The Kobo Aura HD was only announced yesterday and will not be available to purchase until the end of the month. Good e-Reader is proud to give you the first exclusive review of this new electronic reader. One of the big hyping factors behind this new model is that it is 6.8 inches, which buckles the trend of your standard six inch reader. The resolution is also the best in the business, putting the Nook HD and Kindle Fire HD 7 to shame.
The Kobo Aura HD features a 6.8 inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1440×1080 with 265 DPI. This e-reader is seriously the best in the business with its high-definition display. The Kindle Fire HD 7 has 1280×800 and the Nook HD has 1440×900. What this means is that as an e-reader, it actually has better image quality than the majority of mainstream tablets on the market. The Aura HD also has a built in comfort light, which allows you to read in the dark with a front-lit display. We compared the Kobo Glo and Kobo Aura HD side by side in an upcoming video, and were very surprised on the evolutionary growth of the illuminating screen. The Glo always suffered from a screen that ended up looking more blue than white, but the Aura is on par with the Kindle Paperwhite, in terms of the screen.
One of the major advantages of the new display screen Kobo is using is that (unlike the Barnes and Noble Simple Touch with Glowlight and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite) you can turn the illumination completely off. The Kindle and Nook both do not have the ability to totally turn off the glowing feature; you can only turn it all the way down, but technically it is still on. This contributes to your overall battery life. The Aura has a physical switch on the top that is much like the Glo, in that it will allow you to totally turn off the light. One of the upgrades on the Aura is that the power button is now orange and the glowing button is now white. The Kobo Glo used to have the power button and glow button side by side and the same color, and many users would mix up the two. This is no longer an issue.
The Kobo Aura HD is using a 1GHZ CPU processor and has 4 GB of internal memory. This is 2 GB more than what the Glo offers, and you can expand the memory up to 32 GB via the Micro SD card. Battery life is fairly respectable at a solid month of normal use.
The Aura has a very different design than prior models of e-readers that Kobo has released in the past. The company has done away with the quilted back and decided to showcase its artistic side. It has slopped grooves on the back that should make it easier to hold in your hands. I think this design is fresh and makes it stand out in a crowded arena of e-readers.
Overall, I am very impressed with the Kobo Aura HD. It does suffer from WIFI connectivity issues, though. It tends to suppress your connection whenever you are not actively surfing the internet or shopping for books. So if you buy a book and then open the internet browser ten minutes later, the reader will normally spend around a full minute to scan your WIFI connections to give you access. In most cases, it will not automatically recognize your prior hotspot or WIFI access point, and you must manually visit the settings menu and restart your connection. This makes it a bit tedious to do anything that requires internet, but to be fair, this issue has persisted from the Kobo Touch. In the end, the resolution is amazing and makes reading comics, magazines, newspapers, and graphic heavy content a pure joy. It is refreshing to see a unique hardware design, although it may not appeal to everyone.
The Kobo Aura HD has completely revised its main home screen. In the past, your home comprised of the four books you have either loaded on your device or have opened up. The new screen has three main segments that displays icons for everything you have done in the last 12 processes. This gives you shortcuts to your 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 your main screen if you have recently used it.
I really dig the dynamic nature of the new home screen! I like 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 from prior models. The Kobo Glo had a black area on the bottom of the screen, and when you initiated the scroll bar to find that sweet spot with 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.
The one thing Kobo does really well is give you a ton of customization options in the main settings menu. You can set the page refresh rate for e-ink from 1-6 pages and give you the ability to set up the 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, you have your scrapbook to take advantage of the touchscreen and internet browser. There are enough options to get the most out of your e-reader, but not too many to confuse your average reader.
Kobo has not redesigned the wheel with this Aura HD e-reader and it maintains most of the core features customers are used to. Reading Life remains on this model, which earns you awards for reading and records statistics for your reading habits. The Aura is a culmination of all of the company’s experiences with making devices during the last four years. It is the most polished e-reader Kobo has ever released and the company takes some risks in the way the menus and hardware are designed.
Kobo does the best job out of any e-reader company in the world in appealing to newbies and hardcore users alike. The interface is simple enough that people new to the e-reader scene can intuitively use it right away, but packs a number of advanced features underneath the hood to appeal to the type of person that uses Calibre or wants to load in their own fonts.
