Review of the New Kobo Aura
Aug
27

Review of the New Kobo Aura

By

AURABlk_HeadOn_CA_US_HOME copy

Earlier in the year Kobo had released the Aura HD, which was a 6.7 inch e-Reader that bucked the trend of the standard six inch device. It was said when it was first released that this model was a limited edition and would not see the same sort of mass market push as the Kobo Glow. The Canadian company has gone back to the drawing table and just announced the new Kobo Aura.

Hardware

hardware

The Kobo Aura maintains the standard six-inch approach that the company made famous with their entire product line. It currently has a super high resolution e-Ink “Clarity Screen” with 212 DPI and sixteen levels of grey. Really, the resolution is the exact same on the Glo, and has not broken any barriers on using a next generation e-Ink display. This e-Reader has the exact same front-lite technology that was found on the original Kobo Aura HD. This will allow readers to adjust the brightness settings to suit their environment. Currently, Kobo has the best front-lit screen in the business and has surpassed Amazon in terms of quality. To turn the screen light on, there is a button at the very top and then a virtual slider bar to control the brightness.

It is powered by the quintessential Freescale i.MX507 1 GHZ processor and has 1 GB of RAM. There are 4 GB of internal memory, which can be enhanced via the Micro SD Card. It seems that Kobo e-Readers still have expandable memory, which makes adding books to your collection fairly easy and painless. It also has over two months of battery life, which is ideal.

Kobo has maintained the same rear panel that they debuted on the Kobo Aura HD. Instead of using the quilted back cover as they have always used for their three previous generations of e-Readers, they have moved to a more wavy design. When we talked to Kobo about this move at BookExpo America, they said they wanted to mirror how the pages of a real book looked, once it got lots of usage. If you maneuver a book and press towards the spine, you will see the pages on a diagonal angle, and this is the essence of the new rear shell. This rear facing panel has undergone a severe redesign and is more subtle in the way the curves look.

The one thing that blew me away with this e-reader is how the screen is flush with the bezel. Most e-readers have a sunken screen and a raised bezel that often utilizes Neonode IR. This model has 5 points of multi-touch and is a pure joy to use. If you want to raise or decrease the luminosity you can swipe your two fingers upwards to raise it or swipe downwards to decrease it.

There are no manual page turn buttons, instead everything is done via the software. The only two buttons on the device are the power and light. There are only two colors available at launch, black and pink.

Software

IMG_4671

Kobo maintains the same general user interface found on most of their modern day e-Readers and did not re-invent the wheel for the core user experience. The new screen has three main segments that display icons for everything done over the last twelve processes. This provides shortcuts to the user’s most commonly accessed features, such as the web-browser, custom shelves, Reading Life, and ebooks. The Sync feature to fetch new content is now on the main screen, too, which is the only element that remains persistent. I actually like the more effective use of screen real estate. Rather than browsing four different sub-menus to access the internet browser, it will appear on the main screen if it has recently been used.

I really like the dynamic nature of the new home screen, especially how common tasks and recently accessed elements from games to comics will appear as virtual shortcuts. One of the drawbacks is you can’t long-press to move them around or save them as persistent pseudo-widgets. It would be amazing to organize your home area the way you like so it didn’t change automatically, unless you wanted it to.

Not only has the main screen changed, but most of the UI has undergone subtle enhancements over prior models. The Kobo Glow had a black area on the bottom of the screen, and when you initiated the scroll bar to find the illumination levels, the black bar would often show artifacts or ghosting from images. The new UI is completely white and most of the other sub-menus and headings are also pure white, which is a small but noticeable feature.

One thing that Kobo does really well is provide a lot of customization options in the main settings menu. Users can set the page refresh rate for e-ink from one to six pages, providing the ability to set up different swiping motions to turn pages. This is optimal for people living in Japan and Asia, where the character layout is right to left and page turns are left to right. There are new games as well, such as a Words with Friends clone and a few others. Of course, users have a scrapbook to take advantage of the touchscreen and internet browser. There are enough options to get the most out of this e-reader, but not too many to overwhelm the average consumer.

