed the issue with the Kindle app.

Onyx has been making ereaders for 5 years now and working on Android on E-ink since 2012, but I can’t see that technical expertise in the T68 Lynx. The software is best described as rough. If you plan to get one I would wait until after the next major update.

257 thoughts on “My Onyx Boox T68 has Arrived – What Should I Do With It?

  1. I’d like to know how Moon+ Reader and Calibre Companion work. Also, I have a Boox 60 that I’m not too fond of because the fonts were gray instead of black – are the fonts when reading better on this device?

      1. Light text was also an issue with the iRiverHD.
        It is a sign of sloppy font use. (Remember how Amazon and Kobo brag of tuned fonts?)
        It is a known issue in the PC world dating back to the transition from SVGA video cards to XGA: higher resolution = smaller pixels resulting in less black surface area. It is also why scalable font outlines traditionally add hinting to the basic outline curve descriptions.
        Just sloppy work; that stuff is a solved problem.

        1. The same goes for images and graphics on E-ink. It’s been 10 years since the librie, which is long enough for this problem to be solved. Amazon certainly solved it, and so have other companies.

          And it’s not like I am asking for a picture perfect replica of a color image; just something which can be recognized. My standards are low, but Onyx cannot meet them.

    1. Moon+ Reader works quite well. It’s a lot nicer than the Onyx app.

      Calibre Companion installed and ran okay, but I haven’t had a chance to connect it with my calibre install.

      1. I purchased two T68 ereaders to upgrade from the Firefly. Not a good idea, the only differences being the Firefly had superior navigation and library facilities and the T68 has a larger screen. I reckon if I could install the Moon reader pro, it would give me everything I want from an e-ink reader. If you accept that e-ink readers are produced for the purpose of reading ebooks, then you have no problems, most of the higher priced ebooks will give you that. If you are into downloading from Google app, or surfing the web, you are better off with a tablet. They are not interchangeable. One is to perfect the enjoyment of reading, the other to try and understand what the world is talking about.

      1. Considering they are over a year late just on the hardware, I’m not holding my breath that they have the software issues covered.

  2. I’m kinda curious exactly what your expectations were. I have both a Aura HD and a Nexus 7 tablet here and the thought that Android would look good — or even be usable — on a E-ink screen never crossed my mine. I’ve used the experimental browser on the Kobo like twice, and the screen simply isn’t suitable for that kind of application. This Onyx sounds like a turkey to me.

  3. You are scaring me Nate!
    I am eagerly waiting for the InkPhone E43 from Boox. It looks I am not going to buy it the moment it comes out, I will wait for some brave reviewer with a good reputation to get it and write a thorough report.

    18 months ago I purchased a heavily discounted Nook Simple Touch. I wanted a cheapo, modest, simple Android tablet. One I could use to read books and also run a few simple apps. Despite my very low expectations I was very disappointed and I ended up selling it.
    One of reasons for my disappointment was that NST ran Android 2.1 – an ancient version that can only install apps to the [very limited] main memory [not the SD card].

    I follow this blog daily and this article is a very good example of why I keep coming.
    I would very much prefer to read that device performs wonderfully, with perfectly tuned fonts in reading app, but I guess that this is more valuable – buyers know what to expect ;-)

          1. In the main menus, look at the status bar across the top of the screen. Click the refresh symbol in the upper right corner and select the “quality first” option. The other option is the A2 mode, which requires less battery power but looks worse.

            Sorry, I was wrong. The way to get good graphics is to not have the A2 symbol showing in the upper right corner. The non-A2 is a third mode.

          1. Nate, how do you get three display modes? I can only find two. In the top (almost fully right) I have the double-circle-arrow icon. It only shows with or with out “A2″ inside the center.

