Thirteen inch ereaders are few and far between and far outside my budget, so when the Onyx Boox Max went up for pre-order a couple weeks back, I immediately begged to borrow a review unit.
This 13″ ereader retails for $650 plus shipping and VAT, putting it far outside my budget.
I got the Max on Tuesday, and started thinking about the review on Saturday night. Five days is not nearly long enough to really plumb the depths of a device as complex as the Max, but I have a good excuse for writing the review this early.
The review unit died Friday night. We think it’s just a loose cable, but since I can’t use the Max right now I decided to take a few minutes and share my thoughts.
This is going to be a difficult review to write. The Max is not an ereader, not in the way you think of an ereader or use one, and I don’t think it fits into any predefined category.
I haven’t had such a category-breaking device since the Entourage Edge, that dual-screen textbook reader from early 2010.
The Edge was a well-conceived device with solid hardware and software, but it flunked out with a lot of reviewers because they couldn’t grasp its purpose or function. They approached it as an ereader, and tried to compare it to a Kindle, when in fact the Edge was a niche product designed to serve just one market.
If you are looking to buy a Max, I suggest that you avoid the mistakes those reviewers made, and set aside any preconceptions that the Max was made for reading ebooks. Based on my time with it, I would say that it is more of a document viewer than an ereader. Its sheer size precluded me from using it as an ereader.
This is more of a device that you would hold up and use for showing off blueprints, or one which you would use to proof a document a page at a time. You might also lay it on a table, and have several people looking at the screen at one time.
Now that I have used the Max, I can understand why Pocketbook has branded their large ereader as a blueprint reader for the construction market, and why the Sony DPT-S1 only supports PDF and is targeted at the business market. I think both Sony and Pocketbook built a prototype, started using it, and realized that they would have more success if they focused on a limited number of use cases. That’s why they refined their software to better support those use cases (the Pocketbook CAD Reader has yet to be released, but still).
A device built around a 13″ E-ink screen is not a product for the broader ereader market, so it made sense for Sony and Pocketbook to focus on niche markets with specific uses.
And luckily for Max owners, they can define their own niche uses (including ones I have’t thought of).
The Onyx Boox Max is an open Android device. It runs Android 4.0 on a 1GHz CPU. You can install third-party apps, and it also comes with Google Play.
I didn’t get a chance to test app compatibility with the review unit, but I do want to point out that potential owners should think about the apps they might install, and the abilities and features those apps would add to the Max.
Max owners can define their own niche uses for the Max, and so while I might declare what the Max is not, I can’t tell you exactly what it is.
We really don’t know yet.