Readers like you help support MUO. When you make a purchase using links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More.

The Onyx Boox Note Air 2 is the best eReader-digital notebook around. But there's one big catch: it's expensive. The higher price is justified if you use its complex suite of eReader and note-taking software. Most students heading back to school or office staff heading back to the office will probably prefer an Onyx device over its competitors. However, if you're looking for a note-taking platform or a more disposable device, a Remarkable 2 (our Remarkable 2 review) or Boyue P10 series might better suit your needs.

Key Features
  • Transcription software
  • eBook translation
  • Passive stylus
  • E Ink screen
  • 10.3-inch screen
  • Brand: Onyx
  • Screen: E Ink Mobius with AGC glass
  • Resolution: 1872 x 1404
  • Storage: 32 GB eMMC
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 5
  • Front Light: Cold and warm LED
  • OS: Android 10.0
  • Battery: 3,000 mAh
  • Buttons: Power
  • Weight: 435 grams
  • Dimensions: 229.4x195.4x5.8 mm
  • Format Support: Almost all eBooks
  • CPU: Snapdragon 662
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Good performance for an eReader
  • Outstanding eReader software
  • Excellent battery life
  • Highly portable
  • Looks great
  • Notes can't be easily exported in other digital formats
  • Scratch prone
  • No security updates
  • E Ink panels are laggy compared to LCD
Buy This Product
Onyx Boox Note Air 2

The Onyx Boox Note Air 2 looks and feels like the offspring of the Apple iPad and an Amazon Kindle. With a 10-inch display and note-taking abilities, it's a tablet, yet its E Ink panel means it's eyestrain-free. But unlike an iPad, it can run for weeks instead of hours. Unfortunately, its slow-drawing E Ink panel has a few quirks. So should you buy one for around $480?

Who Should Buy an Onyx Note Air 2?

Anyone who juggles several paper notebooks or books and suffers from eyestrain will love the Note Air 2. The eReader-tablet hybrid offers passive stylus input without the glare of an LCD or OLED screen. The combo means students and working professionals can scribble notes directly onto eBooks or within Onyx's note-taking app. But the core selling point is Onyx's sophisticated transcription software that can turn those handwritten notes into digital text.

While Onyx's software comes with a learning curve of several hours, it's not dramatically different from many Android devices. So despite some complexity, if you feel overwhelmed by stacks of paper notes or books, the Note Air 2's main value is in its ability to simplify and organize, without provoking eyestrain.

Svelte Styling

It's not just an exceptional note-taking platform. The Note Air 2 shines with the polish of an Apple iPad. Like many of Apple's devices, the Note Air 2 has a streamlined, aluminum-unibody chassis, painted a midnight blue.

Although a few big box retailers sell Onyx eReaders, it’s otherwise not a well-known brand in the US. Yet despite a less pedigree background, the Note Air 2 looks every bit as sleek as an iPad. The navy-blue aluminum metal chassis feels as solid as anything made by Apple. It’s also worth noting that the Note Air 2 is thinner and lighter than the Apple iPad, even though they are both of similar dimensions.

Because aluminum is soft—as far as metals go—it's prone to scratches and dust accumulation. This almost necessitates buying the optional folding, folio-style magnetic case. But despite a certain fragileness, the device packs in a sophisticated design, along with raw functionality.

A 10-Inch, Note-Taking eReader Is a Killer Combo


A big problem with most eReaders is their small, six-inch screens. For example, the Amazon Kindle does a poor job of displaying text and images. While Kindles have text reflow, which can resize text to fit a page, reflow doesn't always work as advertised. Fortunately, the 10-inch screen on the Note Air 2 provides prodigious space for not just reflowing text, but also providing space in the margins for handwritten notes.

On top of that, the Note Air 2 implements a superior text reflow algorithm. Not only does text reflow work better, it also runs faster and more fluidly. While I don’t understand the details of Onyx's reflow algorithm, it works seamlessly and fluidly. However, on the downside, reflowed eBooks can't be annotated in a way that's exportable.

