MEGATech Reviews – Kobo Aura HD E-Book Reader

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Even though so many of us have come to rely on our smartphones and our tablets for just about every practical mobile purpose known to man, those displays aren’t exactly the best things for our eyes, especially with extended sessions. We’ve also run into all sorts of frustrations when it comes to mobile battery life too. So, if you’re the kind of person who likes to do a lot of reading on the go, a dedicated e-reader is still a very viable product to consider.

The e-reader market is increasingly competitive and while it may feel like it’s a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, companies like Kobo are still trying to elevate their game. One of the newest additions to the Kobo family is the Kobo Aura HD, an e-ink reader that boasts some of the best specs in the segment.

Technically Proficient

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A dedicated e-book reader doesn’t have to do much in terms of heavy lifting, because it doesn’t have to process complicated physics or render amazing 3D graphics. That being said, you still want to the screen to refresh at a reasonable rate and you don’t want to wait around for the menu options to take effect.

To this end, the Kobo Aura HD is largely up to the task. You get a 1GHz processor that’s said to be “20% faster” than “other leading eReaders,” backed by 4GB of internal storage, microSD slot good for up to 32GB more, up to 2 month battery life, Kobo Everywhere support, Reading Life social reading application, a built-in Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionary, ePub and Adobe DRM support and 802b/g/n Wi-Fi. It won’t blow you away with its performance, but it’s among the more powerful e-ink based eReaders out there today. The core UI and software remains largely unchanged from previous Kobo e-book readers.

Super High Definition Display

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You see that “HD” part of the name? That’s really the main improvement that the Kobo Aura HD has over predecessors like the Kobo Glo. Whereas the Glo’s 6-inch Pearl display only had a resolution of 1024×600 (212dpi), the 6.8-inch Pearl E Ink Screen on the Aura HD is a far denser 1440×1080 (265ppi). What this means is that everything on the screen is that much crisper and that much finer.

Realistically, I didn’t visually notice all that much of a difference when reading a plain text novel with the default font at the default size, but you do appreciate the higher resolution if you are looking at any images. If your eyes are better than mine, then you’ll also appreciate the increased pixel density when you go for a smaller font. Even the tiniest of words is still quite clear.

From All the Right Angles?

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I liked the “quilted” back on the Kobo Glo. Even though it was slightly curvy, it had just enough of a texture that I could easily grip the device for reading anywhere. Kobo went with a different direction for the Kobo Aura HD. Instead of a gentle curve, you get these harsh assymetical angles.

The idea, I’m assuming, is that this angular back should line up with the natural resting position of your fingertips. For the most part, this is true, but the back is a smooth and slippery plastic. Even though my fingers felt like they were in the right place, it was more difficult to keep a good grip on the Aura HD.

Reading in the Dark

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The Kobo Aura HD uses the same ComfortLight technology as the Kobo Glo, allowing you to enjoy your e-books and other digital content, even when you don’t have the best of lighting conditions. The “micro-thin coating” does give the display a certain sense of durability and the light distribution is reasonably even.

And yes, since it is still using ComfortLight, the Kobo Aura HD has all the good things and the bad things that go along with it. On the plus side, you can read in the dark and the brightness is completely adjustable (you’ll only need to use it at around 50% for most darker rooms). On the negative, the text can get a little washed out by the light and you still get that sliver of light along the bezel’s edge.

MEGATechie Aura of Light or MEGATechie Dim-Witted Dunce?

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Whereas something like the Kobo Arc Android tablet is entirely different kind of product, the Kobo Aura HD is really just a natural evolution of their existing line of basic e-readers with e-ink displays.

It runs on the same fundamental software and gives you the same fundamental reading experience that you’ve already had before, except now you get a higher resolution display and improved battery life. At $169.99, it’s not as cheap as it could have been and I’d be more inclined to get the Glo for $40 less instead. I could have done without that angular slippery back too.

About

Michael Kwan is a freelance writer who also happens to be a professional gadget geek. From smartphones to digital cameras, he's gotta get 'em all. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelkwan.

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