Ereader Review: Onyx Boox Poke2

Posted June 13, 2020 by Nicky in General / 5 Comments

The Onyx Boox Poke2

When it comes to ereaders, everybody knows about the Kindles and Kobos — there’s brand-name recognition there, even if you’ve never owned them. But they’re not the only ereaders out there, and I’ve been thinking for a while about getting hold of an ereader that’s a bit less tied to a specific ebook store. I haven’t loved the user interface on the most recent Kobos, and Kindle’s software has all the same flaws I found annoying when I owned a Kindle Keyboard.

I knew about the Onyx Boox ereaders, but I’d never even handled one, and there was no way to get to play with one in advance, so I was hesitant. The Poke2 is one of their newer models, and it didn’t really take me long to take the plunge when I read up on the specs. The selling point for me is that the Poke2 is built on Android, meaning that it can download any app on the Google Play Store: Amazon and Kobo, of course, but also various apps tied to libraries like Libby and BorrowBox, or subscription services like Scribd.

There are other neat features, like the screen light: you can adjust both the strength and the temperature of the light, to create a comfortable reading experience and to cut down on blue light. It’s one of the lightest and smallest readers out there, touted as the closest thing to the Kobo Mini that I adored (and would still use, had it only a built-in light). It’s also supposed to be better for PDFs than Kobo or Kindle. It can handle pretty much all the popular file types.

So, how was my experience?

Well, it wasn’t a joy to order it: they had very few units available due to delays in manufacturing during the pandemic, and then there were delays in dispatching and of course also delays with Fedex (although this is not their fault at all, and not really the fault of Fedex either; it’s just the way things are). Once it arrived, though… it’s a joy. I have both a Kindle Paperwhite and a Kobo Aura 2, which are pretty comparable with each other in terms of weight, shape and feel. I took some comparison pics with the Kindle:

Kindle Paperwhite on the left, compared with an Onyx Boox Poke2 on the left. Screen up.
Kindle Paperwhite on the left, Onyx Boox Poke2 on the right.

Kindle Paperwhite on the left, compared with an Onyx Boox Poke2 on the left. On their sides.I have to say that I’m a convert: the Poke2 feels slimmer and sharper, and the Kindle isn’t curved enough that it makes it significantly nicer to hold. From using it, I do have a slight problem that how I hold the Poke2 tends to cause me to very lightly touch the screen, because that margin really isn’t very wide. The more I read and get used to holding it, the less it happens.

I also got a free cover with the Poke2, and it’s pretty nice: it looks like fabric, but it’s waterproof and easy to clean. It’s super lightweight, and basically my only issue is that it’s fixed onto the ereader with sticky pads. I’ve never loved sticking my ereaders into covers, even if it does keep them very light. That said, I’ve found this cover the least obtrusive of any I’ve had, it has the sleep/wake function, it folds back on itself easily without creating an ugly crease, and it was free.

In terms of the software, it takes some setting up. It doesn’t come registered for Google Play immediately, and I couldn’t find out how to until I turned on the browser by chance. They do have instructions, once you do that, but it doesn’t necessarily leap to mind as the first thing to try! I also would not recommend the built-in reader: I find the sidebar annoying, and though there’s a large choice of fonts (and it’s easy to download and install more), I couldn’t get them as small as I wanted.

Once I did get myself set up, I was all good though. I ended up paying for Calibre Companion for easy sorting of my side-loaded books, and that has been worth the price already — I don’t have to connect my ereader via USB, just set up the link over wireless. You can actually drop books to it via wifi anyway, without Calibre Companion, but I already used Calibre and having that as the interface helps keep things organised.

I also have Libby and Borrowbox installed for library books, and I’ve rarely made so much use of the library; it’s just as easy as downloading them to my phone (which I always found to be too full of distractions for good reading time, though great while on the go). With the Kindle and Kobo apps as well, I can access both my collections. When I want to read the side-loaded books, so far I’ve been using Moon+ Reader, but anything where you can disable animations, set a plain white background and use black text will work just fine.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for something that just works out of the box, you’re still looking at a Kindle, Kobo or another of the established players. The Onyx Boox Poke2 is much more what you make of it, and you can customise a lot of things. That means setting it up can be a bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve got the Play Store authorised, you’re home free if you’re used to using Android. It runs on Android 9, so it’ll be around for a while, and it adds a lot of convenience to accessing a diverse ebook collection. I love the feel and weight of it, and for me the customizability is a plus.

Custom screensavers on the Poke2

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5 responses to “Ereader Review: Onyx Boox Poke2

  1. Jo

    At last! A READER’S POV of this device, not a techie’s POV. It’s so exciting to see (yes I lead a HIGHLY uneventful life!!!) You wouldn’t think they were so hard to come by, but most peope seem more interested in extolling the virtues of the video player or the PDF function or harping on about refresh rates and all the stuff that so long as it looks ok I’m not in the least bit interested in! Thank you.

    I don’t suppose I could trouble you for some more photos of things like the file management system and what the calibre companion, kindle and kobo apps look like on it could I? I’ve been a kobo girl for so long that it is taking me a hot minute to make the leap…! And I have to say that having Borrowbox available as an app will increase my library lending of books and reduce my spending on books by a great deal as I hate reading on my phone which is what I have to do currently if I want to borrow ebooks from the library.

    Also, what apps come pre-loaded and can you just delete off any that you don’t want? I would not want to have social media stuff on it, that’s what my phone is for lol!

    TBH, if it was a quarter lower in price I probably would have gotten one already but it is just a bit more than I ideally want to pay I need to have it justified to me before I go ahead (which I most likely will do but later rather than sooner).

    • Hi Jo! Sorry I’m late to reply to this — I’m not sure if you’re going to get notifications of replies, so I might also email you this… I can definitely take a few more photos! I’ll put that on my to-do list for the next couple of days.

      Regarding how the apps look: there’s a little doohickey to adjust them to fit the screen size, if they don’t open at the right size, so you’ll want to bear in mind that I’ve adjusted mine to be how I want it to some extent and you’d be able to tweak it to your preferences as well. I also go for really TINY fonts; that’s a preference on my part and not something you’re locked into!

      Not very many apps come pre-loaded: looks like it was their App Store, a browser, calculator, calendar, clock, dictionaries, email, Google Play Store, Music, an app for managing their “navigation ball”, screensaver settings, sound recorder, and an app for transferring books. You don’t have to set up any of the stuff like email or calendar, but it doesn’t look like you can delete them.

      The library stuff is definitely what’s making it a worthwhile purchase for me, along with being able to use both Kindle and Kobo apps to use the books I own on those book stores!

      • Jo

        Oh, thanks so much.

        It’s great to hear that they don’t bog the system down with loads of unwanted and apps that no- one wants on an ereader.

        I look forward to seeing more pics of what the device looks like in action!


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