I scored my free Kobo late last year from a PR firm looking for a quote. I was happy to give them one because anything which vexes the Beast of Bezos gets a tummy rub from JB on general principles. I forget what I said for them.
They let me keep the unit, though, which was nice of them. It is, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the water-proof model. The Kobo Aura H2O, I think it’s called.
I’ve been using it long enough now to be able to write an honest review. I’ve read about half a dozen dozen books on it, some good some not so much. Enough to be able to separate any feelings or thoughts I might have about the device from my response to the books I read.
So, bottom line, is it as good as or better than a Kindle?
I have an old first gen PaperWhite Kindle, smuggled into the country via the good offices of Professor Boylan. Much as I hate the Beast, I recognise the quality of his kit and the PaperWhite is a quality eReader. The 2nd Gen, I’m told is even better.
The Kobo doesn’t sit quite as nicely in my hands as the Kindle. It feels just a touch bigger and more angular. Possibly a little heavier. But only a touch. That doesn’t make it noticeably less easy to hold for hours at a time. It just feels like a slightly heavier, boxier artefact. Still, judged on its own merits, I’m more than happy to use it. Compared to an iPad or even an iPad Mini, it remains a superior option for reading - as a dedicated single-use device should be.
The screen is as clean and crisp as the PaperWhite, the text exquisitely defined. In direct sunlight it does look like ink printed on good stock. Unlike a Kindle, the Kobo doesn’t right justify unless you force it too, so you don’t get the ugly layout effects that sometimes occur on the market leading eReader.
Backlighting, or uplighting to be perfectly geekly about it, works well. You can read this in the dark without straining your eyes and the Kobo has none of the uneven lighting issues of the 1st generation PaperWhite. (Not that they bothered me much anyway).
Meh, not so great. Or perhaps "not as great as Amazon delivers", might be a fairer call. I find the Kobo needs charging about once every book and a half, which seems a little hungrier than the Kindle, but still way way better than any tablet you’d use as a reader. (I read long books). Charging time runs to about four or five hours for a full battery. Standby on wifi - about a month or so.
The bookstore will have most of what you want. I haven’t run into problems with a lack of content yet. I don’t think they claim as many titles as the Kindle, but then again since Amazon opened up their AU ebook store I’ve found myself blocked from accessing the US site. And worse, because I started with a US account, I now find it impossible to buy in either Kindle store. I just get bounced back and forth between the two.
Lucky I don’t buy Kindle titles any more.
On the other hand I have had trouble using the offer codes that Kobo occasionally send. In fact I’ve never successfully used one. Ever. I enter the codes and the server refuses to recognise them. Maybe it’s a problem with my account. Maybe it’s systemic.
However, that’s not what everyone is waiting to hear about. The one feature that sets apart the Kobo Aura H2O is it’s ability to take a drink, or a bath, or a dip in the ocean.
It is waterproof. Just as advertised. I’ve tested this thing in the bath, the shower, down by the pool with a beer and about half a dozen times on the beach. It feels weird and wrong. The first time I exposed it to water was in my backyard where I perched on my beer-drinking ledge in the pool and necked a San Miguel while knocking over a couple of chapters of Lev Grossman’s The Magician.
It was nerve wracking at first. I felt like I was going to either destroy the Kobo or myself. But we both survived.
Oddly enough for a water proof piece of tech, the Kobo doesn’t like getting spotted with droplets. Dunno why but it copes a lot better with being fully submerged than with having a few drops splashed on screen, or a wet finger used to turn a page. That will often result in a warning screen saying that you should wipe it down. But drop the thing to bottom of the pool or toss it in the surf and it’s fine.
The beach is where the Kobo really comes into its own. You can take a Kindle to the beach. Jeff Bezos famously seals his inside a ziplock bag. I’ve done the same. But the Kobo rules here. You don’t even need to worry about sand. The micro USB slot where you plug in your charger is protected by a good rubber seal and although grains of sand can get stuck where the screen meets the bezel, a quick immersion in the surf will see them washed away – as well as making you seem the most interesting crazy man on the beach.
When you’re a parent, a lot of your time by the seaside is spent waiting for kids to be done. I approach those endless, baking beach runs with less trepidation now I know I have a waterproof, sand proof and beautifully useable eReader to take with me.
I wouldn’t go smearing sun block on it though.