Kobo has made headlines from the beginning with their aggressive international expansion efforts. This allows customers to easily read books in their native languages. The Aura has core support for the UI and dictionaries for English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese and Japanese. All of the dictionaries are basically links which users can download them as needed, without having them all loaded on the device by default. This helps with memory and storage capacity.

e-Reading Experience

reading

Kobo has debuted some new features that enhance the overall reading experience and aid readers in eBook discovery. The most exciting element is called Beyond the Book, and it allows readers to dive deeper into what their reading by tapping on highlighted words to discover related books, authors, articles, and more. This really goes beyond simple dictionary look-ups of words you won’t understand. Speaking of dictionaries, there are over 8 that come loaded on it, with more available to download.

One thing Amazon has always done well is do translations. Kobo implemented a new translation service that allows you to check out words in your native tongue into something new.

Kobo’s entire line of e-Readers provides a tremendous flexibility in crafting a unique reading experience. There are eleven fonts bundled on the Aura and twenty-four different sizes. Advanced users can load in their own fonts that can be downloaded or purchased online. Kobo also has TypeGenuis, which offers further advanced options to adjust the weight and saturation. All of this comes with a before and after rendering on how the changes will look, comparing it against the existing settings.

Let’s talk about the PDF experience. Sony once held the title of King of PDF, it had great re-flow and tons of customization options. Kobo has refined their own PDF experience into one of pure joy and has now usurped the title away from Sony. Taking advance of the capacitive multi-touch display, you can now pinch and zoom. You can start to pinch with two fingers and then release one finger and continue to scroll in the document. While you do this, the images do not render fully, but the text does. This insures you can read on the Kobo Aura just like you would a tablet. This same gesture and rendering support engine not only makes the overall PDF experience excellent, but carries over to internet websites too.

Kobo currently has a massive online bookstore with over 3.5 million titles where readers can easily purchase magazines, newspapers, bestsellers, comics, and kids’ books. Magazines will not be available at launch, but may come later.

Wrap Up

IMG_4604

The Aura is amazing, one of the best e-readers ever released. One of the best features is the capacitive multi-touch display and the ability to really make reading shine. The screen is flush with the bezel and not sunken like every other e-reader currently on the market. The internet and PDF experience is the best you will get on a six inch device, trouncing Sony.

PROS

Capacitive multi-touch display
Screen is flush with the bezel
Best PDF experience out of a six inch e-reader
Beyond the Book is really neat
Tons of customization for EPUB

CONS

No speakers or headphone jack
Internet Browser Crashed fairly often
Same Resolution as the Kobo Glo

Rating: 9/10


Michael Kozlowski (4052 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to michael@goodereader.com


  • antiplex

    sooo – besides subtle improvements the specs seem pretty much the same to the old kobo aura hd or did i miss something? a quick comparison would be nice ;)

  • http://goodereader.com/blog/ Good E-Reader

    Kobo gave us a retail copy and on Thrusday we will be doing an unboxing, review and comparison against the Glo, Aura, Paperwhite and Nook.

  • Booxilla

    Could not find any information on whether it fully supports epub3 or not

  • Jason

    I’m curious if it’s as slippery as the Aura HD is. Supposedly the new grip on the back of this new device should be an improvement.

  • vegas68

    Thank you for the review. I read on their website that their use of the latest e ink technology avoids the flashes and the annoying refreshing of the pages, and somewhere else I read that the flashes only appear every chapter, 100 pages or so (as opposed to 6 pages of the kindle). I found this improvement the most exiting thing about this new kobo, but you don’t even mention it in your review. Since you had the device on your hands, do you notice any major improvement when turning pages? Thank you

  • Jonathan

    Are we taking bets on which manufacturer will be bringing out an ereader with a Pearl 2 screen? Amazon has the cash but can E-Ink produce them in the numbers required? I’m waiting for higher resolution screens before I buy my next ereader.

