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PadMu 4 review

The PadMu 4, an e-reader designed for musicians. (tablets-for-musicians.com)

PadMu 4 review: the best e-reader for musicians?

Last updated on June 20, 2023

Launched in early 2023, the PadMu 4 is one of the few e-readers specifically designed for musicians. Sold at around a thousand dollars, the PadMu 4 is a variation of the Boox Tab X from the Chinese manufacturer Onyx.

In this review, I will try to answer the following questions:

  • What are the differences between the PadMu 4 and the Boox Tab X?
  • Is the PadMu music software on par with market leaders such as forScore or MobileSheets?
  • Is the PadMu 4 worth the extra hundred dollars compared to the Boox Tab X?

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Author Johannes Eva (viola)I am a classical musician (violist) with 20 years of professional experience in orchestra and chamber music. For many years, I have been advising colleagues, students, and fellow musicians in the choice of their tablet.

Along with the many positives of using tablets / iPads, I’ve also seen the negatives: tablets crashing just before going on stage, batteries that don’t hold up during long rehearsal days, and missing page turner pedals in concert.

I spent my school years in France, and this article must be riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, for which I apologize. Feel free to send me any corrections!

There is no test protocol! I use the most different tablets and iPads possible in my real life as a musician, which includes practicing, rehearsing and playing concerts.

Tablets for sheet music test bench (iPad, Andoid tablet, e-reader, scores, stands)

Practicing with multiple tablets at the same time can be laborious. Photo: tablets-for-musicians.com

The tablets and e-readers are purchased with my own funds and used as long as I please. This means that my tablet / iPad reviews are always independent, long term and real life reviews.

PadMu or Boox Tab X: what are the differences?

The PadMu 4 is based on the Onyx Boox Tab X, as mentioned in the specifications of the PadMu 4. The hardware is even absolutely identical.

Therefore, the differences are to be found in the software: the official PadMu website advertises “tailored apps”, including a sheet music application.

PadMu 4, the e-book-reader for musicians (unboxing) compared to the Onyx Boox Tab X

At first glance, nothing separates the PadMu 4 from the Onyx Boox Tab X. (tablets-for-musicians.com)

Since the PadMu 4 and the Boox Tab X are indistinguishable at the hardware level, this review of the PadMu 4 will focus on the software part: the PadMu music software.

For anything related to the hardware, I give more details in my overview of the best e-readers for musicians.

Apps for musicians: account creation required

A small annoyance occurs during the first minutes of using the PadMu 4: it is mandatory to create an account to use the PadMu applications. There are four of them:

  • An alternative home page (or “launcher”)
  • A sheet music library (“PadMu Library”)
  • A score reader application (“PadMu Reader”)
  • A file manager

I will not dwell on the last point, the file manager being pleasant, but without much particularity.

Review of the PadMu 4 for music (compared to Onyx Boox)

The PadMu 4 has a specific software layer, designed for musicians. (tablets-for-musicians.com)

The first three apps, on the other hand, make all the difference between the PadMu and the Onyx Boox Tab X. Without these apps, the PadMu 4 is just a Boox Tab X hidden behind marketing and a pretty website, with musicians as the target audience. So the question is: are these apps up to the task?

1. The PadMu home page

The home page of the PadMu 4 is simple and concise. However, it is a bit perplexing that the tablet configuration can be done in two different places: the Android settings or the PadMu settings page. Some elements are duplicated, while others are not, and this can be quite confusing. Similarly, there are two app stores: the Play Store and the “E-ink App Store.”

You soon get used to these duplications, and the home page remains practical, providing quick access to the library and the latest used sheet music.

PadMu 4 E-Reader for musicians review, on a music stand with score

The PadMu 4 home page is simple and straightforward. (tablets-for-musicians.com)

Note taking takes a back seat

The note-taking function, essential for music or instrument teachers, is relegated to the background. If taking notes is your priority, the Onyx launcher is certainly a better choice.

The Onyx launcher is already installed on the PadMu, just choose it in the Android settings:
Settings > Apps and notifications > Default app > Desktop > PadMu Home

You can switch between the two at any time.

2. PadMu Library: the sheet music library

The sheet music library, called “PadMu Library”, is where you import and manage scores, and create playlists.

The library is well-thought-out and easy to use. As all icons are labelled with a legend, it’s easy to find your way around right from the start.

PadMu 4 Review - Padmu Library, managing shett music playlists (screenshot)

PadMu 4 review: Managing scores in the “PadMu Library”.