The Aura HD will allow you to read most ebooks in PDF and EPUB format, and will even allow you to load in books you have purchased from other online bookstores. You will have to set up your Adobe Digital Editions account in order to this, but we will show you how in an upcoming video tutorial. Two of the other big formats are CBR and CBZ—these are the most popular format for comic books—and the Aura will allow you read them.
Obviously, the Aura HD is designed to be a pure e-reader with minimal distractions. Kobo does the best job in the world of allowing you to customize the font-type, line-spacing, margins, and text justification. Most e-readers have a small list of seven font sizes and font types. Kobo has introduced the slider bar, which really gives you more freedom to find that sweet spot. When we spoke with Kobo last year, the company representatives said there are over 1.3 million different combinations you can tweak. If these options are not enough, you can hit the advanced settings and also adjust a number of other options, such as weight and saturation. It actually gives you a before and after scenario, so you can compare how the new settings will look against the old. This is one of the best features Kobo has ever introduced.
When you are reading a book, you have a number of options you can employ. It is quite easy to long-press on a word and get an instant definition of it. If you speak another language, you can look the word up in Japanese, Italian, German, Dutch, and many more. When long-pressing a word, you get an anchor that will allow you to select a single word, sentence, or entire paragraph. You can then highlight it or add a note. When you add a note, you can use the shiny new keyboard Kobo has introduced! The new keyboard is light years better than the one used on the Glo. The most notable addition is the line of numbers above your alpha keyboard. Since there is Facebook and a web-browser, entering passwords would be something you will be doing often. These days, most passwords are a combination of letters and numbers, and this keyboard makes it easier than ever before.
When it comes to larger screen e-readers, people want to read PDF files. As old as the format is, it is still one of the most popular ones in the world, and everything from comics to newspapers and magazines are easily found in this format. The Aura HD uses the same PDF rendering engine that the Glo uses. You cannot pinch and zoom like you can in the Sony PRS-T2, but you do have a virtual scrolling and zoom platform. You can scroll around each page in the PDF document, and see where you are in the document in the top left hand corner. This helps ground you and give you a sense of orientation on where exactly you are. Once you find that sweet spot, you can drag your figure to the right, and turn the page. When you turn the page, all of your zoomed settings are retained. Most e-readers negate any formatting you have done on a PDF when you do this, but this is a useful feature.
There are seldom any e-readers on the market that give you the flexibility in augmenting your reading experience then Kobo. The slider bars give you unparallelled customization options with your fonts, or the comfort light slider. Loading in your own fonts and creating your own custom shelves is a boon. Speaking of custom shelves, when you display your books as cover art, you can actually fit 12 books per page, where the Glo only let you did six. Fitting more content in is an effective use of screen real-estate, which I am a huge advocate of.
When it comes to high resolution displays, customers often gravitate towards full color tablets instead of e-readers. This has been the growing trend in the last few years, and it’s completely amazing to see a brand stay loyal and committed to its e-ink line of devices. Simply put, the Kobo Aura HD has the highest resolution out of any six or seven inch tablet or e-reader in the world. If images and clarity of text matter to you, this is a must purchase.
These days, the use of tablets is growing at a rapid pace. People are forgoing a dedicated e-reader and instead buying an iPad or Android device. When you are reading a book, it is often very distracting to have notifications from emails, messages, or gaming updates. We have all been in the position when you are reading a book and something else takes you out of that experience and you get sidetracked. As much as people are proclaiming that e-readers are on their way out, some people want to JUST READ BOOKS!
The Aura HD is poised to be released April 29th and will cost a paltry $169.99 in Canada and the US. It is available for pre-order right now via Shop e-Readers and likely will not hit the international markets for a number of weeks or months. Normally, new devices are highly available in North America, and then make their way overseas as the demand starts to taper off. One of the drawbacks of the Kobo brand is that it suffers from retail visibility in the US, but is highly available at indie bookstores participating with the American Booksellers Association.
Best resolution and DPI in the business
4 GB of internal memory, double that of the Kobo Glo
Front-Lit display is better than the Kindle Paperwhite
Ability to load in your own fonts is HUGE!
Revised home-screen is a welcome change
Tons of customization options
WIFI is prone to randomly disconnect
PDF files often load in the top right-hand corner and need to be adjusted
Curved hardware design will take some getting used to
Reading Life tends to take over your home-screen
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.