Onyx Boox Mira is a 13-inch E Ink monitor for your PC. While E Ink monitors are admittedly niche, they are good for people with light or flicker sensitivity and anyone else who cannot easily use LCD monitors. Now, E Ink monitors 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 is expensive at $ 799.99, but it is portable and has other hardware features that help alleviate some of the issues associated with this monitor technology. We do not recommend that everyone go out and buy one, but if an E Ink screen makes your life easier, Mira is a good option.
From Android tablets to available screens
As mentioned, people who are sensitive to light or flicker are one of the main target groups for E Ink displays; research reports from 2017 and 2018 note that this experience e.g. is common in people with post-concussion syndrome. These studies recommend e-paper type displays 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 range of Android E Ink tablets, which range in screen size from 6 to 13.3 inches, including the $ 879.99 Max Lumi. Lumi is primarily a standalone tablet, but Onyx built a PC screen mode into that device. Mira is a development of this concept and has important hardware features that make it easier to use as a standalone monitor.
Note that Onyx Boox is based in Shenzhen, China. Its website is boox.com and it sells products through Amazon. There is another, Russia-based company onyxboox.com that seems to be reselling Onyx products, but you should avoid it.
A slim device
Mira has a 2,200 x 1,650 pixel E Ink Flexible screen (207ppi). It uses E Ink’s VB3300-NCD module. A semi-transparent white frame borders the screen.
The main button on the device is a square, silver control in the lower right corner, which forces a full update of the screen and eliminates ghosting (more on this in a bit). The pages also have a button and a rocker button to change settings when you can not use the Mac or PC software to do so.
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 turn on the monitor via one of the USB-C connections. If you choose to use the mini-HDMI connection, you still need to turn on the monitor through one of the USB-C ports because it does not have a battery. To adjust on-screen settings via the accompanying Mac / PC app, use one of the USB-C ports.
The screen comes with a protective cloth cover that returns to make a stand. Mira also has four VESA screw holes on the back for standard fittings. 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 screen’s original resolution (2,200 x 1,650), but the unequal screen ratio can make many text styles difficult to read. Setting the resolution to 1,600 by 1,200 makes the default text size in Microsoft Excel and Word much more readable.
Mira comes with a Windows driver app that lets you change display settings right away. For example, you can adjust the white and yellow backlights as well as toggle between refresh rates and contrast modes for different types of content. You can also set keyboard shortcuts to change the screen mode or force a screen update. If you do not want to run the companion app, you can change all of these settings using the aforementioned buttons and the rocker button on the side of the screen.
Now the Mira is a touch screen, but that functionality did not work properly with my PC. When I tapped areas on the screen, my computer worked as if I was clicking elsewhere on my main screen. I’m sure Onyx has a solution on the way to that.
Reading, writing and … videos?
I tested Mira with a Windows 10 PC, but you can also use it with a Mac.
PC applications tend to assume that you are using a color display (or at least a 256 grayscale), so the font readability on Mira depends a lot on anti-aliasing, the subtle shadow around the edges of streaks. In Mira’s text mode, which gives you the real blacks, the contrast is high enough that it kills the most anti-aliasing; many fonts, especially serif, look uneven or gloomy.
The solution to this problem is Mira’s speed mode or image mode, but both modes have drawbacks. Blacks turn gray at best, and small fonts tend to look dotted and interpolated. There is also ghost as you scroll through web pages, though you can clear ghosts with the handy update button.
E Ink is updated differently than LCD – it does not scan the entire screen down and therefore does not flicker. Rather, the display driver moves static ‘ink’ particles into small liquid-filled cells and only those that change for a given frame. These particles sometimes retain residual charges even when their voltage changes. To completely flip a cell between true black and true white, you may need to ask it more than once or even change its neighbors, according to this fascinating StackExchange answer. So a faster update means fewer pixels are cleared properly, resulting in a generally grayer image and more ghost. By pressing the physical update button, everything flashes white and then rewrites the entire screen, thus avoiding any ghost.
Mira’s video mode has a high enough refresh rate to play videos, but they appear very dotted and with low contrast. Narrow contours around objects are also not consistent at all – you should really switch out of it as soon as you finish watching a video to better see other interface elements.
Trying to switch between all of these modes provides a less than effortless experience. Between the ghost, the too low or too high contrast look and the at best jerking cursor movement, I constantly felt like I was forcing a technology to do something it was not designed for. I wanted to edit a spreadsheet the length of the Mira, but after a while I moved back to my much more responsive Asus laptop LCD.
On the other hand, this is an E Ink screen that can play videos and they can be viewed! If you can not handle LCD monitors, you can now experience Netflix and YouTube. The experience is once again not great, with lots of ghosts, very low contrast and huge whited-out and black-out areas, but compared to not being able to watch video at all, it is a revolution.
A revelation, despite some mistakes
The Onyx Boox Mira E Ink screen is a real breath of fresh air for people with neurological sensitivities who prevent the use of LCD screens or OLED screens. However, the reading experience on Mira is not as good as on Onyx’s dedicated Android tablets or a handheld e-reader – if you primarily want to read books, documents or web pages, Onyx Boox Note Air ($ 479.99) is a better and 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 software, but it uses the same E Ink module like Mira So until we test a better screen, we carefully recommend Mira to the people who need what it offers.