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Kobo Clara 2E review: A solid Kindle Paperwhite alternative

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £130
inc VAT

The Kobo Clara 2E offers a comfortable reading experience, but it’s a touch on the slow side.


  • Extremely light and compact
  • A comfortable reading experience
  • Built from recycled plastics


  • Quite sluggish in menus
  • Gaps in the Kobo audiobook library
  • No access to Kindle ebooks

Considering the number of businesses that Amazon has successfully bulldozed in its quest for internet domination, you’ve got to hand it to Kobo. Kindle’s arch-rival just keeps on trucking, and the Kobo Clara 2E is another solid ebook reader for those not fully enmeshed in the Amazon ecosystem.

Depending on your perspective, the lack of support for Amazon’s proprietary book format is either bad or irrelevant, but one thing is for sure: without the shadow of the Kindle hovering over it, the Kobo Clara 2E would be a no-brainer for book fans.

As it is, it all comes down to what you think of the Bezos behemoth and how much of your ebook collection is already sitting on virtual Amazon shelves.

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Kobo Clara 2E review: What you need to know

The Kobo Clara 2E is a 6in ebook reader with support for pretty much any format you can throw at it – with the exception of anything bought for Kindle. That means it’ll support EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, FlePub and MOBI ebooks, as well as TXT, HTML and RTF texts. It also works with the Overdrive system, meaning you can borrow from your local library without leaving the house.

Comicbooks in the CBZ and CBR format are also supported, as are images saved as JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP or TIFF – albeit, only in black and white due to the greyscale e-ink display.

It supports audiobooks, but only ones bought via Kobo’s own store in a homage to Amazon’s worst qualities. There’s 16GB of storage, which is enough for thousands of books.

It’s also IPX8 waterproof protected, meaning it can be dunked in two metres of water for up to an hour, and it features Comfort Light Pro – a system that lets you adjust the brightness and temperature to ensure you’re not left buzzing from blue light when you want some shut-eye.

READ NEXT: Our full round-up of the best eBook readers

Kobo Clara 2E review: Price and competition

All of this will set you back £130. That awkwardly puts it head to head with the £130 Kindle Paperwhite, a very capable ebook reader with a similar feature set that also benefits from Amazon’s power to cut prices at will, which expect to see around Prime Day or Black Friday.

If you want to go cheaper there are options from both brands. The basic Kindle is about to be refreshed, and we should have a review soon, but the latest model will set you back £85. Kobo’s entry-level reader, meanwhile, is the Kobo Nia which comes in at £90.

The luxury end of the spectrum is represented by the Kobo Forma (£200) and the Kindle Oasis (£230). And at this point, you’re probably seeing a pattern forming, so let’s get on with the review.

Kobo Clara 2E review: Design

The first thing I noticed about the Kobo Clara 2E was how light it is. Lightweight isn’t exactly a new thing in ebook readers, given the modest internals and minimal power draw, but somehow the Kobo surprised me more than most. It feels almost hollow when you pick it up, without the density of other devices I’m more used to carrying about my person such as my smartphone and tablet.

Having reviewed the last two generations of Kindle Paperwhite, I was able to dig both out and compare the Kobo Clara 2E side by side with both. It’s notably lighter than the other two, tipping the scales at just 171g compared to 213g and 182g respectively.

Sizewise, it sits somewhere in the middle, incorporating the same 6in screen of the 2018 model, but the thinner bezels of the 2021 version. It’s a good size, capable of slipping into the pocket of my jeans with little resistance.

I would personally say it feels a bit cheaper in its construction, with the textured hard casing not exactly feeling high-end, but then who buys an e-reader for style points? Add to the fact that Kobo has constructed this using 85% recycled plastic and you forgive a little flimsiness in its build.

Power is provided by USB-C – something Amazon only managed with the Paperwhite last year – and it can be switched on or sent to sleep via a big, friendly, round power button in the top right-hand corner of the back.

There is no headphone jack, which is a bit of a pity given its ability to play audiobooks, but if that’s the price of waterproofing then it’s one worth paying. After all, the ability to play audiobooks on an ebook reader is nice, but unessential, given the experience is pretty much the same as via your phone, laptop or smart speaker. The magic is in book-style text, and here the Kobo really shines.

Kobo Clara 2E review: Reading experience

Like any ebook reader made in the last 15 years, the actual reading experience is far nicer than your smartphone’s screen. E-ink is a good approximation of paper, being far easier on the eyes than even the most natural-looking OLED screen. And that’s before you get on to the fact that, like books, there are no flashing adverts, no other distracting tabs and no tempting YouTube videos: just you and the words, as it should be.

The Kobo Clara 2E is just as good as any member of Amazon’s Kindle range, in this respect – better, in fact, because you don’t have to pay extra to remove lock-screen ads. Text and monochrome images appear at a crisp, readable 300ppi and while the default font size is rather small, adapting it is as easy as tapping the top of the screen, pressing the ‘Aa’ icon and moving a slider to your liking.

