Monday, 5 October 2020

Reflections on the design and production of the Onyx Boox Note Air

Onyx Boox posted an article that details the design and production of the Onyx Boox Note Air. Two interesting points stand out:

(1) Initially, Onyx Boox planned to release the Note Air without a front light. Without the front light, the device would have been lighter and thinner (370g and 4.7mm). In my view, the added front light layer compromises the writing experience - most 10.3 and 13-inches e-readers don't have front lights - so it would have been better if Onyx Boox took the route of reMarkable and worked on optimising the screen for note-taking.  

(2) In the article, Onyx Boox notes the smaller battery capacity is a compromise needed to get the required 'tablet' thinness. Onyx Boox isn't the only vendor to advertise their note-taking devices as 'tablets' - reMarkable also advertise both their first and second-generation devices as a 'digital paper tablet'. Thus, as with tablets, thinness becomes essential even if it means a trade-off for what are viewed as traditionally the virtues of e-readers - long battery life. 

While the reMarkable 2 has the same battery capacity as the Note Air 10.3, it runs on Codex - reMarkable's own in-house Linux-based operating system developed for E-Ink. Nevertheless, it still has a larger battery capacity compared to Kobo and Kindle e-readers due to the extra power needed for note-taking. In comparison, other than the needs of note-taking, the Onyx Boox Note Air runs on Android 10.0. Interestingly, Onyx Boox notes this potential problem and state the following:  
Therefore, some users are concerned that the 3000mAh batteries in the Note Air can only last a few days on one charge.

Actually, Note Air can last at least 4 weeks on standby mode. 

Moreover, the two batteries are parallelly arranged to provide a capacity of 3000mAh in total. Such a structure enables a large space for the batteries and provides them with a higher voltage to speed up the charging. Together with Quick Charge 4.0, you can fully charge Note Air in just a few hours. 

From the passage, it is not clear if the battery life will take a hit when using the Note Air for the main tasks it was built for, i.e. writing notes, sketching and reading. Instead, they merely affirm the device conserves battery in standby mode and charges quickly relative to other devices. I appreciate the front light is an essential feature for many users, so a trade-off with added weight and improved writing texture might be worth it. Trading battery capacity for thinness, on the other hand, is a downside that may repel some users.

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