    Someone mentioned there is a kind of crosshatch pattern on the Kobo Aura screen, hope that isn’t the capacitive layer messing things up too much.

  • rkmr

    i wanted to know that will the kobo aura HD get the new features like low flash screen technology(page refresh after every 100 pages) and pinch to zoom with a software update or is it just for kobo aura.pls reply

  • http://goodereader.com/blog/ Good E-Reader

    I don’t think so, most of this is hardware driven with the new screen they are using. The aura has different type of multitouch.

  • ibass

    Wonder if I could make a tiny, tiny, request… I have a lot of books/collections (~2500 books and about 200 collections) and so far only Sony has been able to handle that without trouble. On my kobo Glo, it takes nearly two full minutes to open the shelves list, each and every time. For comparison, Sony’s (PRS 500 – T1) opened it in seconds. Could you see if they’ve in any way improved that on the Aura? I just can’t go back to a non-lit reader.

    I know I’m a bit of an outlier in this, but I’ve been reading and buying ebooks since the old palm pilot days, with peanut reader, and things just tend to build up.

  • Jonathan

    So now an ereader with pinch to zoom is better than one with PDF reflow. Are you sure?

  • TheJeebus

    Glossy screen? Doesn’t that remove one of the reasons for using eInk, which is great sunlit reading?

  • Claus

    Is the screen glass or is it the same plastic as the kobo glo or aura HD which can be subject to damage which creates a “bright spot where light leaks out?

  • Agelos

    Hello, does anybody know if Kobo Aura supports Greek characters?

    Thank you

  • Patrick Hills

    When saving highlights where do they go? I know on Kindle they sync to the web and are stored as a text file on the device, is it the same for the Kobo ereaders? Can I save highlights to Pocket?

  • 12frames

    you can see some more pictures of the kobo aura over here, including a major bug and the not so even frontlight.

    http://12-frames.tumblr.com/post/62351876237/kobo-aura-review-2013

  • baramburum

    Kobo is a really strange company. In one hand they try to lead the e-reader market, but in other hand they do it so stupid. In Aura HD they made the nice screen, but a very poor quality frame. Aura is the same. it is an amazing idea of flat screen (Bravo!), but the size of the screen is too small. Even they decelerated the same size as Glo has, it is not true. Reading space on Aura looks much more smaller. Still the same cheap plastic frame deforming then you put this device in your hands. New interface are very complicated, that you makes a lot a lot of navigation mistakes. Still there are no any physical buttons, that makes it is really hard to use it in the winter time. Nice try, but why not just focus and make one, but perfect e-reading device with large screen, durable frame and some comfort navigation with buttons?

  • cyrus

    Hi, does kobo aura have landscape mode like the sony PRS-T3???

  • Rachel

    Unfortunately the highlights stay on the device

  • Rachel

    The Kobo Glo is a lot slower than the newer Aura, which I like better than the HD.
    I skipped out on contacting Kobo for support anymore though. I just talk to John h. or Elisa S. They solve my problem everytime I have one. I also go to kobocare.com instead of Kobo that often.

  • Rachel

    It is better than the HD.

  • Rachel

    WAYYY better with page refreshes (the flashes). I just turned 55 pages and didn’t see one flash, and didn’t see letter ghosting either.

  • Rachel

    Some of the first few aura’s had a crosshatch when the light was turned on and you looked at the device at a very odd angle. Other wise, you cannot see it.

  • anagnostis

    Yes it does .

  • anagnostis

    But unfortunately there is no English-Greek dictionary available.

  • Hugo Fittipaldi

    Hi Michael, I know that the kobo aura has a beta web browser, so… can I access kindle cloud reader on it?

  • Danni

    I’ve recently bought one of these and the pattern – its like the layer above the eInk in the screen has scratches in it – is visible ALL the time. It makes it hard (for me at least) to read the first four sentences of any page. It doesn’t matter what angle you hold the device they are still there. I’m returning mine because of this, it very annoying!