It’s been 15 years since Amazon introduced the first Kindle, introducing many readers to the benefits of electronic paper (e-ink) technology, including long battery life and excellent sunlight readability.
Displays have improved over the years but still exhibit drawbacks such as screen ghosting, where a lighter version of the previous screen image can be seen in lighter parts of the display, and disruptive refresh, which involves removing an image from showing. At first the screen flashes shadow. Technology also took the hard way for coloring.
Two recently released e-paper tablets address these issues, managing contrast versus screen refresh speed, out-of-the-box Google Play compatibility, stylus support, and the latest in E Ink’s color technology called the Kaleido Plus. Offers multiple modes.
Nova Air C: Ultimate Digital Notepad
The Nova Air C comes from Onyx Boox, which offers the industry’s widest range of e-readers and e-paper tablets – even if one excludes only its China-based products.
The Onyx Boox portfolio ranges in size from 6″ to 13.3″ and includes two E Ink-based monitors under its Mira brand. Its products consistently showcase thoughtful designs, attractive packaging and smartly designed accessories.
For example, Onyx Books offers a keyboard folio for its 10.3″ devices that makes it the closest thing to a true E Ink laptop today (a product the company released at a 2017 trade fair but canceled). It also offers a cover that adds page-turning buttons for e-reading apps. Indeed, one of the advantages of Android-based e-paper tablets is that they offer the Kindle’s screen aesthetic, allowing you to choose from a wider range of digital bookstores.
While most companies in the e-paper tablet space have yet to ship a color product, the Nova Air Sea is another entrant from the Onyx Books that includes improved color and grayscale uniformity.
Nova Air Sea E-Reader (Image Credit: Onyx Books)
Like other Onyx Books products, the Nova Air C interface is marked by a “function tab” that appears on the left side of the display by default. These launch a less-than-useful store full of public domain tasks and a library to organize them, a basic file manager, and an exceptionally full-featured note-taking app.
Working with the product’s comprehensive, button-free stylus, the app supports multiple page sizes, adding and deleting pages and layers, inserting images, shapes, and recordings, up to 5GB of free cloud syncing, and handwriting support. In two ways- text. You can also set up multiple pens and brushes and choose from three different erasing modes.
The Apps section includes an App Store that provides some of the basics, taken from the Internet. However, the device supports the full breadth of Google Play and Android-style navigation including settings and notification access from the swipe-down notification shade; The Back, Home, and App Switch functions can be accessed by swiping up from the left, middle, and right sides of the bottom of the screen, respectively.
Alternatively, a circle floating over other app interfaces — similar to those used by Android screen-recording applications — pops out controls for features like switching apps, taking screenshots, and powering off.
All told, the Nova Air Sea is a mix of the best that E Ink has to offer: an excellent note-taking app for those looking for an alternative to Android apps like Nebo or Noteshelf, and a wide range of Google apps. have access to. Via Google Play—all in one lightweight, well-accessorized package.
Bigme Inknote Color: E-Paper Power
Onyx Books isn’t the only vendor to bring color to earlier monochrome slates using E Ink and similar technologies such as Digital Electronic Slurry (DES). The latter has been used so far in outright crowdfunded products from Rinkstone and mini-laptop seller Topjoy; Both have faced lengthy shipping delays from their original November 2021 target.
While more established vendor BigMe has used the crowdfunding route for its Inknote color device, it has used the same Kaleido Plus color technology used for the Nova Air C. In fact, the interface of the product is very similar to Onyx Books and others. e-paper tablet, even including an optional floating navigational control and lock screen illustration in the same style.
Upon launch, you are presented with a shelf similar to icons on the left that includes Meeting Records, Offline Books, and Storage. However, Bigme offers more customization options, including being able to dock Android apps there. This is especially useful because the company hasn’t (yet) implemented alphabetical ordering for Android apps as on Onyx Books.
BigMe partnered with Good eReader – a provider of news and reviews about e-paper devices and an online store on product designs that are hard to find in the US.
As Good e-reader’s impressive review notes, the Inknote Color is the first color E Ink product with an A5-sized display. The larger size makes it better suited for reading and annotating PDFs, as well as content like web pages, magazines, sheet music, and comics.
Similar to other larger E Ink-based devices, such as Kobo’s Ellipsa, the Inknote Color has a relatively thin bezel except for a notably wide bezel on the left margin.
Bigme Inknote Color E-Ink Tablet (Image Credit: Bigme)
Beyond color, the tablet offers hardware features that have rarely, ever, been seen before in such a product. This includes:
- 5MP front and 8MP rear cameras that can be used to take a quick profile photo or scan a document with integrated OCR which works well;
- A large (but inadvertently very easy to detach) active stylus with three buttons, unlike the button-free version on the Onyx Books;
- Miracast-based screen-casting — a great feature for when you want to take some video that will overwhelm the E Ink display; And
- A fingerprint reader – although this requires a Bigme Cloud account to set up.
Inknote Color also revives that microSD slot, which has been seen to lack vendor support, and supports 4G internet access, but not in the US
A technical tour de force for the category, the BigMe InkNote Color caters to those who want the biggest Color E Ink tablet available, specifically for consuming and annotating content transferred through a range of Android apps. And the device’s image and audio is recognized by text recognition applications.
E-paper tablets have made great strides in areas such as refresh rate and color support. However, their more mainstream competitors from companies such as Apple, Lenovo and Samsung have progressed into e-paper sweet spots, such as daylight readability and longer battery life, while offering great advantages in color reproduction.
E-paper tablets, then, are better optimized for prolonged reading, note-taking or annotation versus popular media-focused tablet activities such as playing games and watching videos. Products like the Inknote Color and Nova Air C don’t come close to challenging the iPad for those tasks.
However, with Google Play support and an improved color story, these devices allow more penetration into applications like email, web browsing, and messaging—that is, if you want to defy their promise of a less-distracting experience.
Rubin’s Review: Sherpa 100 Series Power Bank
Goal Zero was a pioneer in high capacity portable power products with AC outlets sold under the Yeti brand. These were useful for applications ranging from camping to emergency power. However, its smaller products, sold under the Sherpa brand, underperformed to stand out in the USB-based charging crowd.
Since the first Sherpa products, we’ve seen a flood of unnamed brands in the portable power space. Additionally, USB-C has offered a more versatile and popular charging standard, with its higher-wattage power delivery option.
In response, Goal Zero’s latest 95 kWh Sherpa power banks, the 100PD, which delivers up to 100 watts via USB-C power delivery, and the 100AC which offers the same in addition to a 100-watt AC outlet, while also standing out Covering each base and providing exceptional control over their features.
The Sherpa 100PD (pictured left) and Sherpa 100AC power banks offer 95 watt-hours of portable, airline-approved charging. (image credits: Target Zero)
While both the products are large to accommodate their high capacity, the AC-based product is smaller for its category. Both include informative displays tracking charge level, incoming and outgoing wattage, and other details.
More power banks are now smartly taking advantage of USB-C PDs to charge themselves as well as other products, reducing the need for a separate AC adapter. Sherpas implement this very well, with switches on the back specifying input, output, or port for automatic detection; A subtle colored light ring around the port glows blue or green to reflect this.
The Sherpa 100 family of products support Qi-based charging, and, in keeping with the company’s heritage, they are sturdily built—though not water-resistant; The 100AC includes a ventilation hole on its side. Nevertheless, the products represent how a company can reclaim premium status, even in a category that has seen widespread commoditization.
Currently, the Sherpa 100PD is priced at $199.99 and the Sherpa 100AC is $299.99 at Goal Zero.