Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kobo Touch E-Reader review

At the end of July Holly ordered me a Kobo Touch for my birthday. After a lot of research and the recommendation of a friend we went for the Kobo instead of the Kindle, because it's a simpler, more intuitive interface and a little more open with e-book formats.
Besides reading books I thought it would be a useful device for keeping my bus route information and other helpful info.
Shopping around online it seems the price is the same pretty much everywhere so free shipping was the only reason we went with for the purchase.

Feature overview
Lightweight e-reader with 6" infared touchscreen with wifi available in 6 colors.
2 GB internal storage expandable with microSD cardslot.
Support for multiple content types: ePubs and PDFs from Kobo’s store; Books: EPUB, PDF and MOBI, Documents: PDF, Images: JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF, Text: TXT, HTML and RTF, Comic Books: CBZ and CBR.

Thoughts on the design
When I got the Kobo Touch in my hands it was a little smaller than I expected. Not TOO small, just thinner, lighter and about 1/2" smaller than I thought it would be. The shell is made of plastic with a rubberized feel. There's a diamond pattern relief on the back which is more for appearance than for helping holding the device.
I don't have big hands but I find the Kobo to be a little awkward to hold. Often my thumb creeps over the edge and touches the screen changing the page. With a real book I hate that I have to hold it open so I guess I can't win.
The rubbery texture shows finger grease and prints more than I'd like. The actual screen doesn't have this problem. (see photos)
The screen is not bright but it is not hard to read either. It is not backlit like a computer screen or an iPad so eye strain is reduced, but you can't read in low light. A crisp white screen might have been nicer but perhaps that would increase eyestrain.
There are two buttons: the "Home" button on the bottom front brings you back to the main screen, and the sliding button on the top edge turns the Kobo on/off. With the sleep mode activated from the menu the kobo starts up very quickly and restores the last page you were reading. A full restart takes about a minute and starts on the homepage.
Reading EPUB e-books
The books from the Kobo store (EPUB format) are very easy to read on the Kobo Touch. Font size and spacing as well as a few typefaces are available when reading epub and mobi formats.

Reading PDFs
Reading PDFs on an e-reader sucks. You have to zoom in and scroll (and wait for the screen to refresh each time) then zoom out just to read the text clearly. After a page or two of this you realize why the books in the Kobo store are worth spending a few bucks on.
PDFs and most other formats can be converted to a more friendly format with a free program called Calibre. The conversion doesn't always work well though. It doesn't seem to know what to do with text in the header or footer so it ends up randomly in the paragraphs sometimes.

Reading Kindle books
Sometimes Kindle books (from are cheaper than the epubs in the Kobo store. There are also many ways to get Amazon credit (such as Swagbucks and MTurk) in exchange for your time doing simple tasks. If you have Kindle format books (with DRM) you can remove the DRM and reformat as MOBI using Calibre and a plugin (more info). I did this for one book and it came out exactly as I hoped.

Bonus features - Kobo Sketch
Kobo sketch is a simple drawing app that can be fun if you're bored. Here's a Unicorn.

Bonus features - Internet Browser
Kinda hidden in the options menu is a wifi internet browser. You are able to change the homepage, bookmark a few pages but is pretty limited. It's neat that it's available at all but expect things to take about 15x longer due to the slow loading and clunky keyboard. The worst part of it is when you enter a URL you have to type http then go to the punctuation menu, then :// then go back to the letters for www then back to punctuation etc. You see the problem. Often a light touch for a key press results in doubled letters. The wifi feature also drains the battery very quick.

What's missing/complaints
Bookmarking pages - Seems essential, I can't figure out if it's possible
Save text to a new document - It would be great to select some text or a paragraph and copy it to new document of favorite quotes etc.
Notes/annotations - There is a dictionary and built in keyboard for the browser, I could be completely paperless if I could make notes on what I am reading.
Evernote support - It would be great to have all my lists and articles and notes available on the Kobo for when I don't want to bring my laptop.
Browser should have "http://www." preset in the address bar.

I know some of these feature requests are outside the scope of what an e-reader should do. A device like this should (I hope) be expandable via software updates.

Verdict and final thoughts
For $150 its a cool device that is small and light enough to take with you anywhere. It takes up about as much space as one book but has the capacity for thousands.
It's not exactly everything I hoped, but it doesn't seem any worse than the others and I don't think you can really go wrong with any of the e-readers on the market today. The Kobo is not locked to a specific format like the Kindle is, so for about the same price, it's worth checking out.
I hope this review helped.

No comments:

Post a Comment