Review of the Kobo Touch e-Reader
Jun
10

Review of the Kobo Touch e-Reader

By

The Kobo Touch e-reader just came out today and we have been fiendishly playing around with the first touchscreen device from Kobo. How does it stack up against the previous iterations of the Kobo e-Reader family?

Hardware

The Kobo Touch has a full touchscreen e-ink Pearl display that has a full six inches of screen real estate. It features an Infrared Touch or IR touch that drastically enhances the touchscreen sensitivity and makes interacting with the screen a pure delight. Part of the reason why the unit is so responsive is due to the Freescale 508 Processor.

You have by default 2 GB of internal storage, which should be enough for around 1000 ebooks. If this is not enough for you, it can be enhanced via the MicroSD card up to 32 GB. Keep in mind the SD card slot does not have a flap or any kind of protection, so you might want to make sure water does not get into the device.

Unlike the Kindle e-reader there is no QWERTY keyboard on the device, instead everything is touchscreen. I was pleasantly surprised with the virtual keyboard the Kobo Touch employs. There is little to no screen lag when you type in characters. My first experience with the keyboard was to setup the WIFI. The alpha-numeric keys went very fast and I was happy with a show-password option to make sure you did not make any mistakes.

The Kobo Touch was designed very minimalistic in comparison to previous models. There is a single home button and a power button, and that’s it. Previous models had a DPAD to navigate the menus and page turn buttons. It also had buttons for shopping, menus, and various other functions. This new model is VERY intuitive and makes navigating a breeze. There is a single port for a Micro USB connection which allows you to connect it up to your computer. This is how you charge your e-reader and facilitate a data connection to transfer ebooks.

One of the drawbacks with the Kobo hardware is that there are no speakers, headphone jacks, or audio functions.  I would have liked the ability to listen to audio books. Battery life is solid thus far and is said to last around 2 full weeks.

The Kobo Touch is designed very well and really brings the company into 2011 with a solid product.

Software

The Kobo Touch runs on a Linux based operating system which makes the unit very snappy. When I plugged the Kobo into the computer for the first time it kept prompting me to install the Kobo Desktop software, which I already had on my system. It seems that Kobo issued a new version of the Desktop manager that you will need to install in order to work your device.

The Kobo Desktop Manager is completely necessary in order to use your device at all. You cannot setup your WIFI, Web browser, or anything else until you do this. The new Kobo Desktop Manager actually updates your Touch with new firmware which solves many problems before the unit was officially released.

There are 3 main components to the Kobo Touch that really make this e-reader shine. The first is Reading Life (a social media add-on), the Kobo Store, and your Book Library.

The Kobo Library is the source from which you can intuitively access your ebooks and other content. It is divided into various sub-menus such as Books, Newspapers and Magazines, Previews, and Shortlist. The Library is your main bookshelf where all of your ebooks are located. It lists everything in alphabetical order and has arrows to go forward and backward. You can also access all of the newspapers and magazines you purchase via the Kobo store. Since I purchased my device from Canada, most of my newspaper options are all of the major newspapers, and same with magazines. The previews menu gives you a short introduction to various bestselling books. Finally, the Shortlist function allows you to basically create your own shelf. This is a handy function to make your short term reading list a little bit more manageable.

One of the most important aspects that differentiates Kobo from its competition is the store. They currently have over 2.3 million titles, so everyone should find something they want to read. The store allows you to browse by bestsellers, categories, recommended reading, and free books. The free books section mainly contains public domain books, but there are some short stories as well.

The last major component of the Kobo Touch is “Reading Life.” This is an application that got its start with the Apple iPad, where it became the best of the reading applications on the Apple Appstore. Reading life allows you to Tweet and Facebook passages from books and has advanced functionality for special books. These books allow you to tweet from the perspective of the hero or villain, which is very unique. It also gives you statistics of your reading patterns, how much you read, how often, and how many books you have read. Finally it gives you awards based on certain criteria; think of it as Xbox achievements for books.

Reading on the Kobo Touch is a great experience and compared to past models the page turn rate is very fast. To move forward and back a page you simply tap on the right or left hand side of the screen. You can also highlight words or look them up in the built-in dictionary. You do this by long-pressing on a word or randomly on the page and it will bring up a prompt for you to expand a dialog box to either look up or highlight a single word or a complete sentence.

Kobo makes editing your fonts on the fly easy. You have to tap in the center of the screen while reading a book and it will give you a menu prompt. In this menu you have the option to switch between two different fonts, Georgia or Avenir. You can also increase the font size, giving you 16 different levels of making the text larger or smaller.

