05/08/2013 04:58 EDT

Kobo Aura Review: Great Screen In A Bulky Body


Each week, the Huffington Post Canada's Living team will try out something that has sparked our curiosity, and as long as we live to tell the tale, we'll let you know all about it.

Test Drive Subject:Kobo Aura HD, Limited edition

Price: $169.99

What It Is: The Kobo Aura HD is a limited edition ereader with a goal to make reading and holding the device as natural as possible. It's available in three different colours and boasts a large, 6.8-inch e-ink screen. It is also running a zippy 1GHZ processor that is suppose to make it one of the fastest e-paper readers at the time of the review.

Trying It Out:

I was a very early adopter of the ereader/ebook platform back in 2006 and consider myself an avid reader. I still remember (and own) the first Sony ebook reader that was released in the United States and Japan only, which I had to smuggle into Canada from south of the border.

The Kobo Aura HD initially felt and looked bulky. I guess it's expected given the large 6.8-inch screen of the device. It also felt heavy in comparison to other devices but not as heavy as my very first ereader. I've quickly learned the the bulkiness is misleading. There are ergonomically designed grooves at the back of the device that make holding it with both hands very natural. The oversized bezel frame helps to hold it with both hands as well.

My demo Kobo came pre-charged and it took it all the 8 seconds to power on, which is pretty fast compared to earlier Kobo versions. The home screen of the device has been redesigned and contains links to your reading stats, library, bookmarks and a search bar. You may find yourself somewhat overwhelmed by all the action on the new home screen if you are coming from an older Kobo device. The comprehensive reading stats that you see on the homepage are great. You can monitor how much time you've spent reading and how long it will take you to get through the current chapter and the whole book, based on your current reading speed.

The device no longer has a dedicated home hardware button. Instead, there is a home icon in the left corner of each interface screen.

The new larger screen is very sharp and provides excellent resolution. The back light is a great as well. Holding it with both hands feels comfortable and is probably the intended usage as a one-hand operation is somewhat tough. Turning pages (refreshing the page) on the device is blazing fast, which is what you want in any ereader. The ereader does not have a physical keyboard. You simply use an on-screen, touch screen keyboard which is responsive and fast.

Unlike it's American counterpart, the Kobo can only connect to WiFi, as opposed to a mobile data network. Connecting the device to WiFi was easy. It also operated without a hitch, tethered through my LG Nexus 4. Connecting it to the internet will allow you to purchase books directly from the device. Having the device on WiFi will also grant you access to sharing your favourite book passages and other stats on Facebook.

Our Thoughts:

The Kobo Aura HD addresses the three most important factors in an ereader flawlessly — screen quality, speed and battery life. The secondary objectives such as form factor and feel in hand are somewhat off. One could argue that the device is bulky and the back design does not resemble a conventional, modern gadget.

The Warning:

Though no fault of Kobo's, at the time of the review this ebook reader did not work with Calibre, a very popular open source software. Calibre is used to load and convert books between different formats purchased from different marketplaces, instead of using the manufacturer's software. With Kobo software you can only upload Kobo books.


You can get around this dilemma by transferring your book library onto a microSD card which plugs into the memory expansion slot that the ereader has.

Another tip for the Library view: Press and hold on a book to get access to options. Be patient as it takes about two seconds for the option menu to pop up.

What do you think of the Kobo Aura? Let us know in the comments below:

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