Onyx BOOX Palma is a mobile e-Reader that you can literally slide into your pocket

E-Book readers have become more diversified in the past few years, but there seems to be a trend of making them a lot bigger than what people are used to. Of course, there are uses for tablet-sized devices, like the Onyx BOOX Tab Ultra and Tab Ultra C that we reviewed previously, but the power and productivity they offer comes at the price of some portability and convenience. In fact, some people might even consider the typical Kindle sizes of eReaders to already be too big, especially if they can’t fit inside small handbags or pouches. Trying to cast its net even wider, Onyx BOOX has come up with a solution for this group of readers, one that can easily fit in anywhere almost like a smartphone, without being an actual smartphone.

Designer: BOOX

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. The BOOX Palma may look like a smartphone and may sometimes even act like a smartphone, but it is not a smartphone. At least not in the traditional sense of smartphones. You can send messages or make calls but only through Internet services like social apps and instant messaging. The smartphone look-alike is completely bereft of cellular connectivity, so you’ll have to rely on Wi-Fi for any and all online activities. To some extent, you can consider the BOOX Palma as a phone-sized tablet, albeit one with an eye-friendly and battery-friendly E Ink screen.

That 6.13-inch E Ink touch screen bears a sharp 300 PPI density, which means you get crisp letters on all your reading materials. It’s an E Ink Carta 1200, though, so you won’t be seeing colors outside shades of gray and black; standard fair for an e-Reader. It has a water-repellent design on its back, which also gives it a distinct appearance and a better grip. If you’ve ever dreamed of a literal pocket e-book, the BOOX Palma fits the bill perfectly and then some.

Just like Onyx BOOX’s other devices, the device runs the brand’s own flavor of Android 11, and this one thankfully also supports Google Play Store. With an octa-core processor and 6GB of RAM, this means you can run plenty of your favorite apps on it, whether they’re for reading, browsing the web, or even social media. The usual e-Paper caveats apply, aside from the lack of color. Refresh rates are terribly slow compared to the LCDs and OLEDs of typical smartphones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them for things other than reading, depending on your level of patience.

But what need would you have for an E Ink phone that isn’t a phone, especially when there are more “standard” devices from Onyx’s own fleet even? The brand is trying to sell the image of a new way of life, a distraction-free lifestyle with an eye-friendlier e-Paper device. You might be able to install almost any Android app you want, but the display technology puts limits on your use of them. It also forces you to disconnect while you read, at least when you’re not within range of a Wi-Fi access point. The Onyx BOOX Palma is an admittedly charming device with a unique proposition, but it remains to be seen if it will be worth its $279.99 price tag.