Onyx Boox T68 vs Icarus Illumina HD Comparison Review (+Video)


Onyx Boox T68 vs Icarus Illumina HD

The Onyx Boox T68 and Icarus Illumina HD are both among the first E Ink ebook readers to run Android and openly allow the installation of Android apps.

Since I just got done reviewing each of them, there’s no better time for a comparison review. Below is an outline of the main similarities and differences between the Boox T68 and Illumina HD, along with a video to help illustrate these points.

Similarities

  • Both run open Android and can install Android apps, including lots of ereading apps.
  • Both have E Ink Pearl screens.
  • Both devices have physical page buttons, capacitive touchscreens, and LED frontlights.
  • Both come with 4GB of internal storage and both have microSD card slots for cards up to 32GB.
  • The devices have the same 1 GHz processor with 512MB RAM.
  • Both offer Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
  • Both can be customized with an alternate launcher like Nova Launcher.
  • Battery life seems similar, but it’s really hard to tell because both have issues calibrating the battery percentage properly—it tends to go down slowly at first, then the readings go up and down erratically, and before you know it the battery is dead.
  • Both support many of the same reading apps and ebook formats, and both support Adobe DRM with the default preinstalled reading apps.

Differences

  • The Onyx Boox T68 has some hardware advantages: it has a larger 6.8-inch 1440×1080 screen with greater pixel density than the 6-inch 1024×758 screen on the Illumina HD; it adds Bluetooth support for keyboards and audio; and it has a headphone jack.
  • The Boox T68 comes with Google Play to install Android apps; the Illumina HD does not come with an appstore onboard—all apps have to be sideloaded.
  • The software on the Illumina HD tends to run smoother with less crashes and app issues. It has a newer version of Android, 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The T68 runs Android 4.0.2 Ice Cream Sandwich.
  • The frontlight is more evenly distributed on the T68, but the Illumina HD offers a wider range of brightness adjusting settings and the light has a whiter tone, whereas the T68 appears yellower.
  • The Boox T68 has a navigation wheel and selector that can be used in lieu of the touchscreen.
  • The physical page buttons on the Icarus Illumina HD work with most 3rd-party reading apps, such as Kindle and Kobo, by enabling volume button page turns in settings. The nav wheel turns pages with most reading apps on the Boox T68, but the side page buttons mostly work with preinstalled apps only.
  • The Illumina HD has a partial refresh mode that automatically kicks in when scrolling; it helps make things run nice and smooth on the E Ink screen. The T68 has the same kind of feature but it has to be turned on and off manually from the status bar.
  • Some reading apps tend to work better on the Illumina HD, namely Kindle and Nook. The Kindle app works well enough to use on the Boox T68, with the exception of shopping the Kindle store, which makes it crash a lot. The Nook app doesn’t work at all on the T68. And the Google Play Books app doesn’t work on the Illumina HD. Once setup properly for E Ink, Moon+ Reader is one of the best reading apps for both devices.
  • The Boox T68 comes with more reading apps preinstalled, all of which are better than the default Adobe Reader app on the Illumina HD. The Onyx apps have a lot more features for both ePubs and PDFs.

Conclusion

From my experience testing the Onyx Boox T68 and the Icarus Illumina HD, both offer a similar overall user experience. The same apps can be installed on both of them, with a few exceptions. The T68 has some advantages with hardware, but the Illumina HD tends to suffer from less bugs and the software, while lacking Google Play access for apps, is more refined and smoother running.

There is no clear winner in this comparison. I think the perfect option would be to get the Illumina HD’s software onto the hardware of the Onyx Boox T68, with the added perks of Google Play access and the better default reading apps from the T68. That would be the best of both worlds.

Video Comparison: Boox T68 vs Illumina HD

4 Responses to “Onyx Boox T68 vs Icarus Illumina HD Comparison Review (+Video)”

  1. Hi there, I really enjoyed the Sony PRS-t1 “augmented” by the android root/hack, until I broke the screen. Reading comics, any damn format i wanted, pdf viewing, and having the option to get books using the kindle app, or nook, sony, whatever.

    Freedom unblemished by corporate firewalls. And nice format in the hand as well.

    Will this Icarus Illumina with android be just as good? Or would a Kindle Paperwhite using Calibre to convert all my old epubs and pdfs be better?

    Thanks and great site.

    • Sony Readers are still sold online in places; you could probably get another one of those of you want to stick with Sony. Otherwise an Android ereader would probably be the better choice since you’re already used to Android features. The Illumina HD is at the low end of the spectrum, however. I’d go with the Boyue T62+ instead, or rebranded equivalent.

  2. Thanks, I’m now investigating the Boyue T62+ and the Onyx T68. I’m trying to find out if all the recent firmware upgrades have solved the bugs on the Onyx, as the 6.8″ 1440res sounds good… then again the Boyue has a Carta screen and nearly half the price… tricky.

    • Unfortunately most of the bugs on the T68 are hardware related, the faulty battery and wonky touchscreen. It’s a really nice device if you can get a good one, though. I’d suggest ordering it from somewhere like Amazon that has a good return policy if something is wrong with it you can easily send it back without a bunch of hassle and expensive shipping fees.