Kobo Nia review: an affordable alternative to the Kindle ereader

The Kobo Nia is worth a look if you like your books in digital form

Kobo Nia
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Kobo Nia is an entry-level ereader that gives you a great reading experience for the price. While there are more expensive models with more features around – from both Kobo and Amazon – this is worth considering as one of the best value ereaders on the market.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Bright and sharp screen

  • +

    Plenty of ebooks

  • +

    Customisable interface

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No waterproofing

  • -

    Only one colour

  • -

    No audiobook support

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The Kobo Nia's main problem is that it's up against a very famous ereader made by a huge tech company – but just because this isn't a Kindle doesn't mean that you should ignore it. The Kobo Nia has plenty going for it, including the affordable £89.99/$99.99 asking price.

It ticks just about all the boxes that you want from an ereader, including a pleasant reading experience in any kind of light, and access to millions of books through the Kobo Store. Free ebooks and PDFs can be easily loaded on to the device too, if you need more to read.

We've been spending some time reading a few digital bestsellers for our Kobo Nia review, and we came away largely impressed by what this entry-level ereader has to offer. If you've made the switch to ereading then we'll think you'll find it an attractive proposition.

You don't get all of the bells and whistles of other, more expensive ereaders – including Bluetooth support and waterproofing – but those features aren't necessarily vital for every reader out there. Read on to find out what we thought about the Kobo Nia ereader.

Kobo Nia review: design and screen

With a compact 6-inch screen and a 1024 x 758 pixel resolution (that's 212 pixels per inch), the Kobo Nia is pleasingly small and light (it tips the scales at 172 g or 0.38 lbs). It fits very neatly in the hand and is only a little bit bigger than your average smartphone – hold it carefully and you can operate it with just one hand, using your thumb to tap through the pages on the right of the screen. Swipes and taps are supported, which makes the whole interface simple to navigate.

Like most modern ereaders, the design is pleasingly minimalist, and the device has a nice textured back that's easy to grip. It feels robust too, though we didn't put it through any particularly gruelling endurance challenges. It's worth noting that the Kobo Nia isn't waterproof, so you won't want to drop it in the bath – though as far as we're concerned, waterproofing isn't necessarily one of the most essential features that you need in an ereader, it's just a handy extra to have.

We've got absolutely no complaints about the screen. Even at this entry-level price, the Kobo Nia offers up a display that's sharp and easy to read: there's adjustable brightness, so the screen is clear and sharp through the day and at night, and you've got a choice of 12 different fonts and 50 different font sizes for the ebook text you're looking at. It's certainly a more gentle reading experience than staring at a phone or tablet.

Black is your only colour choice as far as the actual ereader goes, but there are three official SleepCover cases available in black, aqua and lemon. Made from soft artificial leather, these cases will automatically put your ereader in and out of sleep as well as offering extra protection. Besides the power button, the only other feature on the hardware is a charging port – it uses microUSB rather than USB-C, but we can live with it.

Kobo Nia review: features and reading

Kobo Nia

(Image credit: Future)

Reading on the Kobo Nia is a pleasure – assuming that you do like reading ebooks on an ereader in the first place, otherwise you probably won't be interested in this. There's a very slight delay while taps get registered and menus and pages are refreshed, but that's normal in these sort of devices, and it doesn't spoil the overall experience. We happily got through hours of reading without a problem.

We do like the various stats that the ereader can throw up at the top of the screen, including how far through the book you are, how much longer it's going to take you to finish the chapter, and how long you're likely to take to finish the book as a whole. You can also customise the on-screen information to show as much or as little as you want it to (a progress bar, pages left, and so on).

There's 8GB of on-board storage, which is enough for about 6,000 ebooks, and Wi-Fi connectivity (but no Bluetooth). The Kobo ebook store has about 6 million titles in it, so it's unlikely that you're going to be stuck for something to read, with everything from Harry Potter to Lincoln in the Bardo available. This actually supports more formats than the Kindle, though there's no audiobook support.

The Kobo Nia is fitted with a 1,000 mAh battery, which seemed to drop by about 25 percent a week with an hour or so of reading a day. It's hard to judge battery life definitively, as your screen brightness is going to play a big part, but while the time between charges doesn't seem amazing on this ereader, it'll certainly see you through a week or even maybe a month away from home.

Kobo Nia review: price and verdict

While you may automatically think Kindle rather than Kobo when it comes to an ereader, there's not actually a huge amount in it – and if you want to escape the Amazon ecosystem (and perhaps your Prime subscription) then the Kobo Nia is the perfect way to do it. It's affordable, it works well, it looks good, and there's a huge choice of books (just not quite as huge as the Kindle offers).

It's also worth considering the Kobo Clara HD, which for a little bit more money will get you a sharper 300 ppi 6-inch screen and a blue light filter. You still get the same Kobo store and the same software interface, which we reckon is actually a bit better and more intuitive than the one offered on Amazon's devices. It's also worth noting you can loan ebooks from libraries, if your local library supports Kobo's OverDrive service.

For the very best in ereading tech you can go for the more expensive Kindles and get extras such as waterproofing and audiobook support, but for an entry-level device the Kobo Nia is impressive considering the price that you're paying. There are no real negatives to talk about, other than the fact that you can get more features and a sharper screen if you're prepared to part with more cash.

When it comes to the actual reading experience, the Kobo Nia really hits the mark, with a sharp display that's easy on the eyes as well as plenty of ways to personalise the text and the interface that you're looking at. It's good for the market as a whole that the Amazon Kindles have some serious competition, and the Kobo Nia definitely provides that.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.