Despite fierce competition from Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Nobel's Nook offerings, Toronto-based Kobo Inc. has carved out a niche in the e-reader market by offering quality, no-frills eReaders.
Kobo announced its first eReader in 2010, and has since added several new products to its lineup, each with a slightly different reading experience. Below, we’ve analyzed the special features and major differences between each of Kobo's current e-readers: the Kobo Glo, Kobo Aura, and Kobo Aura HD.
Though each Kobo device differs from the next, all Kobo ereaders allow users to personalize their libraries, make notes, highlight key terms, change fonts, use the dictionary, create bookmarks, and, of course, take advantage of Kobo's extensive eBookstore. Each Kobo eReader also comes with a flat button-less front with built in front-light for reading in the dark.
Kobo Glo ($129.99)
The Kobo Glo features a 6-inch no-glare Pearl E Ink touchscreen for a unique print-on-paper reading experience. The Glo has 2GB of internal memory with the option to expand up to 32GB with a Micro SD card, fitting over 1,000 books. The battery lasts up to one month if the Wi-Fi is turned off.
The Kobo Glo eReader comes in Black Night, Pink Sunset, Blue Moon, and Silver Star, and the device rocks a pleasant soft quilted-pattern on the back, giving the Kobo Glo a matte rubber feel. This eReader is light, at just 6.5 oz, and provides a 1024x768 screen resolution for crisp, bold text viewing capability.
The highlight of the Kobo Glo is definitely its built-in ComfortLight technology, which is durable and provides even light distribution. The ComfortLight is adjustable and works in almost any environment. You can enjoy reading your favorite book in the dark with the ComfortLight illuminating the screen, not the whole room.
While the Kobo Glo feels great in your hand, and the text is easy to read, the slow response time and flashing in between screens is hard to ignore. The Kobo refreshes every half dozen pages or so, but it can be very distracting. The ghosting you experience in between screens might also take away from your overall reading experience.
The Kobo Glo also has an experimental browser that I found painful to use. I understand the need for Wi-Fi on an eReader such as this, to allow for ebook downloads and background information on books and authors, but a browser feels more like it belongs in tablet territory. The flashing is most extreme on the Kobo Glo while trying to use the web browser.
I have to admit, there is nothing more disappointing than trying to load Google's homepage only to find the normally colorful logo flashing vigorously at you in black and white before it finally comes to a rest.
I also found the setup for the Kobo Glo to be simple but time-consuming. You must first create an account with Kobo on your computer before you can set up your eReader and get going. Once you have a Kobo account, you can read the books you purchase across all Kobo devices, but you can also read them on your computer and the Kobo apps designed for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Kobo thinks it's exciting to have your 'eBooks move with you,' but I feel like this doesn't make the eReader special: in fact, I feel like it makes the eReader obsolete.
Side Note: In order to access the home screen on all Kobo eReaders you must tap directly in the center of the screen. I found this to be counter intuitive and sometimes hard to execute, accidentally flipping pages instead of returning to the home screen.
Kobo Aura ($149.99)
The latest eReader release from Kobo is, hands-down, my favorite.
The Kobo Aura features a 6-inch high-resolution Pearl E Ink ClarityScreen with low-flash waveform. The Aura is lighter than the Glo, at 6.14 oz, has more storage, at 4 GB and over 3,000 books, and has a longer battery life – over 2 months! It is light, portable, and powerful.
The Kobo Aura's design is beautiful, with an edge-to-edge screen and lightly beveled contoured back. While the Aura only comes in black and pink, the design feels more mature and masculine than the Glo.
The Kobo Aura also has a few new features including 'Beyond the Book,' which aggregates content from the web and identifies key terms in your text.
When reading or Web browsing, you also have the option to pinch the touchscreen to help zoom in and out. Considering most people are comfortable with the pinch and zoom effect from most popular tablets and smartphones, the Kobo Aura proves to be more instinctive and user friendly than the Kobo Glo or Kobo Aura HD.
For example, the Aura features Kobo's ComfortLight technology, but instead of having to follow multiple steps to adjust the brightness on the device, you can do a simple two finger scroll on its multi touch display to adjust the screens luminosity as your read or browse.
Kobo Aura HD ($169.99)
The Kobo Aura HD features a 6.8-inch high-resolution Pearl E Ink ClarityScreen with an impressive 1440 x 1080 resolution and 265 dpi. It is one of the best E Ink screens on the market.
The Kobo Aura HD is the largest of the three eReaders, weighing in a little more than half a pound (0.53 lbs, exactly). The Aura HD features 4BG of internal storage, with an option to expand up to 32GB with a Micro SD card. The slick, zig zag design on the back makes it elegant and easy to hold. The Kobo Aura HD comes in Ivory, Espresso, and Onyx.
The highlight of the Kobo Aura HD is its screen resolution. It is as close as you are going to get to ink-on-paper. With 10 font sizes, in 24 styles, the Kobo Aura HD is ready for the most hardcore readers. I still experienced a big of ghosting, which is normal, and doesn't take away from the overall reading experience.
I first discovered my preference for basic black and white eReaders when I compared the Nook Color with the Nook SimpleTouch Reader in April 2012, which helped me realize how much I prefer a clean and simple device that gives the look and feel of print-on paper.
At one point, I even gave the Kindle Fire a try. But despite all its bells and whistles, I didn't enjoy the actual reading experience on the Kindle Fire. The device seemed more focused on being a showy all-purpose color tablet than a fun way to read books. I couldn't read anything on my Kindle Fire when I tried to take it outside during the day, and the lit up screen gave me a headache when I wanted to read at night. This led me on a new quest to find the perfect 'no-frills' black and white eReader, hence my Kobo curiosity.
Kobo's eReaders can definitely hold their own in the eReader market, but at a higher price point, it doesn't seem like they can top the Kindle or the Nook.
If you have your heart set on a Kobo eReader go with the Kobo Aura -- Its slick compact design, beautiful display, and special features make it a winner. The Kobo Aura seems to move with the user. The display is highly responsive and the new pinch/zoom/drag feature makes navigating the Kobo Aura effortless and intuitive. It also makes it easier to read different types of content including photos, articles, websites, books, and graphic novels.
I was surprised to find out how much I enjoyed reading 'The Walking Dead' on the Kobo Aura. Despite its small size, and 16 level grey scale display, I found it easy to zoom in on individual scenes from the popular comic book, drag to the next panel, and quickly double tap to zoom back out to the full screen view.
And, while the web browser isn't an ideal way to surf the web, the new Wi-Fi based features on the Kobo Aura, like 'Beyond the Book,' help add context and fun facts to your reading experience.
Kobo also offers a line of HD tablets, but if you're looking for a simple and solid black or white eReader, go with the Kobo Aura; the other Kobo offerings unfortunately fall short.