As expected, Onyx is showing off several new products at the Hong Kong Global Sources Fair this week… including a laptop with an E Ink display.

But it turns out the Onyx Boox Typewriter isn’t just a laptop. It’s actually a 2-in-1 device featuring a tablet section and a detachable keyboard. Oh, and it supports pen input as well.

Charbax from ARMDevices got a chance to check out an early version.

Update: Notebook Italia also has a video, where we find out that the Onyx Book Typewriter is still just a prototype, but that it could be ready “at the beginning of 2018).

The display portion features a 9.7 inch, 1200 x 825 pixel E Ink Carta screen which is visible in direct sunlight and which has low power consumption, allowing the Boox Typewriter to offer long battery life from a relatively small battery.

The device features a capacitive touchscreen, but thanks to pen input, you can also jot hand-written notes or sketch on the screen.

When attached to the keyboard section, the Onyx Boox Typewriter becomes a laptop, and since the device runs Google Android it’s not limited to functioning as a gadget for reading and writing. You could also run any number of other Android apps… although E Ink displays tend to have low screen refresh rates, so you probably won’t want to play  lot of black and white videos or play black and white games.

The Onyx Boox Typewriter also uses a pretty old version of Google’s mobile operating system: the software is based on Android 4.0, which means some newer apps may not run.

It features a 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, 1GB of DDR3L memory, 16GB of storage, and a microSD card slot. The gadget also has a micro USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, a mic and speaker, and the whole thing weighs about a pound.

The system supports both WiFi and Bluetooth, and you can use Bluetooth to pair it with a phone or computer for document sharing. For example, you could start working on a document on a PC, transfer it to the Boox Typewriter, and continue working on the low power device when you want a somewhat more distraction-free environment, or when traveling somewhere that you don’t expect to have a lot of wall outlets for plugging in and recharging your laptop.

Despite Charbax’s enthusiastic response to the assertion that the Onyx Boox Tpewriter gets up to 25 days of standby time (or half that when Bluetooth is enabled), Onyx hasn’t actually provided stats for how long the battery should last when you’re actually using the Boox Typewriter.

Part of the reason eReaders like the Amazon Kindle, B&N NOOK, and other Onyx devices get long battery life is because E Ink displays only draw power when the screen is refreshed… and when you’re reading an eBook you probably only refresh the screen once or twice a minute. Clearly you’ll need a higher refresh rate than that if you’re using this device as a typewriter.

The good news is that while most eReaders have pretty small batteries (890 mAh for a 7th-gen Kindle, for example), the Onyx Boox Typewriter has a 4,100 mAh battery which should help the system keep up with the more frequent screen refreshes.

But it’s still one of the most interesting electronic paper products I’ve seen in a while, and I’m curious to see how much it sells for if and when the Boox Typewriter comes to market.

Update: For a slightly less enthusiastic video (with better color saturation), check out Notebook Italia’s overview of the Onyx Boox Typewriter:

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22 replies on “Onyx Boox Typewriter is an E Ink 2-in-1 laptop”

  1. Onyx E Ink Laptop
    Hi there Onyx team,

    I’m looking to buy a cheap easy to use laptop that merely reflects light.
    I need this laptop for work, I’m a writer.
    In order to write well, I need as few distractions as possible, so preferably,
    no internet, with its distracting multimedia distractions and no gaming capacity.
    To have better focus, I want to be able to go outside, where the sun shines, the wind blows
    through the trees
    and then feel sleepy when the sun goes down again.

    A lot of people today are less productive because of the light coming off regular screens.
    – the visual cortex becomes irritable with having to compensate for a light emitting information carrier by generating a delta brainwave. This makes people extra passive
    and it’s bad for one’s sleep cycle.
    Long story short; having to type with an information carrier that emits light makes large
    tracts of the working population lazy artificially and therefore less than optimally productive.
    – the extensive passivity generated by said process causes drops in fertility amongst men in the modern world. As the endocrine system is gradually conditioned to be less and less dynamic, so do people lose their joy of life, especially libido, ambition, curiosity.
    – there are signs that the recent explosion on concentration problem related development issues such as autism, is at least boosted by this escalating process with the spread of multimedia information carriers.

