Onyx Boox Mira Review | PCMag



The Onyx Boox Mira is a 13 inch E Ink monitor for your PC. While admittedly niche, E Ink screens are suitable for people who are sensitive to light or flicker, and anyone else who cannot easily use LCD screens. Now, E Ink displays are not ideal for everyday tasks and entertainment, but Onyx is an expert in designing software that makes them suitable for such applications; these advances are one of Mira’s strongest selling points. The monitor costs $ 799.99, but it’s portable and has other hardware features that help alleviate some of the issues with this display technology. We don’t recommend everyone to buy one, but if an E Ink display makes your life easier, the Mira is a worthwhile option.

From Android tablets to accessible screens

As mentioned, people sensitive to light or flicker are one of the primary audiences for E Ink displays; research reports 2017 and 2018 note that this experience is common in people with post-concussion syndrome, for example. These studies recommend e-paper type screens as an alternative. Note that e-paper is a generic term; E Ink is the name of a brand that has lawyers.

Onyx is best known for its line of Android E Ink tablets that range in screen sizes from 6 to 13.3 inches, including the Max Lumi at $ 879.99. The Lumi is primarily a stand-alone tablet, but Onyx has integrated a PC monitor mode into this device. The Mira is an evolution of this concept and has key hardware features that make it easier to use as a stand-alone monitor.

Note that Onyx Boox is based in Shenzhen, China. His website is boox.com and he sells products through Amazon. There is another Russian based company on onyxboox.com that appears to be reselling Onyx products, but this one should be avoided.

An elegant device

The Mira sports a flexible 2200 x 1650 pixel (207 ppi) E Ink display. He uses E Ink VB3300-NCD module. A semi-translucent white bezel borders the screen.

The most important button on the device is a square silver control in the lower right corner, which forces a full screen refresh and eliminates ghosting (more on this in a moment). The sides also have a button and toggle to change settings when you can’t use Mac or PC software to do so.

There are two USB-C ports and a mini-HDMI port on the side (Photo: Sascha Segan)

Onyx includes HDMI and USB-C cables in the box. The right side of the Mira houses two USB-C ports and a mini-HDMI port. You can connect and power the monitor through any of the USB-C connections. If you choose to use the mini-HDMI connection, you still need to power the monitor through one of the USB-C ports as it has no battery. To change monitor settings through the associated Mac / PC application, you must use one of the USB-C ports.

The monitor comes with a protective fabric cover that folds up to make a stand. The Mira also has four VESA screw holes on the back for standard mounts. At 9.1 x 12.1 x 0.3 inches (HWD) and 20 ounces, you can easily throw the screen in a bag.

Windows can drive the monitor’s native resolution (2200 x 1650), but this odd screen ratio can make many styles of text difficult to read. Setting the resolution to 1600 x 1200 makes the default text size in Microsoft Excel and Word much more readable.

VESA mounts on the back of Mira

VESA holes on the back allow you to put the monitor on a stand (Photo: Sascha Segan)

The Mira comes with a Windows driver app that lets you change display settings on the fly. For example, you can change the white and yellow backlights, as well as switch between refresh rates and contrast modes for different types of content. You can also set keyboard shortcuts to change the monitor mode or force a screen refresh. If you don’t want to run the companion app, you can change all of these settings using the aforementioned buttons and toggle on the side of the monitor.

Now the Mira is a touchscreen, but this feature didn’t work well with my PC. When I tapped areas of the screen, my computer acted as if I clicked on other locations on my main screen. I’m sure Onyx has a fix coming up for this.

Mira's driver application on Windows

The driver app lets you play around with the settings

Reading, writing and … videos?

I tested the Mira with a Windows 10 PC, but you can also use it with a Mac.

PC apps tend to assume you’re using a color display (or at least a 256-level grayscale display), so font readability on the Mira is heavily dependent on anti-aliasing, the subtle shading around the edges. features. In Mira’s text mode, which gives you the truest blacks, the contrast is high enough to eliminate most anti-aliasing; many fonts, especially serif, appear patchy or slippery.

Mira showing the NYTimes site

Fonts on NYTimes have consistency issues and images are too contrasted in text mode (Photo: Sascha Segan)

The solution to this problem is Mira’s speed mode or picture mode, but both modes have drawbacks. Blacks become grays at best, and small fonts tend to appear dotted and interpolated. There are also ghosting as you scroll through web pages, although you can erase ghosts with the handy refresh button.

Mira running Excel

Excel doesn’t look bad, at least after hitting the manual refresh button (Photo: Sascha Segan)

E Ink refreshes differently from the LCD screen– it does not scan the entire screen, which is why it does not blink. Instead, the display driver moves static “ink” particles into small, fluid-filled cells, and only those that change for a given image. These particles sometimes retain residual charges even when their voltage changes. To completely reverse a cell between true black and true white, you may need to ask it more than once or also change its neighbors, depending on what fascinating answer from StackExchange. So, faster refresh means less pixels are erased properly, resulting in a grayer overall image and more ghosting. By pressing the physical refresh button, everything turns white, then rewrites the entire screen image, eliminating any ghosting.

Mira’s video mode has a refresh rate high enough to play videos, but they appear very dotted and low-contrast. The narrow outlines around objects aren’t consistent at all either – you should really get out of them as soon as you’re done watching a video to get a better look at the other UI elements.

Trying to switch between all of these modes makes for a less than effortless experience. Between the ghosting, the appearance of too low or too high contrast, and the at best jerky pointer movement, I constantly felt like I was forcing a technology to do something it wasn’t designed to do. I wanted to edit a spreadsheet at length on the Mira, but after a little while I came back to my much more responsive Asus laptop LCD display.

Mira in video mode

Video mode can play videos, but with ghosting and very low blacks (Photo: Sascha Segan)

On the other hand, this is an E Ink monitor that can play videos, and they are watchable! If you can’t handle LCD screens, now you can experience Netflix and YouTube. The experience is, again, not great, with a lot of ghosting, very low contrast, and huge whitened and darkened areas, but compared to the inability to watch the video at all, it’s is a revolution.

A revelation, despite some flaws

The Onyx Boox Mira E Ink Monitor is a real breath of fresh air for people with neurological sensitivities that prevent the use of LCD or OLED screens. The reading experience on the Mira is not as good as on dedicated Onyx Android tablets or a portable e-reader, however – if you primarily want to read books, documents, or web pages, the Onyx Boox Note Air ($ 479.99) is a better and a cheaper solution.

That said, the Mira costs less than other dedicated E Ink monitors, including the $ 999 Dasung 13.3 “Paperlike HD. We haven’t tested the Dasung Paperlike yet, so we can’t comment on its performance or its software, but it uses the same E Ink Module as the Mira, so until we test a better monitor, we cautiously recommend the Mira to people who need what it offers.

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