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Kobo Aura HD review

Tom Morgan
14 Jun 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
140
inc VAT

It has a market-leading screen, but the Aura HD isn’t perfect and the Kindle is cheaper

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Kobo is rarely the first company mentioned when talking about eBook readers, but that could be set to change with the company's latest device. Dubbed the Aura HD, this limited edition device has the highest resolution E ink display we've ever seen.

The 6.8in E ink screen has a massive 1,080x1,440 resolution and a pixel density of 264ppi, which is much higher than Amazon’s 212ppi Kindle Paperwhite. This makes text and images look far sharper on the Aura HD than any other eBook reader we’ve used before, although it’s difficult to spot major differences in the average page of text when viewed side-by-side with Amazon’s device. Even so, book covers and graphic novels look far clearer and sharper.

Kobo Aura HD

Thanks to its front-lit LED, you can read in darkness. At its maximum setting, the light is brighter than the Kindle Paperwhite’s, but it also has a noticeable impact on contrast, and you’ll want to lower the backlight to below 50 per cent if you read a lot of comics or graphics novels.

The Aura HD has a touch-sensitive display that’s reasonably precise and quick to respond, but it uses IR-based touch rather than capacitive technology. This means the sensors are located in the sides of the bezel, not built into the screen as with a capacitive display. It also adds to the thickness of the device, and the design is sure to divide opinion. Some will love its angular shape, but others will find it chunky compared to the current Kindle. The grooves along the back of the device are intended to let you rest your fingers when reading, but the plastic finish and blunt corners mean it isn’t quite as comfortable to hold as the Kindle Paperwhite. We liked the white colour scheme, but a black model is also available.

Kobo Aura HD

With 4GB of onboard storage, the Kobo Aura HD can easily store a large library of books and graphic novels, but you can expand storage capacity with a MicroSD card should you run out of space. It’s located on the bottom of the Aura HD, alongside the MicroUSB charging port. The Aura HD’s built-in Wi-Fi lets you connect to Kobo’s storefront, but unlike Amazon’s Kindle family there’s no option of a 3G model for those who wish to purchase books while travelling.

Thanks to its icon-based home screen, which lets you jump straight into recently opened books, search the device and head to the Bookstore, we had no trouble finding our way around the Aura HD. The high resolution screen pays dividends here, as we could clearly read smaller icons that would leave us squinting on other devices. You can organise books into shelves, to make it easier to browse through a large collection, and Kobo’s Reading Life statistics track how long you’ve read in a particular session.

The 1GHz, single-core processor powering the device is more than adequate for turning pages, taking less than half a second and only slightly longer when loading images. It could also navigate Kobo’s web store without major delays. There are 10 different font styles to choose from, should you dislike the default font, as well as a built-in version of the Merriam Webster Collegiate dictionary.

EBook Readers naturally depend on an expansive content library to be a success. This is an area where Amazon has the clear advantage, but Kobo has worked hard to improve its store. It has around 3.4 million titles, which puts it in good stead against Amazon, but Amazon tends to be slightly cheaper with big-name new releases. If you can’t find what you want on Kobo’s own book store, then you can always shop around at any of the many stores that support the ePub format, including buying directly from specialist publishers.

Kobo store

The Kobo store is much improved, though you have the option to shop around on this ePub device

You can also download DRM-free files and add them via USB. The Aura HD supports PDF and Mobi-format eBooks, along with plain text, HTML, XHTML and RTF files, JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIFF images, and the CBZ and CBR compressed comic book formats. This means it has good compatibility with established formats, so you’re unlikely to discover a file that won’t work on it.

Kobo expects the Aura HD to last up to two months on a single charge, although that’s based on 30 minutes of reading a day and using Wi-Fi and its front-light sparingly. We managed to drain it to almost 50 per cent in a week of testing. We increased the brightness to its halfway point and enabled Wi-Fi, but many users should be able to go for weeks without worrying about reaching for a charger.

There’s little doubt that Kobo's ground-breaking new display is a step forward for eBook readers, but we think the Aura HD is a little too expensive. At the time of writing, it costs £30 more than the Kindle Paperwhite, which has Amazon’s incredibly well-stocked bookstore. The slightly thicker chassis and opinion-dividing angular design might put customers off as well. Ultimately, it’s Kobo’s best eBook Reader to date, but the Kindle Paperwhite is a better package overall if you don't mind being tied to Amazon.

Details

Price£140
Detailswww.kobo.com
Rating****

Hardware

Viewable size6.8in
Native resolution1,440x1,080
Touchscreen y/nyes
Capacity4,096MB
Memory card supportmicroSD
Size128x12x176mm
Weight0g
Battery and charge optionsLithium Polymer, USB
Wireless networking support802.11n
3G?no
Portsmicro USB

Format Support

eReader TXT supportyes
eReader HTML supportyes
eReader RTF supportyes
eReader PDF supportyes
eReader ePub supportyes
eReader MOBI supportyes
eReader Amazon AZW supportno
eReader Microsoft Word supportyes
Audio MP3 playbackNo
Audio WMA playbackNo
Audio WMA-DRM playbackNo
Audio AAC playbackNo
Audio Protected AAC playbackNo
Audio OGG playbackNo
Audio WAV playbackNo
Audio Audible playbackNo
Image BMP supportYes
Image JPEG supportYes
Image TIFF supportYes

Buying Information

Price£140
Warrantyone year RTB
Supplierhttp://www.whsmith.co.uk
Detailswww.kobo.com

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