Love the Kobo ecosystem, but hoping for a tablet that's a little... higher end than what the Arc line currently offers? Boy have we got some news for you. The company introduced a grand total of three new tablets at today's event in New York City, and here's the crown jewel, the 10-inch Arc 10HD. Compared to the offerings we've seen from other e-reader makers, this thing really is a beast. It's also a pretty nice piece of hardware with a solid build. The front of the slate is all screen, plus a glossy, flush bezel that also houses the device's one webcam, a 1.3-megapixel offering that can also shoot 720p.
On the top of the fairly thin and light device, you'll find Kobo's standard red power button. On the right side is a volume rocker and along the left is a headphone jack, micro-HDMI and micro USB ports. On the back are two speaker grills, which didn't put out enough power to be heard over the event's music. There's also some subtle angular design language borrowed from the Aura HD on the sides of the otherwise flat soft touch back.
Kobo Arc 10HD hands-on
So, how does Kobo intend to set itself apart from the ever-increasing selection of high end tablets? By focusing on reading -- which, granted, seems like an odd angle for a $400 tablet, but Kobo's certainly taken great pains to make this the most reader-friendly tablet around. That means, primarily, skinning the slate's Android 4.2.2. Fire it up and you're greeted with books (as well as those new magazines) -- books you're reading and books Kobo thinks you should be reading, culled from its online offerings.
It's clean, it's quick and it's easy to navigate for anyone who's spent time with a devoted e-reader. Flip to the left an you'll get that standard Android interface. Flip to the right, and you get a bookshelf. Interestingly, that somewhat hidden interface is the most aesthetically appealing part of the Reading Life UI, with different categories grouped into rectangular entries with solid colors. Kobo's also offering more on the reading experience itself.
Take Beyond the Book, for example. While reading text, you'll encounter underlined words and phrases. Click them, and you'll see a collection of information on the subject aggregated from online resources like Wikipedia. How to Kobo decide what content to pull? All we know is it's a "complex algorithm" that seems to pick uncommon words and things like proper names. Also news is Collections, which pulls together curated information on given subjects picked by authors and celebrities. And as for that magazine experience, Kobo's got a guided reading feature that should be familiar to anyone who's used the panel-by-panel mode on apps like Comixology. This time, however, it guides you through text and spread to save you from zooming in and out.
Also worth mentioning is Reading Mode, a sort of airplane mode for text. If distractions are what's keeping you from reading full time on a tablet, this is the feature for you, removing annoying pop-up updates and adjusting settings to increase battery life. We will say that we notice a bit of lag in the performance, in spite of some higher-end specs, though the company chalked this up to the unit being not quite finalized. Hopefully all of that will be ironed out when this thing arrives on October 16th.
Edgar Alvarez, Terrence O'Brien and Daniel Orren contributed to this report.