Kobo has just created the best UK alternative to Amazon's all-powerful Kindle thanks to its brilliant Kobo Touch Edition
The Kobo has been released in time to compete with the all-new £89 Amazon Kindle for a place under your Christmas tree. T3 has already weighed these up in an Amazon Kindle versus Kobo Touch Edition video but the Kobo does have a killer feature that might sway you? It has a touchscreen, an e-ink touchscreen at that. You won't find that on a Kindle, unless you head to the States in order to snap up an Amazon Kindle Touch. That's not the only thing the Kobo has to boast about, though…
Kobo Touch Edition: Design and build
Perfectly pocket-sized and dressed with a distinctive quilted back, the Kobo comes in five colours – black, white, pink, blue and silver. It's incredibly lightweight at 186g, yet feels sturdy enough to survive all day in your bag. because of the touchscreen, the body is sparse on buttons. You'll find a power slider at the top and a large Home button underneath the screen. It's all you need.
Kobo Touch Edition: Screen
The six-inch Pearl e-ink display is both easy on the eye and the prodding finger, with reasonably fast reaction times – page turns do seem to be the slightest bit slower than on the Kindle, but you'll barely notice it. The view of the screen can be adjusted; choose the style of your library home page and tap the centre of the screen when reading an ebook to adjust the size and style of font, breadth of margins and line spacing. It's a handy feature for those with poor eyesight.
Kobo Touch Edition: Features and performance
The key feature of any ebook reader is the availability of quality content. Here Kobo claims to trump Amazon with 2.4 million ebooks on the Kobo store. The numbers are impressive, with one million of those being free. On closer inspection, however, the ebooks that you do have to pay for are consistently more expensive that their counterparts on the Amazon store – we performed a random test of three titles, Julian Barnes Sense of and Ending was £1 dearer on the Kobo Store, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was £2 more expensive and the Twilight saga was the same price on both. This is indicative of the Kobo Store, the more mainstream the tome the more likely you are to find a reasonable price. Steer away from the bestseller lists and your wallet will suffer. The Kobo also supports the ePUB ebook format, meaning you can also choose from online open-source libraries, like Project Gutenburg.
With built-in Wi-Fi you can browse the store anywhere with a connection. If your local library is particularly tech-savvy you can also lend ebooks using Wi-Fi. Just be sure not to rack up this late fees, now.
Kobo Touch Edition: The rest
A quirky addition to the Kobo is a feature called Reading Life, this provides stats on the amount of reading you do. The Kobo also awards you with Reading Awards from time to time. We received a NIght Rider award for late-night reading, where the Kobo called us Michael and congratulated us on behalf of KITT – yes, the car from Knight Rider, it's cultural references are a bit dated. This seems like a feature aimed more at kids than adults, with the ability to post your awards to Facebook. Hey, anything that gets kids involved in reading is fine by us, but we won't be getting involved.You also get unbeatable storage, thanks to an added microSD slot giving you the potectial to pack in 30,000 ebooks.
Additional "experimental" features can be found in the Settings menu, filed under Extras. There's a Sketchbook that allows you to draw on the touchscreen and scrawl illegible notes, a selection of sudoku puzzles to solve and a web browser – much like the Kindle's it's slow and clunky, with the e-ink screen not ideal for rendering web pages. Keep the Kobo for reading and leave the web browsing to your smartphone.
Kobo Touch Edition: The verdict
We're pleasantly surprised by the Kobo. From a purely hardware perspective it gives the Kindle a real run for its money. That said, it does feel as if its aimed at children, from the hook-up with libraries to the encouraging Reading Awards, it's all very worthy. The crux of this review is content, though. An ereader sinks or swims based on not just the breadth, but the affordability, of its content. Until Kobo can find a way to compete with Amazon's pricing structure it will remain in its shadow.
Kobo Touch Edition availabilty: Out now from WHSmiths
Kobo Touch Edition price: £109.99