I’ve just received my 13.3″ Onyx BOOX Max2 e-Reader.

And so far I’m happy with it.

There exists an underlying issue with Android-based e-Readers, where these e-Readers are 4 years in the making, and where the issue is something I’m just learning about in recent weeks. As a security precaution, Google has toughened the requirements on the Google Play Store app, and on the Google Services app, which made numerous e-Readers, that were once proud to offer a working Google Play app, unable to connect to Google Play in the short term. This measure became effective as of March in 2018. However, certain manufacturers of such devices have been struggling to make their devices compliant with the new Google Store, and as far as I know, the BOOX Max2 which I just received, may be able to connect to the Google Play store fully.

(This posting has been revised, as of 4/14/2019, 10h15 : )

Out-of-the-box, the Max2 had a firmware version from April in 2018. But the latest Firmware update is from December in 2018.

  • I am glad to say that I found out how to set a PIN Code for this device because if there had truly been no way, then the cloud resources that I’m logged in to would be just as vulnerable, as an unlocked tablet. With the latest firmware, I found this setting under ‘Settings -> (Arrow to the Right) -> Screen Lock PIN Code’.
  • Apparently, the way to activate Google Play on this device, is now to go into “Settings -> Application” and to check “Activate Google Play”.

Instead of activating the Google Play Store, I have been focusing on using the Onyx app store for the time being. In days gone by, their in-house app store had a reputation of only offering apps in Chinese. But what the users of the Max2 can now do, is download e-Ink optimized apps in English. Those apps include the Amazon Kindle Android app.

This is a huge find for me because it also implies less of a security compromise, than what I’d have, if I was just to log the Max2 into Google Play.

I can side-load Free APK-Files to install software, and can install some additional proprietary, non-free apps from Onyx. APKs include the ‘OverDrive’ app, which allows me to check out books from my public library, in e-Book format. And what installs from the Onyx app store includes the ‘Kindle’ Android app, optimized for e-Ink.

I’ve tested both apps, and they seem to work fine.

But then again, speaking of side-loading… This can imply that files need to be transferred via USB-cable from a PC, to the device, and the device uses MTP as its protocol. There are some reports of issues in getting this to work from the Linux GUI, and I just ran in to such an issue…

I can establish MTP-based browsing from my Debian / Stretch machine, but not from my Debian / Jessie computers, which really means very little, since the ability to do so also depends on how up-to-date the kernel is. What did slow me down a bit was, trying to navigate the MTP volume from Dolphin, which is, after all, the prescribed File Browser, and I ran in to this issue, even though the package ‘kio-mtp’ has long been installed.

I found that the trick to getting this to work was, to ignore the fly-out which appears from a Plasma 5.8 computer’s system-tray, which shows new devices to mount. The thing to do is to click on some empty place on the desktop, so that this fly-out drops away again, out of sight, and then, to open Dolphin, to select “Network -> MTP Devices” and, if everything is working 100%, the Max2 should appear there as a navigable device. It did for me.

Apparently, if we click on the fly-out entry, we’re telling Linux to mount the device as a mass-storage device regardless, and if the device does not support that, as most Android devices don’t, this will just get into conflict, with the recognition of the Device as an MTP Device.


 

My first impression of the BOOX Max 2 is a good one. It came with a cute sleeve, as well as with a screen-protector, the use of which is mandatory, to protect the display from the Wacom Stylus scratching it otherwise. And I am thankful to Onyx, for formulating the display-facing adhesive side of the screen-protector in such a way, that I could in fact do a decent job of applying it, even though I’m a non-professional with poor manual dexterity. What certain other companies have gotten wrong with supplied screen-protectors, is to make their adhesive too strong, so that once the application was maladjusted, it could not be corrected, so that the entire protector next needed to be disposed of.

I was able to apply the screen protector for the Max2 decently, after having readjusted it more than once. There are some bubbles which are almost impossible to see, but otherwise it’s fine.

 

I think that there is one word of caution to everybody who wants an Android tablet, that just happens to have an e-Ink display. It’s an e-Reader, that just happens to be Android-compatible, and one factor which will always confuse some users, is how low-performing the e-Ink display is, in exchange for drawing very little current. Because I was always aware of this, it did not disappoint me.

Thus, I hope to be setting out on a long and pleasant journey with this e-Reader.


 

N.B.

I suppose that one question a reader of this blog might have, is, ‘If we are browsing this blog using the BOOX Max2, can it display the typeset Math correctly, which I sometimes offered in ePub3-format, specifically for viewing on smart-phones?’ And the answer is No. Even though the Max2 does support ePub File format, it does not support version 3 of that format fully, the only purpose of which I see, is to display MathML correctly.

But because the Max2 has such a large display, what a reader can easily do is to download the PDF-Files that I’ve offered, which assume a desktop browser, and then read those, without ever having to pinch-zoom…

Also, a foreseeable question is, ‘Since the Max2 has a scribbling interface to sketch and write, using the supplied Wacom Stylus, does it also perform OCR?’ And again, the answer is No. The Max2 does possess Language Settings, which have a similar meaning to those, on other Android devices, and does support TTS. But I feel that not to be using OCR is a plus. What experience I’ve had with OCR on other platforms suggests, that such a feature often gets the text recognition wrong, which means that a user next needs to re-write text, and to retry to OCR… This can be very counter to the needs of note-taking during lectures, etc..

The way the Max2 works, at least according to the latest update, is to keep sketches, drawings, handwriting, Math, etc., in their original form, which a user can recognize later on, even if added in the form of annotations. It can all be exported either to PDF, or to PNG in the case of single pages. And if the user cannot recognize his own handwriting later on, then there is no real reason to expect that the Max2 can either…

Dirk

 

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