Readers like you help support How-To Geek. When you make a purchase using links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More.

Quick Links

Key Takeaways

  • The Onyx Boox Poke 5 is a highly portable and versatile eReader that offers a clear and bright display, making it a great option for digitizing your library.
  • It supports multiple file formats and eReader apps, and comes with a free magnetic case for added comfort and protection.
  • However, the Poke 5's performance can be slow and its UI elements can feel clunky.

The Onyx Boox Poke 5 presents itself as a friendlier version of eReaders like the Kindle and Nook, especially in terms of portability and versatility. As a bite-sized digital paperback, it offers plenty of support for all your eReading needs, but its Android software can feel a bit primitive.

The Onyx Boox Poke 5.
Source: Best Buy
Onyx Boox Poke 5
7 / 10

The Onyx Boox Poke 5 does a great job at standing in for all those beat-up paperbacks cluttering your bookshelves. It’s not a perfect device, but its few missteps are more than forgiven by an amazing library of titles and some other great features.

E-Ink Carta HD
1448 x 1072
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Front Light
Android 11
1,500 mAh (rechargeable)
0.35 ounces
5.82 x 4.25 x 0.267 inches (148mm x 108mm x 6.8mm)
Format Support
Screen Size
6 inches
USB-C, microSD/SDHC card slot
  • Clear and bright display
  • Comfortable size
  • Plenty of free books for download
  • Supports several file formats and eReader apps
  • Comes with a free magnetic case
  • Not the fastest performance
  • Some clunky UI elements

Design: Like Holding a Small Paperback

The Boox Poke 5 in the front pocket of a purse.
Joe Robinson / How-To Geek

It always seems like consumer tech is running through one of two cycles: devices getting bigger or devices getting smaller. Personally, I’m a fan of the latter movement, which makes the ultra-portable design of the Poke 5 a major standout for me. At 5.75 inches tall and 4.25 inches wide, the Poke 5 is a little less tall than the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight 4, two competitive eReaders hanging out in the same price tier.

I thought the Poke 5 was pretty comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The smooth and contoured bezel acts like padding for your palms, and I was particularly pleased with the rounded corners on the eReader. I did experience some hand fatigue after reading for a long period of time, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I tend to stay completely still when immersed in a good book.

You’ll find the Poke 5’s power/standby button at the top of the device. When the eReader is turned on, one tap puts the device to sleep and a long-press shuts it down (and turns it back on). There’s a USB-C charging port and a microSD card slot along the bottom frame, but you’ll need a paper clip to remove the card slot’s covering. I would have thought there’d be a headphone jack for audiobooks, but I guess Onyx assumes we’re all using Bluetooth headphones these days.

That being said, the company has a magnetized case available for the Poke 5, which adds extra comfort and defense to the eReader. The case also helps to keep the Poke 5’s matte-black exterior from collecting fingerprints and other smudges.

In terms of power, the Boox Poke 5 has a 1,500mAh battery that can be recharged using a USB-C cable. In the time I used the eReader, I never actually had to recharge the device, although I logged around a 25 percent decrease in battery life for every two hours I used the Poke 5.

Display: Crisp and Clear

The Boox Poke 5 with the library open.
Joe Robinson / How-To Geek

The Boox Poke 5 is equipped with an E-Ink Carta HD e-paper display, which can also be found on competitive eReaders like the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Elipsa. The six-inch screen tops out at 1,448 x 1,072 resolution with 300 pixels per inch; and considering the small size, I was impressed by the level of detail the Poke 5 was able to pull off. If you’re not familiar with the look of an eReader, do know that it’s not quite the same as a traditional tablet, especially when it comes to font and images. Quite simply, what you see on an eReader screen will look far more like a printed book.

I really liked how much control the Poke 5 gives you over the device's backlight. When I’m attempting to wind down at night, I do my best to keep any electronic displays at the lowest brightness settings. Not only does the Poke 5 let you control peak brightness levels, but you can also toggle it on and off and adjust warm and cold light output, both individually and paired. During the day, I actually liked having the Poke 5 cranked to its brightest output, with both the warm and cold light options enabled. Come nightfall, my eyes felt the most comfortable with warm light enabled and set to around 50%.

When reading, the Poke 5 will also let you change what font style is used, how big the text is, what kind of line spacing is implemented, the language, and a few other options.

You can find additional display settings by tapping the top of the screen (where the clock, Wi-Fi, and battery indicators are) and selecting “E Ink Center.”

Using this dashboard, you’ll be able to adjust overall contrast and refresh modes. The latter is a great way to improve font and image quality based on what kind of content you’re looking at. I found the “Normal” and “Speed” modes worked best for straightforward eReader text and images. “Regal,” “A2,” and “X” are the other refresh modes, but they’re best saved for books and apps that require a lot of scrolling and page-turning. I thought these other three presets introduced a lot of unnecessary ghosting, especially when browsing the web with Chrome.

Connectivity and Compatibility: Covers All the Must-Haves

The Poke 5 is built like a full-fledged Android 11 mini tablet, which means Wi-Fi is key. A network connection is essential when it comes to downloading books and hopping online, and seeing as there’s no option for cellular backup, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a safe and secure internet connection.

Conveniently, the Poke 5 also features support for Bluetooth 5.0. I was able to easily connect the reader to a pair of headphones and an Alexa smart speaker, which bodes well for those of us who enjoy some white noise while we read. Bluetooth audio is also a fantastic way to use the Poke 5 to play audiobooks and podcasts.

As far as supported file formats go, the Poke 5 can handle a pretty diverse array of document and media types, including EPUB, DOC, DOCX, RTF, TXT, JPG, PNG, MP3, and WAV.

