The new Kobo Aura is the brand's latest attempt to take on Amazon's Kindle but does if offer enough to take the ereader crown?
Kobo, sold by WHSmith in the UK and sharing an ebook store with the high-street store, is the plucky underdog of the e-reader market. With more concentration on social sharing – book reviews, inspirational quotes and awards for prolonged reading – it seems to be aimed more at “the kids”. Can the new Kobo Aura, with the improved backlight for reading under the covers, inspire young minds?
Going head to head with the Kindle Paperwhite 2013 and Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, can the Kobo take the ereader crown?
Kobo Aura: Size and build
Glass-fronted and smaller than any Kindle the Kobo should be a stylish little thing. Unfortunately it feels somewhat flimsy and the edge-to-edge glass – no plastic bezel to clutch – quickly becomes covered in finger smudges.
Kobo Aura: Screen
Despite being covered in edge-to-edge glass, the touchscreen doesn't stretch across the whole device. It's a six-inch e-ink with roughly a centimetre of bezel encircling it.
That touchscreen looks crisp, although a touch duller than the new Kindle Paperwhite. Pages turn swiftly, but our device was prone to freezing. We frantically swiped at the screen to bring it back to life, only to be thrown half a chapter through our novel when the Aura came back to life.
Where the Aura really shines is in the way it incorporates the backlight. Set it to your preferred reading brightness and from then on you can switch it on and off, as required, using the dedicated button on top. A small addition, but this could stop you accidentally leaving the backlight on and running down your battery.
Kobo Aura: Usability
The Kobo ebook store doesn't have the same breadth of content as Amazon, but it is well organised and you can access free ebooks directly from the accompanying app.
Although generally easy to use, the home page on the Kobo Aura looks messy, a tile-like display of your books, similar titles that you might want to invest in, and stats on your reading progress.
The aim appears to be to turn reading into a game – you can earn awards and badges that can be shared online. Kids boasting about their reading prowess is a nice idea, but we're not sold. Download Pocket (getpocket.com) and you can also save web articles to be read offline on the Aura.
Kobo Aura: Battery
Kobo claims a two-month battery life, but that's if you're reading 30 minutes a day with the light and Wi-Fi switched off. In practice you'll get a similar amount of reading time to the new Kindle Paperwhite, around 20+ hours.
Kobo Aura: Verdict
Were the Kobo Aura cheaper than its main competitor, the Kindle Paperwhite, we might be more inclined to recommend it. It does, after all, have compact, pocketable dimensions and a very easy to use backlight.
However, Kobo's asking for £14 more. For an ereader with a less well-known and well-stocked ebook library that just seems farcical.
Kobo Aura release date: Out now
Kobo Aura price: £120
Review by Clare Sartin