Hardware Specifications

  • Dimensions: 229.4 x 195.4 x 5.8 mm
  • Weight: 423g
  • Screen: 10.3-inch E ink HD Carta 1200 screen with anti-glare coating
  • Resolution: 1872 x 1404 Carta (227dpi)
  • Touch: Wacom touch layer with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and a capacitive layer
  • CPU: Midrange Snapdragon 662 Octa-core with Cortex A53 and A73 cores
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC storage drive
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Illumination: Warm and Cold LED front lights
  • Ports: Single USB-C with OTG support
  • Operating System: Android 10.0 (Onyx claims that Android 11 is forthcoming)
  • Document Compatibility: Virtually all eBook formats with the right app
  • Buttons: power button, no home button
  • Sensors: accelerometer for screen rotation
  • Speakers: Two bottom-firing speakers
  • Communications: USB-C, 3.5 mm jack, noise-canceling microphone
  • Battery: 3,000mAh Li-on battery (one-month standby, one to two-weeks normal usage)

Top-Tier Hardware (for an eReader)

eReader hardware isn't comparable to smartphone processors because eBooks aren’t resource-intensive. Android eReaders, however, need more processing power, particularly when multitasking between apps. As such, the Note Air 2's midrange Snapdragon 662 is one of the fastest eReaders on today’s market.

Furthermore, the 1872 x 1404 resolution E Ink Mobius panel has one of the best “pixel” densities of 227 pixels-per-inch (PPI). While its competitors use a similar panel, the difference is that the Mobius screen uses a plastic substrate. The substrate runs behind the glass screen. Normally, Mobius screens get used in flexible displays. However, in this case, the plastic substrate weighs less and is more durable, compared to a glass substrate in an E Ink Carta panel. But the differences are nearly unnoticeable. The weight difference between the Note Air 2 and the original Note Air is negligible thanks to the Note Air 2’s additional textured plastic layer on top of the glass.

There’s one area in which the Note Air 2’s hardware is lacking: storage. While the 64 GB eMMC drive is enough to hold a lot of eBooks, it can’t hold much more than a few hundred comic books in the CBR format. Unfortunately, the Note Air 2 lacks expandable storage, a feature that Boyue included on its P10-series of eReader.

Lightweight and Portable Design

The Note Air 2 weighs in at just 420 grams, making it 35% lighter than the 652-gram iPad. While not as lightweight as a Remarkable 2, owing to its glass screen, the Note Air 2 feels comfortable when writing notes or reading on it. It’s not nearly as easy to hold as the 240-gram Sony DPT-CP1. For comparison, Sony's DPT-CP1 feels like you’re holding a large bag of potato chips. The Note Air 2 gets hard to hold after a few hours of reading. But while that isn’t feather-like, it’s light enough to feel similar to a paper notebook.

On the downside, as with all aluminum devices, scratches and fingerprints are an issue. Not only is aluminum a relatively soft metal, but the textured plastic covering the glass is also prone to scratches. You’ll want to use a case with the Note Air 2, but it’s a pricey add-on.

Note-Taking on eBooks


The big 10-inch screen makes the Note Air 2 great for both reading and taking notes. But it has a trick that its competitors aren’t particularly good at: it can take notes directly onto eBooks. Annotating eBooks is easy: you can just run Onyx’s NeoReader app by opening an eBook. Then you can scribble anything. Onyx’s app then stores the notes in its cloud app or through DropBox. Users can also use Optical Character Recognition in their notes, which converts handwriting into digital text. You can then copy and paste the converted characters into apps.

There’s a plastic layer covering the glass screen of the Note Air 2. The plastic layer is textured to feel like paper when brushed with the stylus.

On-page annotation isn’t perfect, though. The big problem is that Onyx doesn’t allow users to use third-party software to access backed-up notes. So you can’t transfer data from your Note Air 2 to another device. There is an option to use Dropbox instead of Onyx’s cloud storage but the data is backed up in an encrypted state and only decrypted or made readable when you use Onyx’s software. Currently, I know of no way to access your raw data. For this reason, it’s better to take notes using split screen mode.

