Kobo unveils three reading-focused Arc tablets

We suspect that Kobo won't be too thrilled about us mentioning the Vox tablet in the introduction to its latest product announcement. All companies have their share of misfires, but that one left us seriously questioning whether the e-reader manufacturer really belonged in the tablet space in the first place. The company set things right with the Kobo Arc, scrapping the Vox line and starting anew. At the end end of the day, however, that seven-inch device left us wondering precisely what void the slate intended to fill in a market overrun with budget tablets. The company thinks it has the answer this time around, building a tablet aimed specifically at its user base of hardcore readers. In fact, the company is so confident in that potential space that it's created not one but three new devices to cater to that need.

It's certainly not something Amazon's Fire line has sought to address, with devices that are more interested in the broader multimedia experience. And while Barnes & Noble has put some effort into reading on its Nook Tablet line, the future of those devices are in question. Kobo would no doubt be among the first to admit that, for those truly hardcore readers out there, a tablet just can't match the experience of a devoted E Ink device, but the company has taken some great pains here to offer the best possible experience on this class of device. For starters, that means limiting distractions -- a refreshing move in a world of infinite displays, we'll admit. CEO Michael Serbinis suggested that (aside from the fact that tablets are less forgiving on the eye than e-readers), the reason people aren't reading as much on the devices is due in part to the many other things (movies, music, web browsing, et cetera) we can be doing on them.


Above: Kobo Arc 7; below: Kobo Arc 7 HD.

The company's implemented a feature called Reading Mode here. It's sort of an airplane mode for text -- turn it on, and it'll silence push reminders, so you can focus on the job at hand. The lack of activity and added auto adjustments to brightness and other system resources also promises to ease the load on the battery, giving you more time to read. The reading-centric updates actually start at the homepage. Layered on top of the tablets' Android 4.2.2 (which, for the record, will receive updates as Google rolls them out) is a reading-centric skin. Log in and you'll see you'll be greeted with Kobo's Reading Life interface. Swipe left to view all of your content organized into shelves and right to get out into standard Android. In spite of all of the reading-themed tweaks, however, Kobo insists that it's not skimped on the specs here. Let's start with the bottom of the totem poll, shall we?


The clear heir to the Arc throne is the Arc 7. The slate's got a 7-inch, 1,024 x 600 display, a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, a front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera and 8GB of memory that's expandable via a microSD slot. That one will run you $150. For $50 more, you can get your hands on the Arc 7HD, which is better in every way, with a 1,920 x 1,200 display, a 1.7GHz quad-core process, a 1.3-megapixel camera and 16GB of on-board storage. At the top of the heap, meanwhile, is the Arc 10HD, offering up a 2,560 x 1,600 display, a 1.8GHz quad-core processor and 16GB of storage. That one's gonna run you $300.

We'll have a hands-on with those devices and Kobo's latest e-reader coming up shortly.