            To me the one mode is default (non-A2 >> maybe that’s A1?) and to me, that seems to fit the “Quality first” selection. If I change it there seems to be only one other option: “Performance first” which coincides with the A2 designation. I think there’s only two modes because when I want to change away from A2 mode, “cancel” seems to do the exact same as applying “Quality first” bringing it back to A1 mode.
            Does that seem right?

          2. The first display mode is when the A2 is not showing. The other two modes are when it is showing.

            It’s that first mode without the anti-aliasing which offers the best graphics (or so I thought).

  4. Oh my

    I ordered it too. I am one of such brave gamblers. My only hope is that we can tinker with it, given that it is stock android.

    I have been betting on eink since 2007. One disappointing after another for no avail :(

    For sure it is a niche technology. But I CANNOT understand why vendors don’t offer a solid software experience. C’mon, we are in 2014, there are tons and tons of experience about android!!!

  5. I’ve done a little Android programming but not at the level needed to port it to a new device. The kinds of customisation needed to get it to play nice on an eInk screen with 3rd party apps that don’t know they’re not running on a high-refresh full-colour display are likely to be not trivial. It’s one thing to fix problems in an OS where you have complete control (e.g. Kindle) and another to do it while maintaining compatability. One would at least hope for some well-written apps from the vendor themselves.

    TLDR: the problems are understandable if still disappointing.

  6. Could you please test RepliGo Reader or EzPDF reader apps and let us know how they work? I think the ability to merge annotations to a PDF file and view them on the computer is critical. From what I read on the M96 forum, the Onyx reading software does not yet have this ability. Is this true on the T68 as well?

    RepliGo installed without any problems, the menu is usable on the E-ink screen, and it worked nicely.

    I was able to read a 200MB graphic novel without issue. The text was small but the screen was sharp enough that it was readable. (It helped that I switched from a continuous scroll to a single page at a time.)

    I was also able to test the annotation features (in a much smaller text only PDF). They worked (including highlights and other marks in colors which i could only see as grayscale), and I saved the new file with the annotations added.

  7. how is speaker ? strong and good enough to listen to a speech in a small/medium room ?

    how is web browsing on it ? did you find web browsers better than others ?

    did you try the gmail app ?

    No speaker, just a headphone jack.

    the Gmail app is usable (I haven’t tried the stock email client that Onyx included). It took the gmail app a few seconds to get caught up with my current status but once it did the app was responsive and I even sent out an email. This would not be my first choice for an email tool but it works.

    The stock web browser is very slow; it works to display even animated graphics like today’s Google Doodle. But it is slow so you might not want to use it much.

    And I haven’t tried other web browsers, but given that this is a 1GHz CPU I’m not sure they’ll have better performance.

    1. Try Amazon music. :)
      Fbreader with subpixel addresing on. (Just to see what happens or not.) Both FBreader and Coolreader have font gamma controls and such, so they may be able to fully exploit the screen.
      Chrome.

  8. From what I’ve read so far, there are three display modes. “Quality first” and “Performance first” supposedly control display refresh, while both of them are said to disable text anti-aliasing. About that “A2″ mode I’ve read it reduces colour depth but also reduces the minimum display refresh intervall, allowing for up to 8 page refreshes per second. Reducing colours from 16 to 4 or less might only be acceptable for plain text though, since displaying an image with only black and white and no shades in between would probably look like that Eric Flint book page from your first image (http://the-digital-reader.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/onyx-boox-t68-lynx-500×375.jpg).

  9. Nate,
    Read your blog everyday – thanks for all the hard work! Could you see if the Bible app published by Logos Bible Software [https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.logos.androidlogos] works on this device? Most of my library is in this format and it would be a dream come true to be able to read it on an e-ink device without hand converting each title. Also, you had mentioned that the kindle app had crashed — did changing the refresh mode fix this, or is it an outstanding issue? Thanks in advance!

    1. The Logos app installed okayI setup an account on my PC, logged in on the app, and I can read the free ebooks that came with the account. The app is a little slow to turn the page, though.

