eWritable > Blog > Boox Note Air3 C Unboxing & First Impressions

Boox Note Air3 C Unboxing & First Impressions

Nine days after ordering the Boox Note Air3 C from Boox’s official store, the e-ink tablet landed on my doorstep in the UK.

A full review is in the pipeline, once I have used the Note Air3 C (NA3C) for several days and let the novelty wear off. However, in the meantime, I wanted to write about my first impressions.

Unboxing

There were three items in the package; the tablet, the magnetic cover, and a box of five spare stylus tips.

Inside the NA3C box was the tablet, Pen2 Pro (stylus), USB cable, and some literature.

I removed the cover and snapped the NA3C to it via the magnets. It attached really nicely and provided a firm(ish) grip – it’s unlikely to fall out with everyday use but will be easily dislodged with a rigorous shake.

Something I only noticed when I came to take pictures afterwards is how easily the cover had picked up greasy fingermarks (I swear my hands were clean!).

The stylus snaps magnetically to the right edge, and a flap on the case folds over to give it an extra layer of security. When the cover is open, the flap can fold underneath, with the magnets keeping it in place, however, this does make the tablet wobble when you tap the screen because it is no longer on an even surface. Alternatively, the flap can just be left to stick out. I’m not a big fan of this flap design, so it will be interesting to see how much it irritates me with continued use.

Initial setup

Setting up the NA3C for the first time involved setting my language, the timezone, powerdown settings, and agreeing to Boox’s terms and conditions.

Then, I tried to connect up to my office wireless but the Android app kept crashing, so I set up my phone as a mobile hotspot and connected to that instead.

Then I downloaded and installed the latest firmware and rebooted.

Next, I configured my Boox and Google accounts to download my notebooks from Google Drive before setting up the Play Store.

One of the first apps I installed was CPU Z to check out the processor speed because reviewers that received a free unit from Boox noticed that it was clocking at 2.8GHz, in contradiction to the official specs, which state 2.4GHz. My tablet was indeed running at 2.4GHz.

I also installed some more apps, including GMail and Google Chrome. I did experience the Play Store crash a couple of times when installing apps.

Thinking this may be due to the mobile hotspot connection, I tried again to connect to my office wifi (which uses 802.1x EAP) but it still crashed out, even after the firmware update.

In fairness, I have had difficulty connecting to this particular network with other tablets/e-readers in the past (but never a Boox tablet), so the issue could well say more about my wifi than the NA3C.

The screen

The screen itself looks nice and is very responsive to the touch, however, it does have the same drawbacks that are inherent on other devices fitted with Kaleido 3 screens.

Without the frontlight turned on, the screen is quite dark (e.g. a white background is not quite as white as monochrome devices, which results in a lower contrast). Of course, you can turn on the frontlight, and this greatly improves the contrast but it will draw more power. Other than my Supernote, I only had my Kindle Scribe available for a comparison (shown below).

Kaleido 3 colours look quite washed out but on the NA3C, it is generally very good at displaying coloured pictures and even video, particularly when you set the right refresh mode for the activity. Colour e-ink tech is not yet at the level to compete with LCD/OLED screens, and you shouldn’t buy an e-ink tablet if this is what you are expecting that kind of quality, but Boox colour tablets are pretty much the best on the market in this regard.

Finally, I felt that the NA3C’s screen had a lot of glare from the lights in my office compared to other e-ink tablets.

Note-taking

Next, I went to Boox’s native note-taking to check out the handwriting feel.

It has a similar ‘scratchy’ surface to that of its predecessor, the Note Air 2 Plus, which has been missing from Boox’s more recent products, particularly the Tab Ultra line. The latency is almost imperceivable and the distance between where the nib touches the screen and where the mark is made is very small indeed.

I absolutely love the new “Smart Scribe” features, which (for me) appear to have a lot of time-saving benefits.

Rather than tapping on the lasso-select tool, I can now simply draw a circle or box around an element and it will select it for me. And if I want to erase something, I can simple scribble it out rather than having to select the erase tool. It is also now possible to create a shape with straight edges by drawing a freehand version and then keeping the stylus touching the screen. I think I will use this feature for diagramming/flowcharting, which will be further enhanced by the new Fill tool to ‘colour-in’ my shapes.

Battery life

When I first read the specs of the NA3C, my main concern was the battery life – it has the same power rating (3700mAh) as the Note Air 2 Plus but has more demanding hardware, particularly the integrated GPU and Boox Super Refresh (BSR).

I’ve just spent about two hours setting up and playing around with my NA3C and the battery has reduced from 90% to 70%, averaging 10% per hour. This indicates about 10 hours of usage before needing a recharge, which is a long way from several days and even weeks of usage that you might have traditional;y expected from an e-ink device.

However, this is just the observation from a quick initial playaround and it will be interesting to see how long the battery lasts with my typical day-to-day activities.

Verdict

I’m really excited to get stuck in and see what the NA3C is capable of.

My initial thoughts are that it is quick and responsive, the writing feel is nice, and the new features of the native note-taking app are awesome. And the onboard GPU, along with BSR makes it possible to run a wide range of apps.

However, it does have the drawbacks of other tablets with Kaleido 3 screens (dark, faded colours etc.) and there is a fair bit of glare on the screen. But, right now, these are the compromises we have to make to experience colour e-ink.

And, of course, battery life is still a concern – will I be able to go a whole day without a recharge?