    So it is pretty important that I can find myself an Onyx E Ink Laptop, amazon however, doesn’t seem to sell them (you can imagine my frustration) on the linked page.

    Please, just provide me with a link where I may buy a laptop for writing my pieces
    as inspired by sunlight.

  2. It looks nice, though I’d like better some Linux support with drivers for recent kernel & xorg. A wider screen instead of speakers would also be better.

    Well, messing around with android (4.0 !?) will still be less work than hacking a Kobo Glo, as I tried before. And there is a physical keyboard here.

  3. I was excited when I saw the Windows button on the keyboard but then it was running Android… Oh well, pass.

  4. “allowing the Boox Typewriter to long battery life from a small battery.”

    to squeeze long battery life maybe? I think you accidentally a word

  5. I have little experience with e-ink displays but did manage to play around with an original kindle someone brought into the office years ago. I have never forgotten just how crisp the display looked. The Onyx Boox Typewriter is something I’m definitely keeping an eye on – even if it’s just a dedicated device for reading and typing. Making it a true 2-in-1 (detachable keyboard) makes it a versatile machine.

    Good points on the screen refreshes re: typing and also how it might effect battery life.

    1. Check out the newer E Ink screens, they have improved over the past years in terms of resolution, contrast, refresh rate, all is better with E Ink Carta.

  6. “Despite Charbax’s enthusiastic response”

    Well that’s an understatement if I ever heard one. The guy is just about ready to propose to the device, marry it, and have little e-ink children.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but what this comes down to is basically a detachable keyboard for an Android-based 9.7″ e-ink tablet, something Onyx has been producing for half a decade now.

    1. I’m really sorry if I’m excited about a potential 50-day Battery life Laptop experience that enables working outside during the day, I’ve been waiting for something like this for a decade or something. Intel killed Pixel Qi, so we have to hope for something like this based on E Ink to be made super smooth, it’s based on Android, so it seems very possible.

      1. No, no, no, don’t apologize. It’s okay, really. If you’re excited about a device that does 50 days in standby, and let me quote the sales rep: “in standby, I repeat, in standby! IN STANDBY! I must really repeat, in standby!”, that’s really perfectly normal.

        I can only imagine about how excited you must be about the printed manual it comes with. I heard it has even longer standby, rumors say about 70 days or more.

        1. I got it confirmed by ONYX CEO that it’s 25 days usage and 50 days standby. That’s 2-3 weeks of battery life in use. By standby meaning you’re not actually typing, but the text that you just typed can stay on the screen forever with no power being used, as long as they can easily put the Android system in standby and quickly seamlessly bring it back. Who knows if it can be on the NXP i.MX7 it might even be totally insane in terms of Heterogenous multi-core processing where you could run the text editor on the ARM Cortex-M4 in a separate mode than the Android mode (on the dual ARM Cortex-A7) and thus it could use so little power your head will explode. Perhaps I didn’t consider the E Ink controller if that can run on that ARM Cortex-M4 or not. 6 Months battery life on your E Ink laptop when you’re only typing text and not synchronizing any texts over wireless/Android I think is possible.

          1. “25 days usage and 50 days standby. That’s 2-3 weeks of battery life in use”
            It’s not. It’s the regular 10 hours of use, with LOTS of sleeping inbetween. They didn’t reinvent Android, nor e-ink, nor ultra-low standby modes. They just put it into one package. Again, I do own devices that without any problems do 60 days of standby and “seamlessly” wake up and go to sleep again. The fact that they exchanged the LCD screen for an e-ink one that works like an e-ink screen does doesn’t make me leave a visible trail on the carpet.

            “it could use so little power your head will explode”
            I feel ashamed for mocking your hyperbole accent.

