March 9, 2009

Onyx and their e Boox

CES is behind us, but CeBit is upon us and has produce a new flood of gadgets, including eBooks.

I'll start with Onyx International's new "Boox" e-reader - reported via Engadget and Mobileread forums. Onyx seems to be yet another "one book wonder" from China although "Registered in America", set-up with just one product - an eBook reader. 

"Specs? Features?" I hear you say!
"The device boasts a 6-inch e-ink touchscreen with 16 shades of gray, 512MB storage, WiFi, support for various formats (including EPUB / PDF / HTML / TXT / CHM / MOBI / JPG / BMP / PNG / GIF / TIFF / MP3), and text to speech "
It uses the 6" E-Ink display with 16 grey levels and it looks pretty good.

It also offers a touch screen which differentiates it from "the masses", and in fact all others except the Sony PRS 700. Their web-site also refers to "full-screen scribble" and when viewing their videos I only see it used with the stylus and wonder if they mean stylus and not touch.

Their video shows stylus input working quite well, so it possible they have integrated a digitizing tablet, maybe from one of Wacom's Chinese competitors. That may reduce battery life if they're not smart about it. I can't see where the stylis is held in the device, if it is at all.

Format support is pretty broad including PDF, EPUB and MOBI (MobiPocket) with "more to come" they say. It offers CHM for you software types out there.

I like the list of features for their PDF reader: hyperlinks, Table-of-contents, thumbnails (for pages), highlighting, selection zoom and my favourite: Margin removal, something I do manually on PDFs using Adobe Acrobat to remove margins and make pages as big and viewable as possible.

The touch screen has allowed them to achieve a very sleek look, with minimum of visible controls, although it has a few on the bottom edge, out of sight - the other end of the spectrum to Amazon's Kindle (1 and 2) with the built-in keyboard.

The front circle widget is 5 button control with a central "OK" button, with "Prev" (left), "Next" (right), "Menu" (top) and somelike that looks like "Spkr" (bottom).

Although this image confuses me. Does it also have that widget on the back (unlikely!), or something made to look like it, or is that some kind of cover for the display and we're looking at the front (seems to have a different shape)?

Memory is a little short at 512MB, but they have a USB Type A Connector For USB Memory Stick, and SD/MMC Slot for memory expansion. So, you can move media around (physically) easily and take advantage of constantly falling cost of flash SD cards.

It's got a 2.5mm Stereo Audio Jack for listening to MP3 music while you read, or audio books or the "Text to Speech" of eBook content.

We'll see if Onyx stand their ground and don't fold to the Author's Guild on the subject of Text-to-speech like Amazon have done recently. That will I expect depend on the countries where this device is to be sold, and the visibility it gains in the media, and off-course its sales!

Last but not least, it's got optional 802.11g Wireless LAN, which could be handy when around home, or other known Wi-Fi access points, to download timely content. 

Surprisingly they push this feature for web browsing, with a built-in webkit based browser and on-screen keyboard.

See their English version web site at

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