Boyue Likebook Mars / Icarus Illumina XL6 Unboxing & Hands-on Review

Introduction

NOTE: The testing device is Boyue Likebook Mars which was purchased in China.

Boyue Technology is an e-ink device manufacturer based in China. They have recently released their new e-ink reader called “Likebook Mars” and will be sold as “Illumina XL6″ elsewhere. This 7.8” e-reader is powered by Android OS, and as far as I know, this is the first e-ink Android device with an octa-core processor. Therefore I had been looking forward to testing it out. I have just received and tested it, and I am incredibly happy with the device! In this article, I will cover all aspects of this newly-released fantastic e-reading device.

Likebook Mars is available at Amazon.com

Pros and Cons

Pros

Very fast thanks to Octa-core processor
Reasonably priced (around 250USD)
Very light

Cons

As of September 10th, Google related apps (such as Gmail and Chrome) are not working
UPDATE: Google apps are working now! App testing videos here
Handwriting could be better
No speakers
No stock note taking apps
Battery life is not very good
Some people prefer smaller or bigger size

Bottomline

Well done for Boyue to bring such a device to the market. I’m sure this will bring the company a huge success in the e-reader market, and it’ll surely increase the reputation of this e-reading manufacturer and will help them their international expansion. Are they going to make any profit out of these? Given the high cost of e-ink paper, I am not quite sure…

Specs

Model: Likebook Mars
Color: Black
Display: 7.8 inch, 300ppi, 1404*1872 pixels
Backlight: White and Warm
Dimensions: 198*144*9.3mm
Weight: 246 grams
OS: Likebook OS
Processor: Rockchip RK3368 Octacore 1.5GHz
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB
Battery: 3100mAh
Battery life: 2 weeks
Expandable storage: Up to 128GB
Wi-Fi: 2.4 / 5G
Bluetooth: 4.1

Unboxing

Hardware

Processor

Before receiving Likebook Mars, first octa-core powered gave me a lot of excitements. I believe this device would be the first Octa-core powered Android e-reading device! And it didn’t fail my expectations! Very snappy.

RAM and storage

Thanks to 2GB RAM in the device multitasking is real here. This device is capable of doing multiple things at the same time. For example, it just works using an app while installing multiple apps in the background. I didn’t see much lag apart from the technology limit of the e-ink paper. The device has 16GB storage and when it was clean it had around 12GB of available space to be used. It also supports up to 128 GB of micro SD card (haven’t tested yet though).

Benchmarking

Geekbench 4 and GFXBench results here:

Geekbench 4
Single-Core Score: 577
Multi-Core Score: 1778

GFXBench
119.0 Frames

Screen

Screen is very sharp. Because of relatively small screen with pixels, it’s hard to see each pixel by just looking.

Warm and White lights

Likebook Mars has a back light, and interestingly, it has two different options which are white backlight and warm back light. The white back light is a normal white back light, but the warm back light gives you a yellowish filter on the screen which helps reduces eye strain even more. Warm light is useful especially when you’re using the device late at night or right before you go to bed to avoid having eye strain.

Normal and A2 refresh mode

Also, there are two different refresh settings which are normal refresh and A2 refresh modes. It looks like A2 works well with non-native apps. With the normal refresh some apps looks just unusable.

Here are the examples. Taking a reddit app as an example, with the normal refresh scrolling is such a pain. But with native apps like the default browser, there is not much difference between the normal refresh and the A2 refresh modes.

Normal refresh mode on Reddit is fun

Normal & A2 refresh mode on default browser

Wi-Fi

So far Wi-Fi has no issues. It hasn’t dropped even once so it’s good enough I think.

Bluetooth

I paired with my Logitech K480 keyboard and works with no issues. I haven’t tested any other devices yet.

*UPDATE*
Tested on Logitech MX Master bluetooth mouse and works well.

Speaker

Likebook Mars itself doesn’t have any speakers, but it has earphone jack at the bottom which allows you to connect to your favourite earphones/headphones. Bluetooth headphones are another option as well.

Battery

Likebook Mars has a massive 3100mAh battery in it. This looks great on peper, but am still not sure if it can last long. This is Day 1 of my use, and looks like the battery level fluctuates a lot.

*UPDATE*

I have used AccuBattery to monitor the battery consumption and it shows 5 hours of SoT (Screen on Time) on the app, and I think it’s close to my experience using this device. So one hour of use = 20% of battery usage. HOWEVER this really depends on how you use this device. If you just use a normal reading app like Amazon and stock reading app it should last much longer.

Software

Testings for popular apps can be found via the below link.

[App testing] Boyue Likebook Mars (updating)

General

Reading

I tested using Kindle, Moon Reader and WPS. Among them Moon Reader is the best to be used.

Drawing

I tested using Evernote. It just doesn’t work…too slow.

*UPDATE*

More reading apps were tested here.

Browsing

There is a default Android browser installed on the device. It works very well.

*UPDATE*

More browser apps were tested here.

Video playback

I’m not sure if there’s any demand in watching videos on an e-ink reader…but anyway I tested. I used the stock browser and ran a video on YouTube

Shortcomings

Unstable sometimes

Although Likebook Mars has powerful hardware including an Octa-core processor and 2GB of RAM, it gets slow and crashes sometimes like any other Android devices. When the device gets slow you just need to close apps to free its RAM space.

Dedicated note taking apps needed

No speakers

I love listening to podcasts…so just wish there could be at least one speaker in it.

Conclusion

So far very happy with the device.

Likebook Mars is available at Amazon.com

10 thoughts on “Boyue Likebook Mars / Icarus Illumina XL6 Unboxing & Hands-on Review

  1. Bradley

    Is there any way to get Google apps to work on this? I saw in one of the videos that “Google services is not enabled on this device” or something like that. I just ordered one but i might have to return it if I can’t use Google Play Books. Can you test to see if that app works?

  2. snazzy_cauldron

    Your video reviews are very good, and making me interested in this device.

    What is the battery life like on this device? Could you try sideloading AccuBattery app to get more detailed battery statistics?

  3. Zamzam

    Is this e-reader (Boyue Likebook Mars) supporting Arabic language books as (pdf) e-books.
    Can we download directly e-books from any web site while using the browser?
    What about the dictionaries?

  4. Mike

    Hi,

    Do you prefer this or the Boox Note for everyday use? I don’t think I will be reading books much but want something to help with my eye strain.

    1. K Post author

      Both e-ink screens are great, so it boils down to your preferences. When I just read books I much prefer Likebook Mars because it is very light and handy. When I do writing I prefer Boox Note because I don’t need to scroll much thanks to a larger screen. It’s like comparing iPad Mini and iPad 9.7″ or 10.5″.

      1. Mike

        K,

        Thanks for the reply. My use will be for surfing the internet and reading technical documents. I don’t think I will do too much note taking but it seems if I do then I would want to do it on the Boox Note. I think if there wasn’t such a big price difference I would choose the Note but I’m trying to see if the Mars is good enough for half the price.

        1. K Post author

          I think note taking would be much more feasible once Boyue releases their own note taking app like Onyx did. As you said, it is hard to justify the price difference between Boyue and Onyx devices unless you would really need note taking and premium feel on their devices, but it is also up to your preferences. To me the Mars is a nearly perfect device and I’m sure it will just get better with future updates 🙂

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