          2. Nah, I believe ONYX has a way to actually run the Android system for weeks on the battery. Nothing re-invented except optimizing for E Ink, no need to have the system running all the time unless you tap something to use it. The system power usage can be zero when you’re not doing anything on the screen, and while you are typing text the power usage is tiny small as it’s only a tiny small (I guess) 1/1000th of the E Ink display that needs to get updated, that actually means that only 0.001% of the display power usage is needed for typing each character onto the screen, and already E Ink display power usage is pretty low.

      2. Snark aside: My 2010 Nook Color running Android has a standby of 60 days. I fail to see why fricking STANDBY TIME is relevant unless you want to hang the thing on the wall and have it display the last text you typed.

        You are also fawning about how “responsive” it is, you say it’s “better than an iPad Pro.” Are you kidding? I mean, yes, it works, it does what you want. But comparing an iPad Pro with a digitizer professional graphic artists use to draw to an e-ink Android device that updates so slow you can see the cursor of your last five typed characters is nothing short of ridiculous.

        Yes, I am excited about a company that makes Android e-ink devices in a larger 9.7″ format, too. It’s good these things exist. But as I said above (yes, I was “zosh”, sorry for the nickname mixup), Onyx has been this company for half a decade now — the Onyx M92 was released in 2011.

        1. Long standby is important with E Ink as an E Ink device basically goes into standby immediately every time the screen updates, of course depends how quickly the system is able to standby and come back from standby. But in theory every time you change the page, every time you type one character, it can enter standby and then come back instantly whenever you click another character on the keyboard. You can’t have that with LCD or OLED. For a while now e-readers have relied on the i.MX6 Solo Lite which is a single core ARM Cortex-A9, once they get up to i.MX7 (which I guess must also support E Ink controller functions), then things might get even more dramatic in terms of power savings, i.MX7 has 3 cores, dual ARM Cortex-A7 which are much more power efficient than the old ARM Cortex-A9 and also there’s a third core an ARM Cortex-M4 which consumes I think something like 10 thousand times less power, potentially running an RTOS on the ARM Cortex-M4 with a device for like 6 months or 1 year on a battery. Maybe more, depends the battery, depends the device, depends what the RTOS is doing.

          1. Epaper (not E ink) does exactly that, like Pebble, which includes LCD. As do smart glasses/films/windows which use LCD.

            depends on

    2. Charbax is the Captain Charisma of mobiletech vlogging. I remember the days when he was following Mary Lou Jepsen around like a puppy dog. It was one of the greatest thing on youtube. Stop cramping the man’s style. It’s a lot cooler than that fast-talking greaseball from CNET.

  7. Brings me back to when I was excited about Pixel Qi for outdoor visible displays and longer battery lives. Too bad Mary Lou Jepsen wasn’t able to make it succeed and she abandoned it.

    1. yeah i was pretty excited for that to become an every day technology, but they just couldn’t make them in a fashion that they were financially feasable

    2. Intel, Microsoft, Apple were all trashing against Pixel Qi and the OLPC and the potential that it had, it didn’t help neither that Google didn’t even seem to care.. and the Samsungs, Sonys, also didn’t care.. I guess it’s never too late.. Google must invest in new displays and give away tens of millions of sub-$100 ARM Powered Chromebooks to all the kids in the developing world.

    3. I was rooting for pixel qi specifically, but I was surprised to see both pixel qi and mirasol evaporate. 2 are supposed to enter, and at least one should leave victorious.

  8. My Onyx Afterglow 2 had terrible battery life. I loved it, because unlike my Kindle, I could read a wide variety of things, not just what I pushed through Amazon services and formats. But whereas my kindle could get through a month (with usage), my afterglow struggled to survive 4-5 days with the same usage (30-90 minutes reading/day), and that’s with auto power offs requiring a cold boot (not instant on). SOT was similar to a phone with LCD/AMOLED. 🙁

    That was years ago, hopefully lots of things software and hardware have changed. My Moto Z Play with 1080p AMOLED gets like 12 hours SOT sometimes, so hopefully this could really go the distance. Once upon a time, I’d have drooled all over something like this for outdoor word processing without glare and squinting.

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