August 27th 2013 7:40 pm

final rating

reviewed on
this review has been viewed 4316 times

Criteria Comments Rating
  • Display / readability No comments great!
  • Battery life No comments great!
  • Store and selection of titles Hard to beat Amazon here, especially given their selection of lendable Prime titles. good
  • Ease of use Kobo's software has improved, but can be a little counterintuitive at times. good
  • Document support Support for sideloading of ePub files is a big plus for me. great!
  • Storage capacity No comments great!
  • Durability No comments good
  • Design and form factor No comments great!
  • Portability (size / weight) No comments great!
Detailed review
I've always had a soft spot for Kobo. Despite competing head-to-head with the juggernaut that is Amazon's Kindle, they've managed to pretty much hold their own when it comes to e-book readers, putting out a number of high-quality devices over the years.

Their latest flagship, the Kobo Aura, follows in that tradition, with a clean, modern design highlighted by its bezel, which is flush with the display. The display itself is a six-inch, 1024x758 pixel e-ink touchscreen display with edge-lighting for reading in the dark (though having the lighting on does tend to enhance readability even in well-lit locations). The Aura's software has also seen some improvements in eliminating those flashes you see on e-ink displays when refreshing.

I've been using the Aura for the past few weeks and have generally liked it. But the real question is whether you should you pick this over the alternatives, by which I mainly mean the new Kindle Paperwhite (and to a lesser extent Barnes & Noble's newly-announced NOOK GlowLight).

If you're already in the Kindle or NOOK ecosystems (i.e. that's where your collection of books is), it's hard to argue that the Aura is worth switching.

But what about someone who isn't locked in? That's where things get more complicated. I'd describe the Aura as a top-notch reader, one that I like more than its sibling the Aura HD, which sports a larger, higher-resolution display, but is also heavier and less comfortable to hold in one hand for long periods of time. But at $149 it costs $30 more than the Paperwhite with offers and the NOOK GlowLight, and while $30 isn't a whole lot of difference, it does put the onus on the Aura to be definitively better.

Before the release of the new Paperwhite, one advantage the Aura had edge-lighting that was notably superior to the notoriously uneven lighting on the original Paperwhite. The new Paperwhite resolves this issue, and I've also found the Aura to be a bit less responsive (not to mention some other enhancements the Paperwhite has seen in terms of contrast and readability).

That doesn't mean that the Aura doesn't exceed its competition in a few areas. There are more options for customizing the appearance of text, with the ability to adjust the weight and contrast of fonts, something I appreciated since I was able to tweak things to be just the way I wanted them. Being able to left-justify text is also great, and I'm perplexed as to why this still isn't an option with Kindles (or maybe I'm missing something?).

Another awesome feature is integration with Pocket, which as a Pocket user I absolutely love. I was able to sync my collection for offline reading and managed to get through a ton of my backlog during a flight the other day, and I'd almost want to travel with an Aura over a Kindle just for that feature alone (and if you are a very heavy Pocket user it is absolutely something that should factor into your decision).

That's the challenge for Kobo. I don't think it'd at all be a mistake for anyone to buy one -- you'll get a great device for reading books -- but it's also hard to argue that you should pay more for one given the alternatives. Apart from the Pocket integration -- which I wouldn't minimize the value of for hardcore Pocket users -- there isn't a ton that is much qualitatively better about the Aura that might sway someone away from the Kindle and the gravitation pull of its ecosystem.

That's the challenge for Kobo. The Aura is a solid ebook reader, yet I don't see enough there to pry someone out of the Kindle ecosystem, and apart from Pocket integration, not a ton that would sway a first-time ebook reader buyer in their direction.

Comments (1) subscribe to this review's comments


The biggest issue for me is the built-in dictionary -- it just cannot compete with NOAD or ODE.