      And thanks for the suggestion about the Kindle app; you were right. Changing the refresh mode may have fixed the compatibility issue. it works now.

      1. Does the text show up well on the kindle and logos apps or do they both suffer from the same quality issues that you mentioned earlier? How slow is the page refresh on the Logos app? I remember when I had a Kindle dx that if you tried to go forward a bunch of pages one right after the other on a pdf it would lag but when you were actually reading each page and thus waiting a few seconds between each refresh the lag more or less disappeared. Thanks so much!

        1. Changing the refresh mode fixed all of the text and image problems that I can see.

          As for the page turns, the Kindle app seems to be as fast as the Onyx app (now if only I can get rid of the sliding page turn animation). Logos is a lot slower; with most page turns I can see a spinner, telling me that the app is working, before the new page appears.

          1. If you go to the library menu there should be a little i button to the right of the book title which will tell you whether or not the book is actually downloaded to the device or being pulled from the servers — the default behavior seems to be to not download it. Could you please see 1. how long it takes to turn a page with a book that you know is stored locally 2. if you wait 10 seconds before turning the next page, how long does it take to turn to it? Thanks again so much for being willing to do this! With my schooling, I have very limited funds and can’t afford to purchase something that won’t do what I need it to do!

          2. As far as the kindle animation — if the android app is anything like the iOS app, go to library and then to settings and then turn off page turn animation.

  10. I got mine yesterday. The screen is lovely, the light is fantastic but I’m having serious trouble to get it going. It crashes every 15 minutes. Frustrated, not yet disappointed…

      1. Going to sleep deafault setting is 3 minutes (!). As for the crashings, I tried to read books with the FBReader app. It works fine, but soon it will not open the book anymore. Other reader apps refresh the screen more or less strangely…

  11. @ Nate the ?great? take your time to do contentful review, you are allways to hasty in your thoughts, conclusion and writing when it comes to e-reader-review’s

  12. Nate, thanks for this. Please try ez reader, esp. the annotation function (ez annotations can be exported into zotero for academic reference management), onyxes annotation feature, Dropbox and FBreader. I d be most interested in some news aggregators esp pulse and the BBC app. Would be great to have self- updating daily news on rink.

    1. ezPDF Reader works (including adding or removing pages, annotations, etc), but it has a dark theme which is difficult to use on a grayscale screen. I would go with RepliGo instead.

      I’m in the middle of a search for an E-ink friendly RSS reader; I’ll have to get back to you on this.

    2. Pulse does not turn up in a search of Google Play. Flipboard installs and runs, and so do the Feedly and the BBC News apps (is there a separate aggregator?).

      I still haven’t found a feed reader which I like on an E-ink screen yet. (And it turns out that several of the ones which worked with the Nook Touch don’t exist any more; they died with Google Reader).

  13. I would like you to test Coolreader, FBReader and other [free or inexpensive] reading apps. I am interested in configurability of the apps and the device itself. I am pretty sure that soon there will be some high-contrast mods and themes (whatever they are called in Android).
    Look at what icons and other graphical elements were used on Nook Simple Touch in their jailbreak package.

    How many buttons does the device have? Is it enough for the device not to have to use that ugly hack with on-screen home and menu buttons that NST had to use?

    Google Play tells me that CoolReader and FBReader are already installed on the t68 (ooookay). I guess that means that Onyx uses those apps on their reading app.

    Buttons

    In addition to the circular d-pad below the screen, there are 4 buttons on the face of the T68. Two are on either side of the screen like page turn buttons, but the ones on the left are actually the menu and back buttons. I had to find that out by reading the quick start guide; the buttons are only identified by little teeny tiny pictograms which I have trouble seeing.

    Feel free to laugh, but I had to read the quick start guide (twice) to learn how to exit the ebook I was reading. The first time the guide was wrong, and the way out is only obvious once you realize that the buttons on the left are not page turn buttons.