Split-Screen Mode Is Amazing

Like all modern Android devices, the Note Air 2 includes a split-screen mode. This allows you to run two apps simultaneously. The simplest way to use split-screen mode is to open the note-taking app and then activate split-screen mode from the navigation shade. Once in split screen mode, you must then open your book in the second pane. From then on, you can read in one window and take notes in the other.

While split-screen note-taking cuts your screen real estate in half, it also permits the user to transcribe and export their notes to other applications. For example, after scribbling notes and running the AI OCR feature, it’s possible to cut and paste into another app, like Microsoft To-Do. However, the optimal method of using notes is probably to export into Evernote, OneNote, Google Keep, or a flashcard app (best flash card apps for Android).

Great eBook Software

The Note Air 2 isn’t just a great digital notepad. Onyx’s custom eBook software, NeoReader, makes it a superior eReader. I’ve already touched on split-screen mode for taking notes, but the NeoReader app is capable of more than just reading and annotating. Above all else, it’s excellent for reflowing poorly scanned PDFs and other digital documents.

Text Reflow on the NeoReader App

Onyx’ implementation of text reflow is extraordinary. While most reflow apps fail on scanned documents, Onyx’s NeoReader app can reflow anything, including digital images. NeoReader uses a variation on Optical Character Recognition software to display scanned documents. For example, if I want to reflow a scanned PDF, the NeoReader app can recognize discrete words without force-converting blurry scans into digital text. The result is reflowed images from the original document.

I’ve used the app on hundreds of poorly scanned documents and it worked in 100% of all documents. On the downside, it’s not as fast as flipping through unaltered PDFs. But thanks to the Snapdragon 662, there’s not a huge amount of lag when reading through digital documents.

Great Note-Taking Experience


10-inch screens provide ample room for note-taking. For example, let’s say you want to write notes inside of an eBook. The NeoReader app lets you pencil an annotation. And if you need more writing space, you can expand the eBook’s margins. The overall experience feels like paper but without most of the downsides of physical wood pulp. On the downside, you can’t expand margins by much more than an inch. And, as mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to export that annotation into digital text. That means Onyx owns your annotated text.

Seamless Foreign Language Translation

For those who want to read eBooks in another language, the Note Air 2 can perform on-the-fly translation. It works like this: you open the eBook in the NeoReader app, and then select Split View from the settings menu, followed by the Doc & translate option. The software then automatically translates the document into the desired language in one pane. It’s great for someone learning a new language as well as for those who just want to see the original text.


Currently, Bing, Google, and Baidu Translate are available. While Bing and Google Translate are excellent, Baidu could use some work.

Outstanding Battery Life

Using battery analysis tools, I averaged 15 hours of screen time with Wi-Fi turned on. That averages out to about a week of usage with around 2 hours of screen time each day. According to the Associate Vice-President at E Ink, Timothy O’Malley, Wi-Fi makes up the largest share of battery consumption on an eReader, thanks to its low-drain display. That means battery life improves dramatically with Wi-Fi turned off. In my experience, battery life doubles with Wi-Fi off.


You can squeeze even more battery life out of the Note Air 2 by customizing its power-saving features. For example, setting the device to turn off when not in use massively increases time-between-charges. I've found myself getting over a month between charges. However, that also means powering on the device and waiting through a minute-long boot every time you use the device.

There's a Learning Curve to Onyx's Custom Android Skin

Onyx made several customizations to the Android operating system. Onyx's custom-skinned version of Android uses a completely different launcher, notifications tray, and settings menu. Even those comfortable with Android will need to familiarize themselves with the graphical user interface, particularly Library and Notes. While neither app is difficult to use at first, learning to use them well stretches out the learning curve. In fact, after years of daily use, I continue to find new options and features within both apps.


Another issue with Onyx’s implementation of Android is security updates. While Onyx releases regular feature updates to Android, such as improvements to the user interface, the company does not release security updates. For example, the Onyx Boox Nova Air received four years of firmware updates but not a single security update. The lack of security updates means that users won’t get critical patches that address vulnerabilities. For example, the so-called Bluebug security vulnerability allowed attackers to access unpatched devices if they left Bluetooth on.