Software and User Interface: Android Doesn’t Always Listen

Charging the Boox Poke 5.
Joe Robinson / How-To Geek

The Boox Poke 5 runs Android 11 and is powered by a Qualcomm 2.0GHz quad-core chipset with 2GB of RAM. The Poke 5 also includes 32GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded up to 1TB with a microSD card. As far as performance goes, I wouldn’t call the Poke 5 a speedy device, but it always arrives at its destination. It takes the eReader around 30 seconds to power on and assemble the user interface. Once the UI loads, you’ll have five main tabs to choose from at the bottom of the default home screen. These are “Library,” “Store,” “Storage,” “Apps,” and “Settings.”

In my experience, there would sometimes be a delay when selecting one of these options; almost as if I was catching the Poke 5 off guard. In addition to the minor buffering, other UI elements also ran a little on the slow side, especially the touchscreen keyboard. It would sometimes take me one or two keystrokes before I could successfully input a character; but unless you’re going to be using the Poke 5 to browse the web, you shouldn’t have to use the keyboard too often.

“Library” is where you’ll be able to find whatever ebooks and compatible documents you’ve downloaded or uploaded to the Poke 5. “Store” is where you’ll go to download ebooks from Boox’s marketplace. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll be glad to know that Boox’s archive is well-stocked with literary classics and other royalty-free books, graphic novels, novellas. It's great that they’re all completely free!

Those looking for something on the newer side can use Android apps like Kindo and Libby to download modern books and publications. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to download these other reading apps from Onyx’s App Store. You’ll actually need to go into the Google Play Store to install these other readers.

I liked that the “Storage” app gives you a breakdown of every kind of media that’s on the Poke 5, including documents, images, music, videos, fonts, and more. “Apps” is where you’ll go to access whatever apps you’ve downloaded to the Poke 5, as well as where you’ll go to download more (through Onyx’s App Store or the Google Play Store). Then there’s “Settings,” which is where you’ll go to check for firmware updates, connect to Wi-Fi, link the Poke 5 to other platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive, and to access the device’s built-in user manual.

Using the Onyx Boox Poke 5: An Evening with H.P. Lovecraft

Inserting a microSD card in the Boox Poke 5.
Joe Robinson / How-To Geek

I’ve been on a bit of a horror-fiction kick of late, so I decided to submerge the Poke 5 in the dark and dreary waters of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” It's a freaky short story that allowed me to put the eReader through its paces.

When you’re reading, page turns are mapped to both finger swipes and taps. Swiping toward the left and toward the bottom of the Poke 5 is one page forward, swiping toward the right and toward the top goes one page back, and a single tap acts as a secondary page forward.

By default, a floating toolbar will be placed along the right margin. Tapping the three horizontal lines icon will pull up a full dashboard of reading customizations, including font size/style, word spacing, languages, book progress, and more. The floating toolbar also includes page-turning buttons and a three-dot icon which allows you to customize the toolbar itself. One immediate tweak I made was to hide the toolbar completely because I found it distracting, but you can easily access it by swiping toward the left from the right margin (tap the two pointing arrows icon at the top of the toolbar to re-hide it).

I also liked having the ability to press and hold a word (which you can expand to include whole sentences, paragraphs, and pages) to pull up a dashboard of useful tools, including Neoreader’s built-in dictionary, a notepad feature, highlighting and underlining options, and more. If you’re the kind of person who swears by Webster for your definitions, you’ll also be able to link various online dictionaries to the Poke 5, which can also be pulled up through this sub-menu.

I thought haptic feedback was solid, although I did have to repeat a long-press or two when the Poke 5 didn’t register my touch. This didn’t happen too often, and the occurrences overall were pretty random.

Apps and Entertainment: No Play Store Allowed

Beyond its eReading capabilities, several built-in apps (and others you can download) will allow you to use the Poke 5 as you would a traditional tablet or smartphone, but with some limitations.

In the app menu, you’ll find some basics, including a calculator, a calendar tool, a clock, a photo gallery, and a music player. You’ll also be able to go into the Onyx App Store, where you’ll be able to download additional apps that are filtered by categories like “Reader,” “News,” and “Study.” Admittedly, I thought Onyx’s app archive wasn’t too impressive, so I was excited to learn that the Android 11 OS lets you download a bunch of other apps from the Google Play Store. That being said, you'll need to walk through a few registration steps before you're able to actually get into the Play Store.

First, tap "Apps," then tap the three-line icon at the top-right of the page. Tap "App Management" and scroll down until you see "Enable Google Play." By default, this setting is toggled off. Once you switch it into the on position, tap the option underneath that says "GSF ID." You'll then be taken to a login screen for your Google account (if you have one). Once you sign in, your Boox device will be linked to your Google account, and you'll be able to access the Play Store... between one hour and 48 hours later.

Yeah, this isn't the most intuitive account-linking process I've ever walked through, but if you want to be able to download books from Kindle and other ebook apps, it's a necessary nuisance. Fortunately, once I completed all of the above, the Boox and Google handshake was completed in just minutes, and I was able to download and use the Play Store app without any issues.

Should You Buy the Onyx Boox Poke 5?

Ultimately, I think the Onyx Boox Poke 5 is a solid eReader that satisfies many must-haves of anyone looking for a digitized library. While its Android backbone could use a few corrections, Onyx’s steady stream of firmware updates should take care of all the biggest bumps in the road along the way.

The Onyx Boox Poke 5.
Source: Best Buy
Onyx Boox Poke 5
7 / 10

The Onyx Boox Poke 5 does a great job at standing in for all those beat-up paperbacks cluttering your bookshelves. It’s not a perfect device, but its few missteps are more than forgiven by an amazing library of titles and some other great features.