Finally, the one standout feature on the Kobo Touch e-reader is the built-in web browser. Web pages load very fast and are very responsive when on a WIFI network. There are no FLASH or crazy internet experiences with it, but the web browser is faster and more robust than the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook 2 – A Simple Touch Reader.

Our Thoughts on the Kobo Touch

Kobo hit a home-run with the Kobo Touch due to the quality build design and the robust functionality! I had the original Kobo e-Reader and the Kobo Wireless. This model seriously puts those two to shame! The touchscreen display should be easier for your average user to wrap their heads around, since almost all hand held mobile devices are touch screen. I found the older Kobo models to have flimsy design and the DPAD was awful, not to mention you would hit a key and 12 seconds later the command would go through. I hardly experienced ANY LAG at all when using this e-reader extensively.

This new Kobo Touch gets everything right and is an upgrade in every way from previous models. The two great functions are the inclusion of a web browser to surf the internet, check your email, and even buy books from other stores directly. Also Reading Life is a very unique program that currently no other e-reader company has sought to implement. Sure some companies, like Amazon, have Facebook and Twitter integration, but they do not give you statistics, graphics, bars, achievements, or other cool things.

Another great thing about the Kobo Touch is the slim design; it weighs less and is slimmer than previous models. It maintains the matted back design so it will not slip out of your hands and provides a good grip.

If you are a fan of loading in your own ebooks you are in luck! The Kobo Touch displays EPUB and PDF books. It also has support for Adobe Digital Editions. So if you have purchased books from other bookstores such as Barnes and Noble, Borders, Smashwords, or others, you can easily transport the books via Adobe Digital Editions.

One of the downsides is that there is not more Font flexibility. There are only two built in fonts with no instructions on how to add additional ones. Kobo has told us that via a firmware update new fonts will be added in the future. Many of the advanced options require you to tap the screen in weird areas to call up different functions. Quick taps, long taps, and other actions make all of the difference in the world. Another downside is the mandatory usage of the Kobo Desktop manager, there is simply NO way to get around registering your Kobo by yourself on the device. You have to use your PC or MAC to register. Finally, one of the largest flaws with this e-reader is the fact that you cannot highlight or look words up in the dictionary with books you manually load on your Kobo Touch. The long-tap function does not work with side-loaded content.

We have just completed a new video review of the Kobo Touch so make sure to check it out.

Rating 8.5/10

Update: June 28th 2011

Today Kobo updated their firmware allowing for users to have the ability to change line spacing and margins. You also now have 7 different fonts to choose from and now can even load in your own fonts! Check out the full list of changes HERE.


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Michael Kozlowski (4163 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


  • Anonymous

    Mr. Koz’s English is atrocious!

    plesently ?
    There is 3 main components…
    …but there is some short stories as well…
    There is no audio functionality…(function?)
    There are around 16 different font options to increase or decrease the size of the font. (What does he mean?)
    The two great functions is …..
    …that currently no other e-reader company has sought to implement.  (thought of to…?)
    … is slimmer then previous … (than?)
    Some of the downsides is that there is not more Font flexibility. (Really? With 16 font options, see above?)

    Thanks, but no, thanks.

    s

  • Kaixin

    A very helpful review, but it would be a good idea to have someone (or something) check your grammar before posting. You seem to be having difficulty with subject/verb agreement – notably the is/are rule. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of all e-readers.

  • Kaixin

    A very helpful review, but it would be a good idea to have someone (or something) check your grammar before posting. You seem to be having difficulty with subject/verb agreement – notably the is/are rule. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of all e-readers.

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

    Thanks for the Kudos, I actually released this article too early as our editor does not edit until 12 AM and have fixed some of the grammar errors until its properly edited in a few hours :)

    On another note, this is one damn sweet e-reader.

  • http://www.facebook.com/evcjackson Edward V.C. Jackson

    Can we expect a video review any time soon?

    I noticed from the gallery that your Kobo has firmware v1.9.2, dated June 9th. Does this alleviate the lag that was apparent in the early hands on reports from last month?

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

    Kobo told us the firmware update included various “enhancements” because this firmware was issued the day it went on sale, it was prob meant that way. Which is why Kobo warrants you needing the Desktop Manager, so you can update it right out of the box and not be discouraged. We will be making a video later on today and it will be uploaded within 24 hours.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1161404717 Mariel Feliciano

    The dictionary does not work for sideloaded books. Major drawback.

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes there are new introductions of a product to that area which also can bring high value coupons through the “Printapons” or printable coupons

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

    Drats! Was going to test that in the next few hours with our full review! Might have to try and come up with a workaround.

