Onyx Boox Tab Ultra C Pro Review: Not a Laptop, But a Compelling Tablet for Readers

2024-03-28 / News / 3425 Sees / 0 Comments

Onyx is still trying to perfect the combination of a device that’s equal parts tablet, eReader, and laptop. While the Boox Tab Ultra C Pro is admirable and even interesting in those ambitions, it's not quite there yet. And this year's professional moniker doesn’t get it over the hump from the previous model.

Price and Availability

The Boox Tab Ultra C Pro is available now and retails for $649.99. The companion keyboard comes in at $149.99. There is a bundle with the keyboard for $739.99 which is probably the best bet for most people who will be typing on it as the keyboard is integral for most kinds of productivity.

Specifications
  • Screen

  • 10.3-inch Kaleido 3 (4,096 colors) Carta 1200 glass screen with flat cover-lens

  • Resolution

  • Black and white: 2,480 x 1,860 (300 ppi), color: 1,240 x 930 (150 ppi)

  • Storage

  • 128GB

  • Connectivity

  • Wi-Fi (2.4GHz + 5GHz), Bluetooth 5

  • OS

  • Android 12

  • Battery

  • 4,600mAh

  • Weight

  • 15.9oz (450g)

  • Dimensions

  • 8.9 x 7.3 x 0.26in (225 x 184.5 x 6.6mm)

  • CPU

  • 2.8Ghz Octa-core + BSR

  • RAM

  • 6GB

  • Image Formats

  • PNG, JPG, BMP, TIFF

  • Audio Formats

  • WAV, MP3

  • Screen Size

  • 10.3-inch

  • Ports

  • USB-C, MicroSD

Differences Between Tab Ultra C and Tab Ultra C Pro

First, there was the Tab Ultra C, and now there’s a Pro model. This new device keeps the spirit of the non-Pro but gives it a few enhancements.

The Pro gets 6GB of RAM, instead of 4GB. The processor gets bumped from a 2.0GHz Qualcomm Octa-core processor to a 2.8GHz Octa-core one. It also gains Android 12, upgrading from the previous Android 11. Those are the only significant differences, however.

The overall size remains the same. The screen size and resolution stay put. There's still 128GB of storage. The weight drops one ounce and the battery inside is a bit lower capacity, but I didn’t notice those items in practice.

Note: The Boox Note Air3 C is very similar in specs, but priced about $150 less. The major consideration, however, is that the Air 3 C doesn’t have a compatible keyboard case.

An eReader or Laptop?

If E Ink displays ever get fast enough refresh rates to alleviate all perceptible delay, devices like the Tab Ultra C Pro are going to take off in a serious way. But we’re not quite there yet. I still feel the growing frustration of not being able to navigate the device as quickly as I want to, even after years of using these kinds of products.

I don’t think the 2.8Ghz Octa-core Qualcomm processor inside casues any lackluster performance. The display, as cutting-edge as it is, still prioritizes a physical paper experience over unhindered movement.

The tech is advancing rapidly and with the different refresh modes that can be used for different apps, it’s almost good enough. The BSR technology that Boox advertises for a quicker refresh seems to be helping in this regard. The problem is having such direct comparisons with our constantly used phones.

A prominent example of micro-delays where I felt frustration was the web browser. Typing in a search query, scrolling the results, and then tapping on a link just doesn’t keep up with the speed at which most people have become accustomed to performing that frequent task. There are plenty of other similar instances navigating around too. I eventually felt hamstrung when the split seconds piled up over the course of using the tablet. It’s not at the level of an iPad, Chromebook, or other similar type of device.

On the other hand, those refresh delays are much easier to cover up while casually typing up a document or reading a PDF or longer form article. Reading, of all kinds, remains king of e-paper devices.

I've blown past the notion that this is a color E Ink screen. It's probably still novel to a lot of people, but the screen here isn't new any way, over the past Tab Ultra C one. The Boox products with a "C" annotation are color screen devices and there are quite a few of them available now. Even though the touch of color (at a lower resolution than the monochrome elements) can be muted or dull, it still provides enough visual stimulants to be compelling. Some color is better than no color.

My feeling about the Tab Ultra C Pro, like the Tab Ultra C before it, continues to be similar. I’m bullish on it for passive tasks but still bearish on it for more demanding work. It’s an eReader on steroids, capable of running familiar apps. But when it came to relying on its capabilities for critical tasks it often left me feeling stranded.

Can an E-Paper Tablet Be a Productivity Machine?

Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

Boox products have been edging into laptop and phone form factors for some time, but never over-committing. The Boox Palma does everything a phone does except have a SIM card slot. That continues to be the case with the Tab Ultra C Pro as well.

The Ultra C Pro gets a full-featured keyboard case with trackpad, but it doesn’t go further by turning the device into a proper clamshell laptop. Because of that, I still view this device as a tablet, first and foremost.

The keyboard feels good to type on—springy and responsive keys—but the on-screen cursor is extremely laggy. This aspect hurts its illusion of being a no-compromises laptop.

As a tablet running Android 12, I had no problems running all the apps I wanted to. Gmail, Slack, and Notion all worked as expected. It even handled Spotify and streaming video apps that probably didn’t make sense to use on an E Ink display.

Writing notes with the stylus works well but isn’t laptop-specific. More confirmation that this is a tablet through and through. There’s even a rear camera that can snap actual pictures, instead of just scan documents like past Boox devices. The photos were not good by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s an example showing the keyboard case.

A photo direct from the Tabl Ultra C Pro camera

There’s no front-facing camera either so video calls won't be happening. That’s probably for the best, but the idea did pique my interest about what it would be like.

The battery life I experienced could be measured in days, rather than hours. That was with average usage of reading books, typing, and general browsing.

That’s pretty common for e-paper products. You won’t get the same weeks-worth of battery life as on some eReaders because the machine is much more powerful. The place the battery tended to shine for me, however, was in standby time. I found that night and day better compared to an iPad.

Should You Buy the Onyx Boox Tab Ultra C Pro?

Despite marketing claims hinting at laptop performance, I couldn’t help but see the Oynx Boox Tab Ultra C Pro as anything but a high-end eReader—the cream of the crop. I continue to be intrigued about the prospect of merging multiple devices into a singular one, but this isn’t a laptop replacement—yet.

I love the flexibility that having the Android operating system on an E Ink tablet affords. It makes getting books, documents, and all kinds of content on it fast and accessible. The primary hurdle here is value. The Tab Ultra C Pro is a lot of money even compared to other premium eReaders. But if your work involves a lot of reading (like a lawyer, realtor, or producer, for example) you might be better served with the Tab Ultra C Pro instead of an iPad. Just keep a tempered expectation for overall productivity.



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