In comparison, the Remarkable 2 eReader (which uses a custom, non-Android Linux variant) doesn’t suffer from the same security issues. Even so, compared to its main competitor, Boyue, Onyx’s firmware update policy is leagues better as it progressively adds features and software upgrades.

Warranty Support

Onyx contracts with Michigan-based iCare Repair in North America for warranty repairs. In other words, warranty repairs aren't returned to China. On the downside, you still have to pay shipping costs to Michigan. If you live in Canada, the cost and time required to ship to and from the US may make the Remarkable 2 a better option. In comparison to Onyx, Remarkable offers a whopping 36-month warranty.

Reasons to Not Buy the Onyx Boox Note Air 2

Overall, the Note Air 2 does a good job of replacing paper, but it's not perfect. While it provides a pleasant note-taking experience, there are some foibles.

No Security Updates


As mentioned earlier, while the Onyx Note Air 2 gets regular firmware updates, not one of these includes a security update.

Laggy Compared to LCD Screens

First, like all eReaders, E Ink screens don't cause eyestrain, but they refresh like molasses. In other words, video and app animations look awful. But E Ink on Android can increase its refresh speed using a trick. Unfortunately, that trick sacrifices image quality; as an E Ink screen's refresh increases, the worse its image quality. Additionally, E Ink devices can suffer from lag, screen imperfections, and other problems not seen in LCD or OLED panels. But if you can live with its shortcomings, E Ink's backlight-free design might be able to help with eye strain and migraines.

Second, you can only annotate text inside the official NeoReader app. While you can use third-party note-taking apps, there's a level of lag that makes them almost unusable.

No Way to Export Cloud Data

Onyx removed the ability to interact with your eBook annotations and handwritten notes. Older versions of Onyx's operating system had workarounds where you could access eBook annotations, but they seem to have been removed in a recent update. In other words, there doesn't seem to be any way to search through or organize the notes you've taken inside an eBook. Also, forget about exporting content from your notepad to another platform. I've tried for years and come up with nothing.

Scratch Prone Chassis and Screen Cover


Because the texture layer covering the screen is made from plastic, it's prone to scratching. However, I observed no damage during my evaluation. Even so, replacing the layer won't be easy as it's tightly fitted to the glass. Given the potential for scratches, I strongly advise purchasing an optional (and expensive) case.

Should You Buy an Onyx Boox Note Air 2?

The Onyx Boox Note Air 2 is the best eReader-digital notebook around. But there's one big catch: it's expensive. The higher price is justified if you use its complex suite of eReader and note-taking software. Most students heading back to school or office staff heading back to the office will probably prefer an Onyx device over its competitors. However, if you're looking for a note-taking platform or a more disposable device, a Remarkable 2 (our Remarkable 2 review) or Boyue P10 series might better suit your needs.


Q: Does the Onyx Boox Note Air 2 have Bluetooth?

Yes, it has Bluetooth 5.0.

Q: Does the Onyx Boox Note Air 2 have wireless charging?

The Note Air 2 doesn't have wireless charging. Almost all metal chassis devices do not implement wireless charging because metal can interfere with wireless frequencies. While Qualcomm has a patent on wireless charging through a metal chassis, it doesn't appear to have been implemented in a consumer product yet.

Q: How does the Note Air 2 compare to the Note Air 1?

The Onyx Boox Note Air 2 is almost identical to the Note Air 1. However, the few differences are important. First, the Note Air 2 uses a faster, more advanced processor. Second, it has a lighter and more durable Mobius E Ink panel instead of a glass-based Carta screen. Third, there's a textured plastic cover on the screen that makes writing feel more organic and paper-like. Fourth, the magnets holding the stylus in place are significantly stronger than the original Note Air. They're almost strong enough to suspend the tablet from the stylus. Fifth, and finally, the stylus no longer has an "eraser" on its butt.

Q: Does the Note Air 2 have expandable storage?

No, it lacks expandable storage, unless you use an OTG drive.