Xiaomi InkPalm Plus ebook reader hands-on review
The Xiaomi InkPalm Plus is the company’s 3rd generation e-reader. It’s the first one that has English on it, right out of the box. All previous models only had Chinese and had to be rooted with a complicated process just to make it usable in the western world. What are the big differences between the 2022 model and the one released last year? It has a bigger screen, with better resolution. RAM and internal storage have been doubled, making the Plus extremely viable.
The InkPalm Plus features a 5.84-inch E INK Carta HD touchscreen with 1440×720 resolution with 212 PPI. The screen is flush with the bezel, protected by a layer of glass. The volume buttons on the side double as page-turning buttons when using the stock playback app. You’ll be able to read in the dark thanks to the front-lit display and color temperature system and they both have 24 levels of brightness.
This new model has a revised design, it is much bigger than the InkPalm mini 2nd generation released last year. The back plate is this nice sunset orange and has some gradients. The sides have that beautiful gunmetal silver aluminum finish. The front is black, which helps tone down the gray e-paper screen. There are volume buttons on the side of the screen, a power button on the top, and a USB-C port on the bottom.
Under the hood is a Rockchip RK3566 processor, based on the Allwinner B300 quad-core Cortex-A7 SoC. It has 2GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which should provide enough juice to run any Android 11 app you can throw at it. There are no big app stores pre-loaded there, but you can easily load from alternative app markets such as Amazon, Samsung Galaxy Store or even the Good e-Reader App Store. There are no speakers or 3.5mm headphone jack, so the only way to listen to audiobooks, podcasts or music is through headphones or wireless headphones. The Plus has Bluetooth 5.0, which is compatible with every wireless accessory you can think of. This device looks and works like a phone, but there are no carrier capabilities, instead it just has WIFI, so you can easily surf the net or access cloud storage. You can charge the device with the USB-C cable and also charge your own books. It supports EPUB, TXT and PDF. Xiaomi promises up to 30 days of battery life thanks to its 2,200 mAh battery. The battery is charged to 100% in 2.5 hours using a 5V charger. It weighs a measly 0.14 kg.
The hardware is solid for a dedicated, user-friendly eReader. It slips into your jeans pocket or your back pocket. It’s easily accessible to read all your favorite news sources or just fire up an ebook while you wait. Will it be a Kindle or Kobo alternative? It depends on where you read. A bigger screen makes more sense if you do most of your reading at home. If you’re commuting or always on the go, at the beach or waiting for a date, the InkPalm Plus makes more sense, as the footprint is smaller and it has the advantage of being able to install your own apps, which you can’t do on the Kindle or Kobo.
Xiaomi is on its 3rd generation of the InkPalm series and it’s the first entirely in English, which makes it useful for anyone who wants to use it as a portable e-reader. It runs Google Android 11 which is great for being able to download your favorite apps. There are a few pre-installed Chinese apps, since this player is mainly marketed in China. So you’ll have JD, Kindle China, KOREADER, a very small Chinese-only app store with 12 apps, which sucks. If you speak English, you’re in luck, because you can simply uninstall the preloaded apps. Long press and a popup will ask if you want to delete the app. I would do this with whatever is on the home screen and then load yours. I suggest using APK MIRROR if you just want to install a few of your favorite apps that you use all the time, but I think it makes more sense to use a dedicated app market as they maintain the apps up-to-date, so you don’t always have to search for the latest version. Unfortunately, Google Play is not an option on this device.
There isn’t really a user interface to speak of. It really doesn’t look like Xiaomi is using a heavily customized launcher. Basically you just have your home screen which includes the apps you have and the more you have it adds additional pages. There are no dedicated shortcuts to your library, apps, or files, it’s all literal app-related only.
If you pull the top of the screen down, you will get a series of functions that are essential for the proper functioning of this device. You can turn the front-lit display on or off, control brightness, adjust the color temperature system, and a slider bar lets you control overall contrast, for example making black text darker and whites brighter. There’s a Bluetooth audio control slider for volume, but you’d have to use the hardware buttons on the side of the device. You can also adjust the overall contrast to make black blacks appear blacker, which improves font readability. There are also dedicated buttons for performing a full page refresh, clearing the cache of all open apps, being able to take a screenshot, or even battery saving options. Speed Modes? The previous generation models had it, but not this one. The closest is called ghosting reduction, which increases full page refreshes when navigating through different menus.
What about reading? Normally we have entire sections devoted to the reading experience. However, there really isn’t a pre-installed app that isn’t in Chinese. So you’ll have to rely on installing your own apps and Android users tend to have their favorites. For example, the vast majority of people who have owned E INK devices in the past tend to do business with one or more companies and their digital content is spread across a few different ecosystems. With this device, you can easily install all the ones you like. Do you like borrowing books from Overdrive through Libby or do you have a Scribd subscription? Your mileage may vary on this player, simply because any app that uses an animated page rotation engine and has no way to turn it off in the app settings menu, probably won’t work very well. Suffice it to say, the 212 PPI screen will ensure that most text and fonts will look sharper.
The InkPalm Plus is very user friendly. There’s little to no learning curve when using it as a dedicated eReader. There are no complicated elements that bog down the average user and confuse them. It basically looks and works like an Android smartphone, but it’s not a phone. It’s just a basic player that costs $200, so you’re undercutting what you’re paying for. There are better alternatives on the market, with tons of advanced settings, speed modes, and customization options, but they cost twice the price. I think the best on the market right now is the Hisense Hi Reader, in terms of value.
Xiaomi InkPalm Plus
- Stunning design
- 300 DPI screen
- Android 11
- Can install apps
- Tons of Preloaded Chinese Bloat
- The bookstore needs a mainland Chinese phone number
- No SD
- No speed modes
- Depends on apps downloaded
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and The New York Times. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.