Before I start this blog post - here's a big fat warning. You will get no support from Boyue if things go wrong with your device.
I have their previous model, the Likebook Ares. After less than a year of use, I noticed screen discolouration. The eBay reseller wasn't interested in helping me with a return. Boyue ignored my repeated complaints - and I was stuck with a defective unit. So I waited until Boyue released their new version and cheekily asked if I could review it. They happily sent me this in exchange for an honest review and YouTube video.
So here is my extremely honest review!
If you're a casual eBook user - you're almost certainly better off with a Kindle. Amazon have perfected an ecosystem where you can buy a book from your eReader and have it in seconds. They may be evil, predatory capitalists, but if your Kindle breaks or goes a bit wonky they're great at fixing it or sending you a fresh one. Amazon will provide constant software updates and work hard to make sure the Kindle is easy to use. Amazon have customer service agents to hold your hands if you don't understand how to use your Kindle, or if it is faulty.
The Likebook P78 is everything a Kindle is not. And that may be a good or bad thing depending on what you want to do with it.
You get no support - other than what the community can provide on Reddit or MobileRead Forums. Boyue will not respond to your emails or Tweets. You might get a firmware update - but it will be a painful, manual process to apply it.
P78's killer feature is that it is fairly open Android (V8.1) tablet. Want to install random apps on there? Go for it! Want to replace the homescreen app? Fine. Don't like the default reading experience? Install a different reader. Need some different fonts? Copy them over via USB or Bluetooth and you're good to go. Change the keyboard, music player, and every single aspect of the device until it's unique to you.
Want to SSH into it, or copy your library using NextCloud, or play Angry Birds - it's all possible. It's a reasonably hackable device - with none of the polish of its Amazon rival.
If you're happy with that (and I am!) read on...
Here's a long video showing how the unboxing and initial set-up goes:
As you can see, it isn't exactly slick. But once done, you get a well-specified tablet.
USB-C! This is the main reason I got the previous model. One cable to charge my laptop, phone, headphones, and eReader. Nice! Not even Kindle can do USB-C yet.
In terms of size, it is identical to the previous Ares model. It even fits into the same case.
Unlike the Ares - this doesn't have a Wacom digitiser. So you can use the touchscreen with your fingers, but not a stylus.
It also gains a MicroSD slot. I don't really get why. Most eBooks are under 1MB. Even if you want to carry your entire comic book collection around, the ~20GB of usable space on the tablet should be sufficient. But, hey, shove a spare card in their and go nuts.
Speakers on the bottom a good enough for speech. You probably won't want to use them with music - but for an audio book, they're sufficient. It also has BlueTooth if you'd rather listen on headphones.
Text to speech is build in. The default Android experience is adequate.
Cool Android Features
Cast! Yes, the device supports casting - so you can share your books to any big screen that has a ChromeCast plugged in.
But... You're limited to 720p - so text looks like shit.
I can cast my eReader to my TV - but the resolution is rubbish.
Anyone know how to set Android to mirror the cast destination's resolution rather than the native one? pic.twitter.com/VRaFYIUm33
— Terence Eden (@edent) August 28, 2021
Copy books over via USB, Bluetooth, or WiFi. You're not shackled to Amazon's ecosystem.
Sideload apps. Play OGG, MP3, and FLAC. It can do everything an Android tablet can do.
Screen and lighting
Like most modern eReaders, it has a set of LEDs round the edge of the screen. You can set the brightness and the colour temperature. If you prefer a gentle orange light for reading at night and a bright white light for the beach, that's only a tap away.
The screen is gorgeous. It's a single slab of glass, so there are no shadows from the bezel. The screen isn't too shiny - so it's great for reading even in strong direct sunlight.
The resolution is 1872x1404 - that's even better than the most recent Kindle! Text rendering is smooth and beautiful. It's even better quality than printed paper.
Default Reading Experience
And this is where it all goes wrong. The in-built z-Reader is garbage.
Perhaps that's a bit harsh. It has lots of customisable options to play with, and supports horizontal layout if that's what you like.
But the text layout engine is just unsuitable for English text. Letters frequently overlap, hyphenation is all over the shop, and the fonts aren't particularly nice. Although you can install your own.
The user interface is poorly translated - with lots of Chinese characters popping up. The default dictionary is Chinese - even if you've set the interface to English.
You can follow my guide to adding an English Dictionary to Boyue Likebook eReaders.
At best, I'd class it at "barely adequate".
You can install 3rd party eReaders, like Kindle and Google Books.
I use KOReader. It's a brilliant and hackable eBook reader. Lots of lovely options to fiddle with and very customisable. Once installed, it can notify you of updates and install them for you.
There are lots of options to go through. Sadly, the UI isn't very well done - with lots of instances of overlapping elements.
Like most cheap Chinese electronics, there is only a cursory effort to localise the interface. You're probably not going to spend a lot of time in the settings screen, but it shows how much of an afterthought usability is.
You can side-load whatever Android apps you want. There is an in-built store:
Again, poor localisation. And what's with have store categories with no apps in there?
(Note - it produces colour screenshots, but the screen itself is greyscale only.)
If you want an eInk Android tablet - this is pretty good buy for under £200. If you're happy with lots of customisation and fiddling around, get it. If you want a seamless reading experience, grab a Kindle.
For those of us who like diving into every setting, changing every last feature of our devices, and can overlook a badly translated and messy UI - it's a good device.
The LikeBook range is mostly sold on eBay and AliExpress. Buy with caution and in the expectation that, if something goes wrong, you'll be left in the lurch.