  • Anonymous

    I see no mention of this device’s capabilities with respect to formatting. Does it allow the reader to modify margins, paragraph spacing, line spacing etc. Also, does it allow the user to turn on or off the style sheet within the EPUB. Finally, does it support multi-level TOCs?

    That is all for now.  

  • http://www.styleoflife.tk Lord Vader

    Nice review and nice reader… Would love to buy, If only I didn’t have Kindle. :)But I do not understand, why they STILL do not support audio… OK some may say – people listen to audio-books or mp3 on ipod/players, but for me this Kindle feature is important and I use it.

  • Albert deKoninck

    I bought the Kobo Touch Edition ereader for my wife and the device is a disappointment.

    First of all, the touch screen is highly unresponsive. It sometimes takes four tries before the device responds. We will probably have to return the device.

    Secondly and more important, Kobo have yet to implement any of the advanced features of the ePUB format. How do I know? I also have the calibre viewer on my computer. With that app, I can search for text; annotate (by copying a selection of text and and making notes in a file); access the table of contents in a collapsible outline form and immediately fi8nd and select the chapter or section I want; and make multiple bookmarks. I can none of these things on the Kobo ereader.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for specifying the limitations of the product. I doubt the gentlemen (and lady) of Good E Reader will address that level of detail in their review.

    Of course, I am disappointed with my Nook Touch for many of the same reasons. However, I am holding on to the device in the hopes that the hacker community will be able to port additional reading apps on to the device. Maybe the same will be done for the Kobo Touch.

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

     One of the things you might want to do is connect your Kobo to the Kobo Desktop Manager if you do not have the June 9 2011 firmware update, it fixes a number of issues.

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

    I think partly they did not do audio was to keep the price point lower. Obviously Kobo is not Barnes and Noble or Amazon and cannot afford to order e-readers in the 500,000 to million range to get a huge manufacturers discount. 

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

     It does not allow you to edit margins or paragraphs or line spacing right now. The only thing it lets you do is edit the fonts and the font size. Kobo emailed us and told us they were adding in more fonts and more of the things you just mentioned in a future firmware update.,

  • Albert deKoninck

    If you had read your own review, you would see that to set up the eReader you have to do it via the new Desktop app. So, presumably, any firmware update would have been applied at that point.

    In any case, when Kobo offer an eReader that has at least some of the advanced features of the ePUB format, I might buy a new eReader..

    P.S.: I have the old wifi edition of the Kobo eReader, so I appreciate it for light reading, but for serious reading (when I need the advanced features I mentioned), I use calibre  - available for Mac, Windows and Linux – which is what I run..

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

     Yes the Kobo Desktop App hardcodes your device to be registered to your Kobo Account, it also provides the firmware updates. So if you have a Kobo Touch and it does not have the June 9th update, plug your device into your computer and run the desktop app.  Speaking of calibre we just posted an ebook loading tutorial for the Kobo Touch that shows you how to use calibre to load ebooks on your device (great for new people)

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

     Well the Kobo Touch runs Linux and without the source, it might be hard to load apps. This is why Android devices are so popular because their much easier to root and hack. I mean someone already got Angry Birds on the Nook 2  or the Simple Touch Reader

  • http://stylishblog.net Lord Vader

    Right… but that’s not the right point of view. right point of view is consumer’s one.
    If this feature is crucial for buyers – too risky to forget about it.
    It’s easier to convince buyers to pay more for getting more – that’s what Mr. Jobs knows perfectly.
    I’d not be surprised, if Amazon will come up with ads showing Kindle-owner listening some audio, whilst Kobo owner looking. :)
    Btw as I understood Nook 2 has no audio support as well.  

    Anyway, it’s good for market to have some readers really worth of buying, above Kindle. Competition is great thing for us, consumers.

  • GrammaRar

    thank you for your review, it was helpful.
    I must agree with other comments regarding the necessity of proofreading! or type your review in word and let it grammar check! your effort is appreciated.

  • Anonymous

    Eek, you really need a proofreader! Otherwise greatly informative review. I think I am going to get one of these Kobo readers, but I am still debating. It is so hard to decide, each has different and potentially enjoyable features, but ultimately I think I will go for the Kobo because of the better book selection and I really like touch, it seems natural for something you are reading on to be able to touch it to turn pages. I remember the first time I saw a Kobo, I kept instinctively wanting to touch the screen to make it work and now I can!

  • Anonymous

    It is a nice review of Kobo Touch e-Reader. You can easily surf from the internet and read anything in this Kobo Touch e-Reader. Kobo makes editing your fonts on the fly easy.
     
