Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kobo eReader Touch review

I hit a dilemma when preparing for my trip to Russia. I was only bringing a carry-on bag, which limited the amount of reading material I could bring. Being a voracious reader I wanted to bring quite a bit, but since my laptop was out of commission and the new one had not arrived yet I had to figure out an alternative. Looking around I finally decided that I was being a Luddite and it was time to try out an ebook reader. I love holding a book, I love shopping for books, I love just staring at my full bookshelves at home! Yet it was time for a change. After doing some research I settled on Kobo eReader Touch and brought it with me on my trip. After several days of continuous use, here's my brief review.

The Kobo eReader is a robust ebook reader in a mid-price range, with a large number of features, and the following specifications:
Available Colors

Lilac, Blue, Silver and Black
Wireless Connectivity 802.11b/g/n
Processor Freescale 508 Processor
Device Size 114mm X 165mm (4.5 in. X 6.5 in.)
Device Depth 10mm (0.4 in.)
Weight 185g (6.5 oz.)
Diagonal Display Size 6" Pearl high contrast E Ink display
Screen Grey-Scale 16 Level
Storage 2GB*
Memory Expansion Up to 30,000 eBooks with a 32 GB SD Memory Card
Connectivity USB, Wi Fi
Battery Life 1 month**
Supported File Formats Books: EPUB, PDF and MOBI
Documents: PDF
Images: JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF
Text: TXT, HTML and RTF
Comic Books: CBZ and CBR
Pre-Loaded eBooks 15 Hand-Selected Free Previews
Fonts 7 Font Styles, 17 Available Sizes
Software New & Improved Free Kobo Desktop Software

I was only able to obtain a blue model. Regardless of the colour, the front is always white, so really the colour doesn't matter if you use a sleeve (I do). The actual memory space available for books is 1gb, but it supports 32gb MicroSD so running out of space isn't really an issue. Now for the pros and cons:

- Kobo eReader Touch is very light, the screen is just big enough, and the interface is simple. Reading it on a bus or subway is a breeze, and flipping pages is much easier than on older eReaders thanks to touch technology.
- The Touch feature is nice and it allows for a greater freedom when manipulating text. The touch keyboard is responsive and easy to use
- Kobo eReader Touch supports not just the standard ePub e-book format, but also MOBI (Kindle format), PDFs, TXT, HTML, and CBZ and CBR (comic book formats) in addition to all the standard picture formats. I found that although the screen is black-and-white only (obviously), the comic book formats and PDF files nonetheless have a high picture quality and very readable.
- The Kobo eReader has wi-fi that can be used not just to browse ebook stores, but also to surf the internet. That's right, the eReader has a fully functional browser that's strongly reminiscent of Google Chrome. It's a beta version, but I found it useful enough despite some drawbacks (more on them later)
- The Kobo eReader also supports 7 fonts and 17 different sizes and additional fonts and sizes can also be downloaded. That's very handy for reading webpages, PDFs, etc. The default font, however, is quite readable.
- Adding books to the eReader is a breeze - just drag and drop, OR if you connect the eReader to your home network you can access your computer's directory and add books to the reader using its own interface.

- The browser is nice to have, but currently very very slow. The touch technology is not as highly responsive as (say) Google Nexus S or iPhone, but it practically stutters in the browser.
- The Kobo eReader is supposed to be able to read MOBI (Kindle format) books, however, when I loaded around 200 books in MOBI format most of them did not display correctly, most of the text being replaced by gibberish. That was annoying and disheartening. I thought at first that maybe it's because I pirated the books and tried free MOBI books offered by Kindle store and Gutenberg project, but encountered similar problem. I've as yet not found a solution, and Kobo website has not offered one either. That's very annoying, so for now I'm limited to books in TXT, ePub, and PDF formats.
- The battery life is adequate for several days of continuous reading, but as soon as wi-fi is turned on the battery life drops precipitously. Furthermore, the eReader only comes with a USB wire thus requiring a computer for recharging. You can buy a Kobo power outlet adaptor, or use a generic micro-USB-to-USB power outlet adaptor (which is what I ended up using).

Final thoughts
The Kobo eReader is a robust and enjoyable eReader that provided me with excellent reading experience, and the browser was actually a life-saver at one point. It's light, easy to use, easy to scroll pages, displays a lot of different formats, and the battery life is adequate. Its puzzling inability to display books in MOBI format is a big fly in the ointments, but for its price the Kobo eReader just might be the best ereader in its range.