Kobo Aura review
When Kobo released the Kobo Aura HD earlier this year, its large, high-resolution screen immediately impressed. Kobo's latest eReader, the Aura, has a slightly lower resolution than its HD counterpart, and a more typical 6in display. However, it still manages to make an impact, being the first eReader we've seen with a stylish edge-to-edge surface to its display.
Unlike its rivals, the E Ink screen sits completely flush to the front panel so you can run your finger across it from one edge to the next in one swift movement. It complements the Aura's streamlined design, which lets it sit comfortably in your hand. Its corners still aren't as round as Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite, but we think it's a big improvement on the Aura HD. It's considerably thinner and lighter, too, weighing a mere 174g and measuring 114x8x150mm, which makes it smaller than a regular Kindle.
Thankfully, its smaller size hasn't affected the screen quality, as its 1,014x758 resolution gives it a pixel density of 212ppi, the same as the Kindle Paperwhite. Text looked sharp and clear, and its touch-sensitive display was a pleasure to use. Unlike the Aura HD, it uses a capacitive touchscreen, which we found accurate and reasonably quick to respond.
Its icon-based home screen makes it easy to jump into your library of books, and pages are turned by a simple swipe across the screen. They take less than a second to load thanks to its 1GHz processor, but we noticed it was a little slow to pinch-zoom. This won't be a problem for ordinary eBooks, as you can just set the zoom to your preferred distance and leave it, but it can be annoying if you're frequently zooming to read small dialogue bubbles in comics, graphic novels and so on.
By default our Kobo Aura came set to only completely refresh the screen every chapter, we guess to save on battery life. It's well worth changing this in the Reading Settings to every 5 pages to keep the text looking crisp.
Its front-lit LED lets you read your eBooks in the dark. The top half of the screen was marginally lighter than the bottom, but on the whole it was lit evenly across the screen and its lighting was far more uniform than Amazon's Paperwhite. Conveniently, you can change the brightness simply by swiping two fingers up and down the screen. It's far more convenient than diving into the menu options and using the brightness slider, but we did notice that blacks became noticeably bluer at its maximum setting, particularly in comics and graphic novels, so we'd recommend keeping it at 50 per cent or less depending on your reading material.
Tapping the top or bottom of the screen displays the menu options. The advanced font settings let you choose from 11 different font styles, and you can also customise the size, weight and sharpness of the text. As if that weasn’t enough, you can also adjust the line spacing and margin size. This gives you a much greater degree of control over your text than other eReaders we've seen, letting you adjust the look and feel of the text until you've got it just right.
With 4GB of onboard storage, there's plenty of room to store your collection of books, but you can also add an extra 32GB of storage with a microSD card. There’s no 3G option, but its built-in Wi-Fi lets you buy books straight from Kobo's storefront wherever you have an internet connection.
You can access the bookstore straight from the home screen. Kobo does tend to be more expensive than Amazon, but you can always shop at other stores and add them to the Aura via USB. It supports ePub, PDF and Mobi-format eBooks, as well as plain text, HTML, XHTML and RTF files. It also supports JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIFF image formats, as well as CBZ and CBR comic book formats. It also supports the Pocket service, letting you save online content to your account and then read it back online on your Kobo later.
Also included is Kobo's Beyond the Book feature. Much like Amazon's X-ray feature, you can highlights key terms within the text and it acts as an impromptu encyclopaedia. It's nowhere near as extensive or informative as a Wikipedia article, but it's a great tool for providing just that little bit of extra information should you want to find out more about a particular topic without losing your place on the page. There's also a built-in English dictionary and a translation dictionary that lets you translate European language words to English, and the annotations tab collects any highlights, notes or bookmarks you've created in one convenient location.
Kobo claims the Aura can last for two months on a single charge, but this figure is based on 30 minutes of reading every day with Wi-Fi turned off and the light used sparingly. More active readers will drain the battery faster, but regular users shouldn't need to charge it up more than once a month.
The Kobo Aura is a worthy companion to the Aura HD despite its lower resolution. Our only concern is its price, as at the time of writing, it's £10 more expensive than the new 2013 version of Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite (review soon). However, the Aura lets you expand its storage and gives you the freedom to buy eBooks from wherever you like, so if you don't want to be tied to Amazon's bookstore, it's an excellent alternative.
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