The Kobo Glo HD is a brand new e-reader that is due to launch in Canada at the end of April and should see a broad commercial release in the first few weeks of May. It was designed to be both economical and heavily compete against the Kindle Voyage.
The brand new Kobo Glo HD features a six inch e-ink Carta screen with a resolution of 1448×1072 and 300 PPI. It has the same front-lit display as the Kobo Aura H2O, so you will be able to read in low-light conditions or complete darkness.
I think the main reason Kobo rushed the Glo HD to the market was because of the overwhelming success of the premium Kindle Voyage. This Amazon branded device was released late last year and at the time had the best resolution and highest PPI in the world. It also carried a hefty price, retailing for $199 US vs the $129 of the Glo HD.
Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ processor and 4 GB of internal storage. When you take the e-reader out of the box for the first time you only have 3.1 GB of memory, primarily because the OS takes up a fair amount of space. In the past, the lack of memory could be offset by inserting an SD card, but for some reason Kobo decided to forgo it in this model.
I was honestly very surprised when Kobo made the decision to not include an SD card in this model, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The e-reader industry has gravitated towards a cloud model in the last few years. The only Kindle model to ever have an SD card was the first model they ever released back in 2007. Barnes and Noble recently disabled the ability to backup your books a few months ago and now customers can only read books on an e-reader, tablet or app.
The one thing that Kobo has always done with every e-reader model is change the positioning of the power button and the backing. The power button on the Glo HD is now centered on the very top and they have scraped the manual button that initiated the “comfort light”, which is basically Kobo-speak for the built in lighting. Prior models of the Kobo e-reader product line have always had a smooth backing or angular. The Glo HD actually is perforated, which means there is hundreds of small little indentations that make it easy to hold. One of the drawbacks is that it is more subject to smudges and dust particles getting trapped in them.
Finally, the other major design decision on the Kobo Glo HD was the fact that they have included a sunken display. This is very much akin to the same type of user experience as you would find on the Kobo H2O and quite different from the Aura. I think the big reason I like the Aura and Voyage so much, is that the screen is flush with the bezel.
Kobo has always run Linux as their primary operating system, so there is not too many dramatic changes on the software level from generation to generation.
If you are new to Kobo e-readers the company has always featured a dynamic home screen that changes depending on books you have purchased, open or common tasks. If you make a new collection or open up the internet browser it is front and center on the home screen until something else replaced it. This is tremendously useful because common tasks are easily accessible and not constantly buried in sub-menus.
Kobo has a few things about their line of readers that differentiates itself from the competition on a software level. One of them is achievements, which is similar to how the X-Box handles them. You can earn badges depending on your reading habits, such as competing a novel or reading after 12 am.
Another useful feature is their deep statistical analysis on your reading habits. You can glean how long it takes to turn a page and the duration it takes for you to compete a book. Personally, I see this as a great way to monitor your kids reading habits for a carrot/donkey scenario.
The only new feature I could find after a few days with the Glo HD is under the settings and reading options. You can only change the refresh rate for the e-paper screen from 1-6 pages, instead of prior models that have a higher range. I think the main reason this change was made was to eliminate ghosting, which tends to happen if a full refresh has not recently occurred.
Kobo’s entire line of e-Readers provides a tremendous flexibility in crafting a unique reading experience. There are eleven fonts bundled on the Glo HD and millions of combinations to augment the font size, line spacing, and margins. 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.
The e-ink Carta screen and 300 PPI really takes reading to a new level. The Glo HD absolutely destroyed the Kobo Aura in terms of screen clarity and font resolution. The only modern e-reader it was comparable to was the Kobo H2O, which basically has the same specs and the Kindle Voyage.
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. Unlike the Kobo H2O you can actually pinch and zoom with this model and it offers a more robust experience than the Aura. 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.
In the top right corner of the PDF document you get a mini map of the page you are on. It lists the zoom level and the specific page you are on. I also noticed something quite interesting on this model. There is a secret option to view annotations and highlights within the PDF, but right now there is no functionality. I think the company is developing a solution that will allow users to highlight text and make notes based on text within a PDF file.
Finally, I think Kobo has firmly abandoned their “Beyond the Book” feature, which they launched two years ago. It was originally developed as a direct competitor to Amazons X-Ray feature. I think it never gained any traction and the vast majority of bestsellers never had proper entries that the decision was made to scrap it.
The Kobo Glo HD will start shipping in Canada on April 28th and within the first few weeks of May it will be available at Chapters and Best Buy locations. It is going to be priced at $129, which is almost half the price of the Kindle Voyage if you take into account currency fluctuations. I fully believe that by the end of the year it will hit the $99 price point.
I like the fact Kobo tends to release new e-readers at the beginning of the year, when everyone else tends to do it in September or October. This gives them a competitive edge to be able to offer it in their core Canadian market before start bringing it into the UK, Europe, Australia and Japan.
High resolution and PPI
Great PDF experience
Extensive e-book ecosystem
Does not feel like a premium device
No options to enable publishers defaults for e-books
WI-FI constantly disables itself, making the store take longer to load
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.