Importing sheet music from the cloud

PadMu Library import options are limited to Dropbox and Google Drive. That’s good enough, but MobileSheets also lets you import from Microsoft OneDrive.

The forScore app (unfortunately available only on iPad) goes even further and integrates numerous external sheet music import services like Musicnotes, Noteflight, or Virtual Sheet Music.

File formats: PDF only

PadMu e-readers only support files in PDF format (as well as the proprietary .padmu format). Importing DOCX files, images, or text is not supported – here again, the competition does better.

It should be noted, however, that the cloud import and PDF-only limitations are not deal-breakers. The vast majority of musicians will be satisfied with the PadMu’s offering, and most limitations can be worked around.

3. PadMu Reader: the sheet music reading application

“PadMu Reader” directly competes with other sheet music reading software for Android, such as MobileSheets, MuseScore, Newzik, nkoda, or the IMSLP application.

PadMu Reader hides the Android status bar at the top of the screen, as well as the navigation bar at the bottom (if the latter is activated). The score can therefore take up the entire height of the page, except for five buttons at the bottom of the screen.

The application’s main menu is a vertical icon bar. When shown, it masks the left side of the music (and consequently, the key signature and clef, at least partially).

PadMu 4, the E-Reader for musicians - Reading sheet music with PadMu Reader

The 11-inch iPad Pro has only 71% of the surface area of its 12.9-inch big brother. Here they are compared using Beethoven’s piano sonata № 12 in A-flat major (Opus 27) as an example.

Taming the menu bar: an off-key experience

The vertical menu bar of the PadMu Reader is supposed to appear with a vertical swipe using two fingers. Unfortunately, in practice, this gesture is unreliable and frequently results in page turns instead.

There is a configuration option to replace the double swipe with a double tap. On my e-reader, however, this gesture only works occasionally, and I’ve often found myself stuck without being able to open the menu. In such cases, you have to go back to the home page and reopen the sheet music reading app.

Cropping scores: limited possibilities

Sheet music cropping is one of the functions I use the most. What’s the point of having a large e-reader (or tablet) if the display area is reduced by large margins?

Cropping in the PadMu Reader app is problematic: it is neither possible to crop each side of a page separately, nor to move the center of the crop area.

The cropping function of other applications are much more efficient and pleasant to use. These include MobileSheets (which can be installed on PadMu), forScore on iPad or SongbookPro.

Cropping sheet music (scores) on the PadMu 4 eReader

The 11-inch iPad Pro has only 71% of the surface area of its 12.9-inch big brother. Here they are compared using Beethoven’s piano sonata № 12 in A-flat major (Opus 27) as an example.

The limitations of page cropping on the PadMu 4 are, for me, a major drawback. Until an update addresses this issue, it is hard to recommend PadMu Reader, and the PadMu 4’s advantages over the Onyx Boox Tab X are reduced to nothing.

Landscape mode: displaying two pages simultaneously

At the time I was testing the PadMu 4, between February and June 2023, PadMu Reader was unable to display two pages side by side in landscape mode. The e-reader has an orientation sensor and the page rotates to be displayed in the correct direction, but only one page is shown.

PadMu 4 e-reader in Landscape orientation, displaying two pages of music side-by-side on the same device.

Landscape mode on the PadMu 4 with PadMu Reader in the first prelude of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”. (tablets-for-musicians.com)

For many musicians, especially pianists, landscape mode and the display of two pages simultaneously (on the same e-reader or tablet) is an absolute necessity. While waiting for a possible update, there are currently two solutions to this problem:

Dual-reader (or dual-screen) mode

Like forScore or MobileSheets, PadMu Reader has a dual tablet mode, allowing two pages of the same score to be displayed side by side on two different devices. If you have two PadMu readers, it will work without a hitch.

However, the PadMu software suite is exclusive to the brand’s e-readers. It is therefore not possible to use the PadMu Reader app on a PadMu combined with another brand’s e-reader – even if it’s an Onyx Boox.

PadMu 4 and Onyx Boox Tab X in Dual Tablet mode, displaying two sheets of music side-by-side at the same time.

Onyx Boox Tab X (left) and PadMu 4 (right) in double e-reader / dual-page mode using MobileSheets. (tablets-for-musicians.com)

Here too, the cross-platform MobileSheets app does a better job than PadMu Reader and allows using the dual-screen mode with tablets or e-readers from different brands. By installing MobileSheets on the PadMu, you can use a PadMu 4 together with almost any other e-reader or tablet and enjoy the dual-screen mode.