    1. Why would you even try Onyx’s own e-book reader? It’s terrible. FBReader and CoolReader _are_ pre-installed on the device out of the box and they are alternative reader apps that you can (and should!) use instead of Onyx Reader. You can also try Alreader from Google Play. It’s very customizable and was built to work on e-ink devices as well. It’s even possible that it’s installed out-of-the-box as well (it is in the T68 version on the Russian market).

        1. You cannot see the icon apparently because FBReader is an “implicit” choice by the system according to file extension/magic when opening a document; it is heavily customized so you will not recognize it.
          Please see my other reply below

    2. FBReader is pre-installed but (unfortunately) heavily customized on the device: in order to install an original version of FBReader on the T68, I renamed the package name in its manifest.xml (through apktool).
      It works beautifully.

  14. Thanks so much! This is really helpful. Another question that surely interests several readers: What’s the color of the frontight like? Here is hoping that it’s more yellowish then blueish, since warmer light colours are important to avoid the type of eye strain and biorhythm confusion caused by cold blue LCD backlights. Of course answering this is difficult without a light source for comparison, but you could use the b light Meyer app on Google play to measure light temperature in kelvin. Alternatively, you could compare to the white on an LCD computer monitor. Also, how about the steps between msx and main brightness? Arev they fine grained enough to be readable? How even is the light?

    1. I would say that the frontlight is more white than blue or yellow. There are 10 levels to the frontlight, and I like to keep it on the lowest setting; it gives me a whiter screen than with the frontlight off.

      The light is consistent across the screen and I can see the difference between the 10 levels most of the time. Sometimes the brightest two settings look the same.

  15. I think a device like this is not for everyone. The user must be willing to even get under the hood and work stuff out. It is not a Kindle. I think your review and follow-up comments highlight this. It takes a bit of working out. It is an “edge” product.

    I also think the number of comments and questions being posted reflect how much some people want an e-ink product with the power of Android.

  16. Can you please try Jota+ text editor. In particular, try selecting, copying/cutting/pasting text. How possible is this? Is it possible to manipulate text on e-ink? Also does the multi-tab documents work. Thx.

    1. I installed it but I cannot use it.

      It requires Google Services framework, which at first I couldn’t install because I ran out of space. There was only room for a couple dozen apps, but luckily I have the option of moving the apps to my SD card. That took a few seconds

      And then I tried to install that utility and learned that the GS framework I already have is incompatible with the one Jota requires.

      So Jota is a no go.

    2. I will also try Jota+ soon,
      but please be informed that Kingsoft office runs flawlessly. I use it a lot on the T68.
      Jota+ is pure (unformatted) text only, Kingsoft is a complete office automation software.

      1. Does not work on mine either. Asking to install Google Play Services then crashes (I cannot install Google Play services either…)

    3. I just installed and tried Jota+, it works perfectly and fast.
      Cut and paste work as expected.

      How could Nate have problems, I do not know… Maybe it was not Jota+ but another version?

  17. Hi there,

    Could you please try the Mantano reading app? I realy like using that on my tablet and phone. Thanks! I have ordered this device and hope it is better than my Kobo Aura…

    1. Montano installs, but it doesn’t work right. When I try to read an ebook there is this weird diagonal crack in the text. On one side the text is several pixels out of alignment with the other side.

      I double checked and this is a software error, not hardware.

      1. Thanks for that. I’ll check it with my T68 when it arrives and will report it to Mantano if the issue persists. They have been responsive to problems in the past.

  18. Sorry but you buy an ebook not a tablet, anyone that buys a t68 and wants to give the use of a tablet it’s going to be very dissapointed too.
    You’re buying an ebook with android that allows to use market applications, it’s not a tablet. So forget videos, forget games except chess or similar stopped games. Expect to use reading applications like amazon kindle for android, kobo, aldiko, it’s an open system.
    But in big caps, it’s not a tablet.

