The Onyx BOOX Palma is a device that you could easily mistake for a smartphone at first glance. It’s an Android-powered device that’s about the size and shape of a modern phone, and it even has phone-like specs including a Qualcomm octa-core processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 16MB rear camera.
But the Palma is a WiFi and Bluetooth-only device that doesn’t make phone calls. Perhaps more importantly, it has a black and white E Ink display. Basically the Onyx BOOX Palma is a pocket-sized eReader rather than a full-fledged phone. After going up for pre-order in July, the Palma is now available for purchase for $280.
The Onyx BOOX Palma isn’t the first device we’ve seen in this category. Chinese companies like Xiaomi and Hisense have been making phone-sized E Ink devices for years, and the latter even sells some actual smartphones with E Ink displays.
But Onyx is a long-established player in the global eReader market, and the company has a track record for shipping products to international customers. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Palma show up at Amazon eventually.
The Palma has a 6.13 inch, 824 x 1648 pixel E Ink Carta display with a 2:1 (or 18:9, if you like) aspect ratio and 300 pixels per inch. The screen can display 16 shades of grey, is visible using only ambient light, and only consumes power when the screen is refreshed, which means a static image can be displayed indefinitely.
There’s also a front-light with adjustable color temperature, allowing you to reduce the amount of blue light at night, for example. And the screen support capacitive touch input. There are also power and volume buttons, plus a customizable function button. And the volume keys can be used as page-turn buttons.
Other features include a G-sensor for automatic screen rotation, a light sensor, LPDDR4X memory, UFS 2.1 storage, a microSD card reader for removable storage, a USB-C port for charging and data, and a 3,950 mAh battery.
The Palma supports dual-band WiFi (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and Bluetooth 5.0. And it has a built-in mic and speaker, but no headphone jack that I can see.
It measures 159 x 80 x 8mm (6.3″ x 3.1″ x 0.3″) and weighs 170 grams (6 ounces) and comes in black or white color options. Onyx says it has a “water-repellent” design that should help protect it from “accidental spills, splashes, or light rain,” but the Palma is not waterproof and should not be submerged in water.
As an Android-powered device, you should be able to run a wide range of applications on the device, but most Android apps aren’t designed for black and white screens with low refresh rates, so that will probably limit the apps you actually want to use on a device like this.
It’s probably best to think of this as a pocket-sized eReader with some bonus features. The built-in software includes an eReader with support for a wide range of file formats including EPUB, AZW3, MOBI, PDF, DOCX, HTML, CBR, and CBZ as well as WAV and MP3 audio and common image formats.
$280 is rather pricey by modern eReader standards, and Onyx doesn’t spell out which octa-core Qualcomm processor it’s using for the Palma, so it’s hard to say what kind of performance you can expect from the Palma when using it for apps other than reading. But it’s not hard to see the appeal of this sort of device if you’ve ever tried cramming a Kindle or Nook in your pocket only to find that it just won’t fit.