Great desktop software and mobile app support make Kobo's readers a cut above the competition. It isn't perfect, but it's good value
In the competition between the Amazon Kindle and other eReaders, Kobo’s devices are the only ones that come close to matching Amazon’s well-rounded package at present – at least until Sony gets round to launched its eBook store for the Sony Reader PRS-T1
The Kobo Wireless eReader is Kobo’s entry-level device but – as the name suggests – it does have Wi-Fi. With a Kobo you get a dedicated desktop software with an eBook store, Kobo users can also synchronise with apps on iPhones or Android handsets, picking up where they left off reading. There’s also a built-in shop and a dictionary.
Like Amazon’s Whispernet service, which synchronises your current position in a book across different devices, Kobo saves a bookmark each time you close a book, whether you’re reading on the desktop software, on the Wireless eReader or using Kobo’s app on your smartphone or tablet (there are versions for both Android and iOS). However in Kobo’s implementation, you have to close the book to set the bookmark and – on the Wireless eReader – manually choose the Update Library option to synchronise.
The home page focuses on what you’re reading, showing a list of books in the main part of the screen, with options at the top to skip from Books to News & Magazines, Documents or the Store. The News & Magazines option is currently greyed out, as subscriptions to periodicals aren’t yet available in the UK. More advanced options are hidden in the menu, which has a dedicated button.
While the Wireless eReader can work with Adobe Digital Editions, Kobo’s own software is much slicker, with a bookshelf display for your books, a store and a reading pane. It doesn’t give you file-level access to your eReader, however, so to manage non-DRM books and other documents, you’ll have to open up Windows Explorer and deal with the files themselves.
Weighing 196g, the device is comfortable to hold, although the placement of the navigational control on the right-hand side of the device might annoy lefties. While the control itself feels responsive, we were a bit frustrated by slow loading times and unresponsive commands. For example, using the up or down controls changes the text size, but takes a while to have effect. At least there’s a spinning icon to tell you that something’s happening.
The navigation pad moves a selection box, but you still have to press the middle button to apply your choice. Although you can zoom into text-based documents with the pad, you have to go into the menu to enlarge older PDF files where the text is fixed. However, the option to read in landscape mode is only available in this type of document, and not in normal books.
Text was clear enough, although contrast wasn’t as good as some eReaders and small text may be too faint to some people. Although books are relatively slow to load, page turns are quick. The built-in dictionary is available from the menu, but it’s quite a chore to use. When you open the dictionary, a word in the middle of the page is selected – you have to move the selection to the word you want to look up, and repeat the process for the next word.
The Wireless eReader is by no means the slickest eReader, but it’s the closest to Amazon’s Kindle in price and features. Lack of support for basic text and HTML documents is a black mark, and the cumbersome dictionary and slow load times spoil what’s otherwise an easy-to-use device. The more expensive eReader Touch is faster, lighter, easier to use and has support for more formats, and if you don’t want to go down the Amazon path we think it’s worth it. However if you’re on a budget, the Wireless eReader is the best value non-Amazon eReader, so it wins a Budget Buy award.
|Memory card support
|eReader Battery life
|eReader TXT support
|eReader HTML support
|eReader RTF support
|eReader PDF support
|eReader ePub support
|eReader MOBI support
|eReader Amazon AZW support
|eReader Microsoft Word support
|Audio MP3 playback
|Audio WMA playback
|Audio WMA-DRM playback
|Audio AAC playback
|Audio Protected AAC playback
|Audio OGG playback
|Audio WAV playback
|Audio Audible playback
|Image BMP support
|Image JPEG support
|Image TIFF support
|one year RTB