About the author

Website | + posts

Dan Dutton is passionate about E-ink writing tablets, which bring together the pleasure of writing on paper with the power of digital technology. When he bought his first tablet, he realised that there wasn't a lot of unbiased information available for people that were considering buying an E-ink tablet, and so he built eWritable.

12 thoughts on “Boox Note Air3 C Unboxing & First Impressions”

  1. Thanks for your short review. Looking forward to the full one as I’m still waiting on some reviews especially regarding the battery life, which is my main concern and holds me back to buy the NA3C.
    When can we expect for your results on that one?
    What would be your recommendation if not the NA3C but a similar one, with kind of same features, writing feeling, but better battery life? (no necessity for color)
    – Max

    Reply
    • My initial result is that you can get a little over a day out of it – so I’d say it needs charging daily. This is average use (not constant use but pretty regular throughout the day and included installing apps, reading, and web browsing, but mainly notes). The frontlight was turned on about two-thirds, which I found most comfortable.

      The monochrome Note Air 2 Plus has similar features, better battery life but not quite the same web browsing experience (no Super Refresh), however, I believe Boox have said they are releasing a monochrome Note Air3 before the end of year which may fair better in terms of battery. It will still have Super Refresh but the non-Kaleido colour screen means that you won’t have to use the frontlight as much for a comfortable experience.

      For pure reading/note-taking and great battery life, I like the Supernote A5X.

      Hope this helps, Dan.

      Reply
      • Hi Dan,
        Could you share more information about this rumored monochrome version of the Note Air3?

        I have until the end of December to decide on an e-Note device. I’m not interested in the color display given its drawbacks and I’m deeply concerned about the battery life of the tablet, both for daily use and long-term life.

        That being said, your review has led me to believe that this would be an overall better device for me compared to the rest, given how versatile it is for note-taking (and its integration into my workflow thanks to its Android OS).

        Alternatively, I was considering going for the Tab Ultra, but I don’t want to regret missing out on the upgraded Android 12 as well as the inferior hardware capacity given that I would be paying $500 in both cases.

        Reply
        • Hey Octavio,

          Unfortunately, there’s nothing official from Boox themselves but a Boox representative did say (on Facebook or Reddit, I forget which) that they were planning to release a monochrome Note Air3C in December. However, I’m unable to find the original source (perhaps it was deleted) so at the present time, this is only rumour/conjecture and might never happen.

          Personally, it wouldn’t surprise me if Boox did release such a device because I think there are plenty of people like yourself that have no need for colour and its drawbacks. However, I don’t think that a monochrome NA3 would be all that much better in terms of battery life than the colour version because it is the GPU/BSR that draws the most power. Admittedly, you would be unlikely to use the frontlight as much because the screen would be inherently lighter but if battery life is your primary concern then then the NA2+ might be something to consider (but, of course, this is Android 11, no BSR, and slightly poorer overall specs).

          Sorry that I’m unable to provide any more precise info in this regard,

          Dan

          Reply
          • You were a great help, Dan. Thanks a lot.

            Indeed, the NA2+ was my first contender, but sadly it seems to be no longer in stock.

            I will use the NA3c mainly for taking notes as well as reading and working on textbooks, approximately 4-5 hours daily. I heard that with this type of use I could get 3-4 days of battery, though I will be using some syncing services that might have an impact on the battery.

            Overall, if the device has a lifetime of 4 years, I think it will be okay. A lot of development might happen in that time, making an update worth it anyway.

  2. Thanks for sharing your first impressions! Do you know if the new note taking features are NA3C-specific, or are they reflected in the TUC as well with a firmware update?

    Reply
  3. With longevity in mind, I’ve seen no one touch upon the unit’s ‘battery cycle count’, an important consideration where batteries can not be replaced.

    If we knew the cycle count of the battery before the expected performance drop… as we do with many computers, then with the known rate the device burns through a charge we should be able to calculate the life-span of the device, and I’m thinking that the life-span of the NA3C is considerably shorter than many other cheaper devices.

    Thinking of heavy users recharge every day, and most computers advising the battery being replaced after 1000 cycles, the NA3C is looking at a lifespan of around three years and my guess is, that before that three years is reached it a recharge wont get the user through a whole day, which is what I’m currently experiencing with my year old Macbook Air M2.

    Anyway, something that many might want to consider when purchasing these high end eink devices.

    I run a Supernote A5X with which from new and heavy use, I burn through a charge within two to three days… which maybe why they plan to bring out the next generation A5X2… with possible a replaceable battery.

    Reply
  4. Hi Dan. Were you able to solve the WiFi 802.1x EAP problem? I’ve just unboxed my NA3C and I’m seeing exactly the same thing when I try to connect to our corporate network. 🙁

    Reply
    • No, unfortunately I couldn’t get it working (despite spending quite a long time working on it). It is to do with an incompatibility between newer versions on Android and legacy enterprise networks. Google decided to remove the setting that had previously worked because of a security concern.

      One thing to try:

      If you have a windows computer connected to the same network (I didn’t), you can run ipconfig from the command prompt and it should show you a DNS Suffix. Then type that value (exactly) into the ‘domain’ field on the wifi settings on the Boox. See if it works with both the ‘Online certificate status’ set to ‘Do not verify’ and ‘Request certificate status’.

      After about a day, I felt I’d spent too much time on it to investigate further so I just connected to the wifi with my Android phone and configured a mobile hotspot that the Boox could connect to instead. Basically using my mobile as an intermediary between the Boox and the corporate wifi.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.

      Dan

      Reply

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