What follows is Jeff Moss’s reaction to eWritable’s review of the Note Air 3C, and below this you can find his own video reviews of this particular e-ink tablet.
I feel that Jeff raises some very valid points – although we mostly agree, we have some slight deviations in our opinions, and I think these different perspectives will help consumers decide if the NA3C is right for their own requirements.
The following is a response to the eWritable review on the Boox Note Air 3 C.
The overlap of shared opinion between the reviewer and myself is quite large when it comes to the Boox Note Air 3 C (3C). We both believe that the 3C is a great all-around device, yet we both maintain that the Supernote remains our daily driver at work. Case closed, right? Not exactly.
The reviewer goes on to express some general thoughts about the nature of Boox devices and Kaleido 3. This includes how each falls short in a notable way. I have disagreements on many of these points, but to the reader, know that these arguments are not isolated to the reviewer and I, but are shared disagreements among the Eink notetaking community. The amazing thing about the 3C is not only how great a device it is, but how it brings to the forefront these major issues which have been quite divisive for some time. Good times!
Let’s start with a focus on Kaleido 3. For over a decade now, the clamor to bring color to Eink has been palpable. Based on a recent survey I conducted, the advancement of color in Eink remains the top innovation that people are looking forward to the most. It’s in this context that Kaleido 3 both excites and disappoints, depending on where you stand with the technology.
For those, such as myself who embrace Kaleido 3, we point to color being superior to just black and white, that covers of books and magazines look great, that notetaking can be taken to another level by just adding a dash of color. In an era of OLED screens and high contrast and high-definition images, color Eink does not stack up very well, but relative to what came before, it seems like a breath of fresh air.
However, others are quick to focus on the flaws of Kaleido 3 and have good grounds to do so. The technology can only produce over 4 thousand colors with a pixel density of 150 ppi. Thus, color in images cannot be reproduced faithfully and can look grainy upon scrutiny. Ghosting is much more ever-present on Kaleido screens compared to traditional black and white screens which do a better job of minimizing that impact. And then there’s the darker background of the screen which requires more front lighting in indoor environments and thus causes greater battery drain to compensate. These are all factual, objective, and legitimate issues with Kaleido 3.
So which side is right here? Is Kaleido 3 a good or a poor implementation of color in Eink? The reviewer leans toward the negative side, especially in relation to the darker background, while I am in the positive camp. And we both can turn to others who will stand with us. Sadly, for the reader considering to purchase a device or not, the answer aligns with your preferences and expectations. Best to watch videos and images that allow you to see for yourself, as anyone’s opinion just won’t do.
My last comment here is that while it is true that a user will tend to need to use front lighting more with Kaleido 3 in indoor environments, know that this is not necessarily the case. Good lighting in a room can eliminate this need. Hell, I even took a Kaleido 3 device to work where I only rely on lighting from my windows with the blinds down where light seeps through the holes and I could still take and read notes with no assistance from front lighting. It did require me to use a thicker pen stroke, but that was the only adjustment I needed to make. Front lighting is not always required indoors.
The term distraction free is used often in the Eink community, and like color, divides people into two distinct camps. One, expressed by the reviewer, laments that the more a device can do, the more distractions it provides which takes away from a focused notetaking experience. Another view, which I adopt, is that any device can be made distraction free or not. Notifications can be deactivated, certain apps don’t have to be installed, and so on.
It seems obvious to me that the difference here is down to the personality of the user. There are enough people who express the need for a distraction-free device that these views cannot be dismissed. Yet at the same time there are plenty of people who cannot relate to this perspective at all.
And so we find ourselves in a familiar place. Two equally valid but opposing views about the same device. This is becoming a trend.
A Writing Pad vs. a Tablet
It’s important to understand how Boox devices differ from those produced by Remarkable and Supernote. Boox is about pushing the tech and providing as many features as possible. Remarkable and Supernote are about focusing on the notetaking experience. One example of this is how Boox has access to the Google Play store where you can download apps, while the other devices have virtually no app integration at all. To put it another way, these devices reflect two different philosophies and approaches to the marketplace.
In a vacuum, more features are better than less, as long as they don’t get in way of what the user is looking for the device to do. So, does Boox get in its own way by providing so many features in its notetaking app? Yes and no.
At first glance, you can see the differences in each company’s approach to their notetaking apps. With Remarkable and Supernote, you see one bar of menu options, either on the side or on top of the screen, leaving most of the writing canvas open and ready to write upon. Alternately, Boox runs a menu on the top AND on the side, crowding the screen and limiting the canvas.
So based on that, Boox does get in the way, and I find myself sympathetic to the comments of the reviewer. But Boox also provides more customization than its competitors. In that same notetaking space, I can consolidate the menus to a floating bar which I can then place on top of the screen, add in any features that I think are missing, and open up that canvas. Problem solved.
Thus, the complexity that Boox brings to the table produces two realities. First, the device becomes feature-heavy and powerful in terms of what can be done. For example, the search functionality between notebooks is among the best in the industry, and I could go on and on with other features as well. But the other side of this coin is that the user is faced with a wall of complexity and a steep learning curve in order to take advantage of these features. With Supernote and Remarkable you pretty much just get what you see (although some customization is possible there as well), and that experience is tailored and focused on notetaking.
Yet again we return to a familiar place. We are faced with two possibilities, each exclusive from each other, and each valid. This is the conundrum with this industry. You, as the reader, must decide where you stand on each of these issues in order to make the best buying decision for yourself. But how does one do that with a lack of hands-on experience with these devices given that the opinions of reviewers may or may not be relevant to you?
Some manufacturers try to address this with liberal return policies (be warned, this cannot be said of Boox). They are trying to give users the chance to experience these items for themselves and then return the device if things don’t work out. But that’s a hassle and far from ideal. Lack of hands on experience is a problem still in search of a solution.
The 3C is a fantastic all-around device. That’s the good news. The reviewer and I agree on this point, as do many other reviewers. The bad news is that it still may not be the device for you.
Things like the Kaleido 3 technology, the concept of being distraction-free, and the divergence of feature-laden vs. focused-use devices are controversial topics with no obvious resolution. The reviewer leans to one side of these issues while I lean toward another.
And in doing so, we reflect the disparity of opinion in the wider community that’s focused upon these devices.
Jeff’s Video Review of the Note Air3 C
This is Jeff’s 5-Part Video Review of the Boox Note Air3 C.
About the author
Jeffrey has been a fan of Eink devices since his first eReader back in 2007. Since then, he has owned over 15 Eink devices from 8 different companies (and counting) which have ranged from dedicated eReaders to fully functional productivity devices.
Using his experience and passion for the subject, he creates videos on YouTube to share his knowledge and interests in this area (youtube.com/@jeffreymoss -- please subscribe!). He can also be found posting on Reddit under the username Disastrous_Analyst_1.
Professionally, Jeffrey has worked in the Healthcare industry for over 25 years in various analytical and administrative roles and that work continues. It should be noted that he uses an eNotetaking device at his place of work daily.
He lives in Northern California with his wife, son, and two cats.