    1. One prob;em with your argument is that the Lynx is pitched as having Google Play and the ability to install apps.I think it is reasonable to explore just where the Lynx’s limits are.

      And btw, Onyx went to a lot of trouble to port Android to E-ink. If they really intended us to regard it as “an ebook not a tablet” then there would have been no need to do all that work.

      1. Agreed, but it should work better than this. A rooted Nook ST is more robust. Perhaps they should have got one and examined it. Maybe it’s because you’re trying to run the latest version of apps?

  19. On the graphic issues you were having: was that using the default quality settings or just a documentation-derived mis-set?

    BTW, I rather like these off-the-cuff interactive first looks.
    A nice change of pace from the traditional review-and-comments approach.

  20. I’ve read that it is purely a displaying issue. The Kindle app doesn’t crash but starts in a visually broken state with certain display settings. If started with a non-problematic setting, switching the display settings while the app is running apparently doesn’t trigger the visual problems that are seen when the app is started with a problematic setting.

  21. Could you try Opera Mini if you have time ? thanks again !

    Opera Mini works, and so does Dolphin. The latter is a little slower but it has a few nicer features. For example, Dolphin is showing today’s animated Google doodle, while Opera Mini only shows a static doodle.

    I can’t really say that Dolphin or Opera Mini are much faster than the stock browser, but they do offer a nicer interface.

    And while we are on the topic, Opera Mobile crashes on launch and Google Play won’t even show me Firefox or Chrome. implying they are not compatible.

    1. Run old versions of everything. I suspect they work better because they were developed for devices and an OS that had less resources.

  22. Thanks for the discussion on the Onyx Boox T68; like many other devoted e-ink fans, I am waiting for the one device which manages to blend e-ink with an acceptable operating system. It is high time e-ink holdings venture into the manufacturing business as it has taken way too long for other vendors to bring a quality product to market. Like many consumers, I would purchase a solid performing e-ink tablet, or better yet, e- ink smartphone, once it becomes available. Love the readability, battery life, and glow light aspects. Hopefully, the Earl will get it right or perhaps Amazon or B&N will deliver such a e-ink product soon!

  23. I actually agree with canduterio. I’ve been using Android e-ink e-readers since I bought my first Nook ST (and then switched to Onyx). At the current level of technology, e-ink just does cannot be used for tablet screens. Such screens are B&W and the refresh rate is (still) very low.
    Having said that, I am a huge fan for Android on e-ink devices because it let’s you take your e-reader the extra mile. You have a large choice of reading apps, dictionary apps and you can customize everything to your liking. I’ve been using xposed framework on my rooted Onyx to configure GoldenDict to open without the Android status bar because it annoyed me how it always appeared and disappeared every time I selected a word to translate in my full-screen reader app. Things like that are impossible to do in the “old-school” e-readers, unless you were willing to do some heavy duty programming.
    To summarize – e-reader with extras – yes. A full tablet – nope.

    1. Gentlemen, the problem is what you mean with “tablet”.
      You will not watch movies on it – that is implicit on an e-ink screen.
      Apart from that, I am perfectly satisfied by the T68 as a tablet – with relevance to what is /my/ use of a tablet.

    1. The Blio Android app installs, but it took a while before the app realized I had ebooks in my library.

      The app works, but certain features (like the faux page turn) are annoying to me.

      1. Nate are you sure? This looks 101% plastic to me…
        Ant BTW it is perfectly matte, perfectly anti-glare (opposite to glass).

        1. The question was whether the backplane was plastic or glass.

          We already knew the front was plastic, yes, but the main weakpoint for E-ink is the glass backplane found in most ereaders. That is what breaks most of the time.

          So far as I know only the Sony Digital Paper has a plastic backplane.

  24. Thanks for the info.

    Would you be able to check whether you can use a usb or bluetooth keyboard and mouse?

    Usb host functionality tends to be lacking due to the power requirements but hopefully bluetooth input devices work.

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