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  • http://costamesachiropractor.org/ Costa_Mesa_Chiropractor

    There are only two built in fonts with no instructions on how to add additional ones. Kobo has told us that via a firmware update new fonts will be added in the future. Many of the advanced options require you to tap the screen in weird areas to call up different functions. Quick taps, long taps, and other actions make all of the difference in the world. Another downside is the mandatory usage of the Kobo Desktop manager, there is simply NO way to get around registering your Kobo by yourself on the device. You have to use your PC or MAC to register.

  • http://twitter.com/beranger_v4 Béranger

    Can you confirm that the “Go To Page #” feature only works for the current chapter? Is this Kobo still idiotically show the page number from the current chapter (e.g. 12/24) instead of the whole book (e.g. 18/342)? If so, Kobo is still unusable for the serious user…

  • Wilsonwriter

    You should be able to bring up the table of contents on each ePUB book in your Kobo Touch and go to the chapter you want that way. That’s how I do it on mine. My only complaint is that I wish there were more font options.

  • Reece

    Can you copy text and paste it into a note?

  • Recycleo

    I really wanted to like the Kobo Touch.
    I really want to not be limited to Kindle’s proprietary nonsense.
    I really want, as a Canadian, to not be so limited in the Kindle store.
    I really want to be able to borrow e-books easily from my Canadian library.

    So, I really wanted to like the Kobo Touch. Here’s the problem:

    No dictionary or highlighting on sideloaded books is a very poor choice! especially since Kobo allows for library loans. What, I’d only what to highlight passages or look up words in books I’ve download directly? Come on Kobo.

    No ability to make notes at all. Not at all. What?

    No in-book search!

    No option to change the line spacing. OK, I could live without that one.

    I would trade all the fun yet essentially useless features such as Reading Stats, Awards and social networking (none of which I care in the least about) for the above actually useful functions.

    In short, the Kobo Touch’s lousy functionality is enough to make me forget it and reconsider the Kindle 3

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

    Well Kobo is updating their firmware and currently a few Beta Testers are testing it. You will be able to have more fonts and even sideload your own in, you will be able to change margins, line spacing and more cool features. So i would make the investment and buy it.

  • Reece

    Thanks but, I never mentioned caring about fonts or margins so that’s really irrelevant for me. While I mentioned line spacing I also said I could live without it.

    “and more cool features”…could you be a bit more specific, if you know what they are rumoured to be? Such as, do those cool features in any way address the functionality issues I mentioned. I’m not being snarky I simply want to know answers to what I actually addresses.

    So, if you were me, you say you’d make the investment. Thing is, if I do and none of those functionality concerns are provided for in firmware updates will you reimburse me? No. So, I need to wait.

    Meanwhile I am reading up on the ways to break through Kindles’s DRM via Calibre etc because if I can do that then the Kindle3 has all the functionality I am looking for apart from providing for an SD card.

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

    Thanks. I had a look the Good E-reader Kobo Touch firmware updates and note the following:

    “- changing line margins
    - changing line spacing
    - turning off Kobo styling
    - forcing left alignment
    - more bundled fonts- sideloading fonts”

    None of these things address the functionality issues that I’ve addressed are lacking on the KT.
    In the meantime I’m finding lots of information of easy ways to make non Kindle formats run on Kindle so it’s looking bad for me buying Canadian.Just in passing, yesterday a Chapters-Indigo in-store a sales clerk for Kobo told me that I should by a Kobo and not a Kindle as Canadian authors can’t be purchased via Amazon.com for Kindle. I thought, that’s odd. It’s a brazen lie is what it is. At home I looked up a number of Canadian authors published by Canadian houses and downloaded them to my Kindle iPhone/PC app no problem. Lying to customers is never a good way to create brand affinity.

  • Morley Chalmers

    Overall I’m pleased with Kobo Touch and do not regret its purchase. But there are unaddressed problems.

    1. The touch algorithm is wonky, inefficient. Far too often there is no response, requires repeated and/or prolonged touching. Or shut down, a relaunch and try a second time. I suspect the code is not efficient in taking out the garbage, that is, the code is chasing itself in an infinite loop and thus isn’t paying any attention to a new touch. Examples include the Connect button when a computer is detected. Sometimes it will respond, sometimes not. The edit Highlights button. The delete highlights button. This wonkiness of touch takes some getting used to and may discourage adoption of Kobo Touch.

    2. When a string of text has been highlighted there are signs the code hard wires the location’s page number rather than its absolute position within the current chapter. If the user has reduced the point size of the type so as to highlight a continuous passage, then resumes a more readable point size, then Kobo will not satisfactorily find the passage, presenting a page where the highlighted text does not appear. This is quite consistent.

