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Hands-on with Kobo's Glo and Mini e-readers (video)

Dana Wollman, @danawollman
September 19, 2012
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Earlier today we had a nice sit-down with Kobo, where we got some quality hands-on time with the company's Arc Android tablet. As you can imagine, that was the marquee product on display, but we also had the chance to handle the outfit's newest e-readers: the Glo ComfortLight, which has built-in frontlighting, and the Mini, which is exactly what it sounds like. Both will be available October 1st, with the 6-inch Glo going for $129 and the 5-inch Mini priced at $79. Neither will have ads, which might be one of the biggest differentiators between these and some of Amazon's offerings. If you're short on time, we've got some hands-on photos below, but if you've got a few minutes to spare, a walk-through video awaits after the break.

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Between the Arc, Glo, Mini and every other Kobo product in recent memory, the company's established some pretty clear design language: everything has rounded edges, soft-touch surfaces and a back plate with a diamond pattern comprised of criss-crossed lines. They're all comfortable to hold, though we're partial to the slightly softer material on the larger Glo reader. Then again, the Mini has interchangeable lids, if that's your bag. Out of the box, the black version has a black lid, while the white one has a silver back. The lids that will be sold separately will come in blue, red and purple.

As for those displays, best to start with the Glo, whose backlit screen defines the whole device. There's a button on the top edge of the reader that you can use to turn on the light, and you can also use an on-screen slider to adjust the brightness as you see fit. At its max setting it's quite vivid, though not overwhelming the way a cell phone in the dark would be. (Then again, that's the point of this and products like the Nook with GlowLight and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, right?) In its previous iteration, Kobo's 6-inch reader had a 600 x 800 screen, but now the resolution is 1,024 x 758 (yes, 758), which means you can expect crisper text. The 5-inch Mini has a resolution of 600 x 800, but with a screen that small, you don't need as many pixels to achieve a decent level of density. In any case, that little guy has a sufficiently sharp screen, too.

Some other key differences: while both have 2GB of internal storage (1GB of it usable), only the Glo has a microSD slot for expandable memory. You'll also sacrifice a smidgen of performance if you settle with the cheaper, smaller Mini. While the Glo steps up to a 1GHz Freescale i.MX507 processor, the Mini is saddled with a 507 clocked at 800MHz. While 800MHz is certainly serviceable, the page refreshes seemed slightly slower, and we noticed more ghosting during those transitions. With the Glo, page refreshes were crisp, with very little blurring. In both cases, though, the touchscreens were responsive, even when we made just the faintest tap.

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