You can also adjust the line spacing, size of margins and change the justification, and there’s a whole set of fonts to choose from, including the OpenDyslexic font made for those with dyslexia.

The same options menu also has a neat stats pop-in, accessible via a mini bar graph icon. This will tell you how much of the chapter has gone, and how much is left at your current reading speed, as well as telling you how long is left in the book overall.

There are also some screen settings which not only let you adjust the backlighting to your liking, but the ‘Natural Light’ setting as well. This allows you to adjust the level of blue light, making it less likely to disrupt sleep, and by default it will gradually adapt as it gets closer to bed time. And yes, you can modify your bedtime in the settings, so it will have a better idea of when to kill the blue light.

This is all good stuff, but if you’re used to reading on a phone or tablet, you may find that the somewhat laggy nature of the Kobo Clara 2E is a little offputting. It takes a good two seconds between pressing a button for the subsequent menu to appear. While that’s not uncommon with e-readers, it feels a touch more sluggish than the latest Kindle Paperwhite, even if its rival isn’t exactly what you’d call a speed demon.

Audiobook playback also suffers in comparison to recent Kindles. Assuming you have Bluetooth headphones, it’s easy enough to get started, and the interface is simple enough, allowing you to adjust volume, skip ahead and change the playback speed. Though, again, you’re going to fight input lag in a way that you wouldn’t with your smartphone.

The problem is that there’s no equivalent to Amazon’s excellent WhisperSync for books owned in both Kindle and Audible format, automatically ensuring both are at the same spot. Here, if you own the book and audiobook version, they’re treated as separate entities as far as I can tell.

It’s not a huge deal – who owns both the audiobook and book version of something, even with Amazon’s discount? – but it does make Kobo’s audiobook playback feel a touch underbaked by comparison.

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Kobo Clara 2E review: Kobo Store

While the Clara 2E doesn’t have access to Amazon’s Kindle store, it does have its own rival: the Kobo Store. Kobo says there are “millions of books” available which sounds comparable, but I did a quick spot check of prices of the best political books of 2022 on both platforms to find out.

BookKobo StoreAmazon Kindle Store
The Little Book of Politics£3.99£3.99
Why We Get the Wrong Politicians£5.99£5.03
Putin’s People£3.99£3.99
Women of Westminster: The MPs Who Changed Politics£5.99£5.03
A Promised Land£15.99£15.99
State of Terror£4.99£4.99

All in all, nearly identical — just two of the books had a saving on Amazon, and in both cases it was less than a pound’s difference.

Audiobooks are a bit more problematic. On the surface of it, things are slightly better than Amazon, with a marginally cheaper subscription model that gives you one book a month for £6.99 (as opposed to £7.99 on Amazon via Audible).

But spot-checking, I couldn’t find a couple of the books we included in the best audiobooks list on the Kobo Store, including How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb and The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson.

Of course, this is slightly biased by the fact that I co-wrote that piece, and I’m an Audible subscriber. As such my taste in audiobooks is no doubt shaped by what’s available via Amazon. But all the same such omissions are disappointing, and the inability to sideload audiobooks from other sources means such gaps can’t be closed, either.

Still, that doesn’t detract from my favourite feature of the Kobo Clara 2E. It isn’t the wealth of material you can find in the Kobo Store, but what’s readable from anywhere on the internet. Thanks to Pocket integration, if you see an interesting article online, you can just save it to the app’s account and have it appear to read on the Kobo whenever you like.

Years ago I used an Instapaper plugin on my old Kindle 3 (yes, the one with the keyboard) which did the same thing in a somewhat creaky manner, but it was very much working against Amazon’s intentions rather than a suggested use. It’s great to see Kobo actively embracing this as a selling point: being able to read interesting links when you have time is great for productivity.

READ NEXT: How to choose the best Kindle for you

Kobo Clara 2E review: Verdict

The Kobo Clara 2E is a solid ebook reader, and one that can go toe-to-toe with the all-conquering Amazon Kindle series – as long as you’re not invested in Amazon’s ecosystem.

That’s a big caveat, of course, but it has its advantages: chiefly the huge selection of file formats supported, and the ability to download interesting articles directly from Pocket.

The Kobo Clara 2E has weaknesses, though. Its menus are laggy which makes basic navigation and controlling audiobook playback a bit tedious. And on the subject of audiobooks, the store did have some key omissions when we looked. The fact that you can’t sideload your own is also a touch annoying when it’s so free with other formats, too.

But if you just want it for books, then it’s hard to fault the Kobo Clara 2E. The interface is intuitive, it’s easy to customise and the actual reading experience is easy on the eyes. Given that’s around 90% of what makes a good ebook reader, it’s hard to be too miffed at its mild failings.

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