The PadMu 4 in music education

  • For music teachers who primarily want to take notes and read sheet music (or books), the PadMu 4 can be the right tool – provided that you install the right applications on it.
  • Younger students may be less distracted by an e-reader than by a tablet (no TikTok or Instagram), but they will have to give up color and interactivity.
The PadMu 4 e-reader in music pedagogy and teaching

An e-reader is undoubtedly less distracting than a tablet. (tablets-for-musicians.com)

  • An e-reader can help college students to practice with better focus, as certain apps like YouTube lose their recreational aspect.
  • If you want to learn an instrument on your own (for example, with Simply Piano or Yousician), you’ll be better off with a tablet (see my guide to the best tablets for musicians).

Let’s be clear: the PadMu software suite offers no particular advantage in the field of music teaching. In most cases, the Onyx Boox Tab X is the preferred choice, as it’s less expensive and strictly identical in terms of hardware.

PadMu 4 review: miscellaneous

Responsiveness and reliability

During my long-term test of the PadMu 4, I was surprised by the lack of reliability of the interactions with the e-reader. Even simple touch gestures (e.g., simple tapping) often seem to go unrecognized, requiring repeated attempts for the tablet to register them.

Apart from the difficulty in bringing up the main menu in PadMu Reader, swipe gestures to access menus (for example to exit the full-screen mode) frequently need to be repeated. I also have the impression that screen taps (singe touch events) work better if they’re lighter than on a conventional tablet.

Automatic standby after 10 minutes

The PadMu 4 inherited a drawback from the Onyx Boox Tab X: the maximum time before the tablet goes into sleep mode is 10 minutes. The PadMu 4 inherited a drawback from the Onyx Boox Tab X: the maximum duration before the tablet enters sleep mode is 10 minutes. This can be too short when working on a single sheet of music for an extended period.

Reviewing the PadMu 4, auto-sleep function

The 11-inch iPad Pro has only 71% of the surface area of its 12.9-inch big brother. Here they are compared using Beethoven’s piano sonata № 12 in A-flat major (Opus 27) as an example.

What’s even more frustrating is that the e-reader cannot be quickly awakened by double-tapping on the screen; the only way is to use the power button, which can be capricious with certain protective cases (such as the original Boox Tab X cover).

Thankfully, the problem can be mostly worked around by adjusting the screensaver as follows in the Android settings:

Settings > Desktop and Screensaver > Screensaver (tap directly on the image) > Tap the right arrow three times to select “Transparent”, then “Apply”.

PadMu 4: Pros

  • All-in-one solution dedicated to musicians
  • Well-designed and easy-to-use library
  • Excellent battery life
  • Based on the best e-reader in the market


  • Account required to use PadMu applications
  • Subpar sheet music reading app
  • Poor cropping functionality, no double page in landscape mode
  • The PadMu application suite lacks responsiveness

PadMu 4: Conclusion

The all-in-one solution offered by PadMu sounds attractive: an e-reader dedicated to musicians with a tailor-made software suite.

However, in its current state, it is difficult to wholeheartedly recommend the PadMu 4. The core of the e-reader, the PadMu Reader sheet music app, is far from being as mature as its competitors (such as MobileSheets on Android, or forScore and Newzik on iPads).

Nevertheless, the PadMu 4 is not a bad solution. In fact, with MobileSheets E-Ink version instead of the PadMu software suite, the PadMu 4 becomes identical to the Onyx Boox Tab X, the best large-format e-reader on the market.

Since these two solutions are comparable, the choice primarily boils down to price and availability. The Onyx Boox Tab X sells for about 10% less than the PadMu 4. A price difference that could allow, for example, to buy a cover and a pedal.


PadMu 4 – E-Reader for Musicians*

Please note: The PadMu 4 is not available on Amazon in the US and in Canada. The official PadMu website offers worldwide delivery.

2 thoughts on “PadMu 4 review: the best e-reader for musicians?”

  1. Thank you for the great info!

    Question: You mention the ability to switch to the Onyx launcher at any time. Can this be done even without initially creating a PadMu account? And, once switched, is everything exactly the same as if one had purchased the Onyx directly, i.e. is all the PadMu software entirely out of the way?

    1. Hi, Timo,
      I sold my PadMu 4 a few weeks ago, so I can’t check my answers.

      • I don’t remember if you can switch to the Onyx launcher without creating a PadMu account in the first place.
      • The PadMu software is still there, and you can come back to the PadMu lancher.

      If you buy a PadMu, why would you not even try out the PadMu software? In this case, the Boox Tab X is cheaper, so I would go for the latter.

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