    3. The tool for selecting text for highlighting is troublesome. There are two handles, one as the beginning and another at the end. The user is now required to select a handle and extend or reduce the selection. Except, much of the time the handles won’t select. The code seems to be off on some infinite loop and not paying attention. Plus there’s another related problem to these selection handles. They’re smaller than a finger pressed on the screen and thus impossible to detect whether the handle has been activated, ready for dragging. 

    4. Documentation is scanty and dumbed down, incomplete. There are many very necessary tools for electronic reading in Kobo, but they are described in marketing-language generalities. There a phone service available to talk to a live person, but they themselves have barely scratched Kobo’s surface. There’s also help by eMail. While that service appears to be well structured, there’s been a lack of follow through on issues. 

    All of which might suggest avoiding purchase of Kobo Touch, but not so fast. In the four weeks I’ve owned my Kobo Touch, the operating system has been automatically upgraded twice to new versions adding useful features and solving bugs. Likewise the matching Kobo application that runs on my Mac has been upgraded three times. Kobo is a moving target, really in public beta rather than a polished and fully tested  tool. Kobo is considerably lighter and easier to hold for prolonged reading than either of the two iPads in circulation. Whether I’m still reading with Kobo next year depends on whether Kobo discovers the importance of excellence in the details of their software and docs.

  • Anonymous

    Kobo Touch is very small compared to previous models. This is the start button and just the power button, nothing. Previous models have a navigation menu with Dpad and buttons, turn the page.

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  • Sonyabean

    I am quite unimpressed with my Kobo Touch at the moment. I received it as a gift for my birthday two months ago and two weeks into using it, it would automatically refresh to the home page while I was reading. I did a factory reset many times in attempt to fix this little glitch only to find that my Kobo Touch froze and will not connect to any laptop or computer. I have even contacted Kobo on many occasions only to receive a ticket number and no call back. This device is a huge disappointment.

  • obokee

    I couldn’t be more pleased with my Kobo Touch that has run faithfully for months and has improved in functionality with each Firmware update. I have rarely been as pleased with a product and it was a gift no less. Sorry for your troubles Sonyabean. You may like to try the Support tab on the Kobo FB page – that’s the Support tab *not* the Wall.

  • mumma

    Any info about the battery life?  We purchased the Kobo Touch and our daughter uses it continually.  With in three days it’s needing charging and it takes HOURS to charge from the USB on the computer.  We have a great computer and haven’t found problems with other items.  Any ideas?  From what I read it should last 8000 page turns-she hardly reads 8000 pages in three days :)  

  • Tom

    Just bought the Kobo Touch tonight. Downloaded and installed the software on to my Mac which runs 10.4.11. Tried launching the software. I saw the Kobo icon briefly appear and then disappear on the applications bar at the bottom of the screen. Then nothing. Called the help desk because I wondered if I needed OS 10.5 or higher but OS 10 was all that was needed. I wonder.
    Downloaded and reinstalled, restarted, etc. No luck.

  • Doug

    Ok, I received the KOBO touch for Christmas and did all the setup stuff on my computer.  My PC runs Win 7 and my home network is WIFI with WPA encription.  The problem is all available networks are WPA encripted and the KOBO touch will not connect.  What can I do?  Do I have to change the encription for my home network and if so what issues will this raise with WIFI security?

  • Ingenium

    Now KOBO is pushing books on the homepage..I didn’y buy to see books I may want to but on unit!

    I am getting rid of mine…

  • Junkcatcher

    I am totally disenchanted with my Kobo Touch. It is so sluggish and may take several touches to make a page change. The battery has to be charged every 20 hours or so and that is with no wi-fi hookup. The recommended section at the bottom of the home page is very annoying and is unnecessary. Finding my way through the ereader is cumbersome and is poorly thought out by the designers. Stay away from this ereader and get a Kindle 3 keyboard, it is much easier to use. 

  • BeeGee56

    The review above is not, in my experience, in any way reflective of the facts about this unit.
    My guess is that it was written by the company’s marketing department,

  • Catfoxfoto

    Kobo touch would be great if it worked.  Had mine for 1 year and 2 days, and now the infrared system is gone. 
    That means no “touch”.  Which means completely useless.  And mine is not the only one.  Emailed kobo and this is what they had to say:
    “Thank you for your response. I do apologize but if the reader is over a year then there is nothing that I can do. Please contact us should you have any questions or concerns”.  So if you want an e-reader for a year, this is your baby.

  • Mekk

    I would love Kobo but it has one huge drawback: catastrophical way of handling hierarchical table of contents (which is inlined without any way to collapse/expand). It need not matter in case of novels, but I read also technical books. Recent O’Reilly sample: 240-page book, 198 pages of table of contents.