Kobo eReader Touch Review


Technical Specifications

kobo touch reader

  • Dimensions: 114mm x 165mm (4.5” x 6.5”) – The dimensions of the Kobo are a good size allowing the Kobo to be transported easily.
  • Weight: 185g – The Kobo is one of the lightest readers on the market, making it easy to carry and hold for long periods of time
  • Color Availability: Lilac, Blue, Silver and Black – Allowing the user to choose a color of preference, making the reader much more personal.
  • Wireless Connectivity – Allowing the user to connect to the internet wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection or hotspot.
  • Screen: 6” eInk Pearl display, 16 shade grey scale – Using top of the range screen technology meaning the reader can be read even in direct sunlight, 16 level grey scale giving greater detail to imagery shown on the device.
  • Memory: 2GB internal memory , expandable memory of up to 32GB using an SD memory card– Only 1GB is user accessible however, this is still large enough for storing eBook files. The SD card allows the memory to be expanded, allowing storage of up to 30,000 books.
  • Battery Life: Up to 1 month – This will depend on how much the wireless connections are used.
  • Supported File Formats:  EPUB, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR. – A good range of supported files on the Kobo, including Adobe PDF which allows the user to view files created in a variety of programmes.

What’s In the Box?

The Kobo eReader Touch comes packaged in a simple but effective cardboard box featuring an image of the device on the front over a background image mimicking the design used on the back of the reader. The lid pulls off to reveal the Kobo presented in a cardboard frame, with all the accessories hidden away underneath. The box contains the reader itself, which is very slim, more so than I imagined, a quick start guide, read on transfers/stickers and a USB cable. The Kobo reader does not come with an AC adaptor. On first look the Kobo feels good to hold and has a very attractive pattern on the back. The Kobo comes with charge, so you can start to use and set up the device straight away. First impressions of the Kobo are good, it is nicely packaged with recyclable materials and the reader looks good, is charged, and comes with the standard accessories expected to accompany a reader.

New Features

The Kobo EReader Touch is this year's newest Kobo model, a sort of upgrade over the original Kobo Wireless Reader (which is still being sold, by the way).

The main additions/upgrades to this model are:

  1. Touch Screen
  2. Pearl e-ink screen
  3. Freescale MX508 Processor for zippier performance.
  4. Better PDF support which includes Zoom and Pan
  5. Web Browser
  6. Kobo Reading Life (ability to track reading stats)

Kobo eReader Touch Versus...

There are three main competitors that the Kobo needs to keep up with, these being the Sony touch edition (PRS 650), the Nook Simple Touch and the Kindle 3.

Kobo eReader Touch vs. Sony PRS 650

Firstly, the Sony PRS 650, There are many similarities between the two devices including the displays (both are touch screens) and the memory.

The most compared similarity will be the screens, both using the same Neonode zForce technology. Both devices offer the Pearl E-Ink screen, which is the latest. Basically, the screens are very similar. The Kobo doesn't offer as many features though (such as the ability to read landscape). So the Sony wins the screen comparison because there are more features enabled with the Sony.

In terms of colors, both the Kobo and the Sony offer the device in a range of colors though the Kobo Touch wins by one color. The Kobo offers users the choice between purple, white, silver and black, whereas the Sony offers the choice between black, red and silver. The Sony PRS range has always offered a choice in color, and it seems to change with each device they release. The Kobo choices seem to aim at a possible choice between male and female orientated colors The silver and black are deemed unisex and the lilac is an option for females with the blue being more for males. I don’t think this theory particularly works in theory, however there are three colors for any user to choose from. The Sony offers the silver and red, both nice colors, and this factor is ultimately down to the user, I do feel that the Kobo offers a nicer palette than the Sony though. I will say that the Kobo readers are plastic while the Sony 650 readers are made from metal (aluminum if I'm not mistaken).

Both the Sony PRS 650 and the Kobo allow for free eBook previews and also ‘borrowing’ eBooks, as you would a real book in a library. One are that the Kobo has which the Sony PRS 650 lacks is the connectivity, with the Kobo boasting Wi-Fi and the Sony not having this feature. The only Sony reading device which offers this feature to users is the daily edition (Sony PRS 950). Therefore if Wi-Fi is important to you then the Sony is not the best option for you.

In terms of supported file formats, the Kobo wins over the Sony PRS 650 supporting the same files as the Sony plus comic book formats. A nice touch for any Marvel enthusiast I’m sure. The Kobo also has platforms for other devices and OS such as apple and RIM products. This is an advantage as it allows the user to use their eBooks across a range of devices, which the Kobo also has automatic bookmarking for.

Both Sony and Kobo offer a dictionary (a nice touch, considering the newer Kobo Touch model does NOT have one).

Kobo eReader Touch Vs Nook Simple Touch

The Kobo was released just after the Nook simple touch was released, therefore there has been a lot of competition and comparison between these two particular devices. The Nook is only available in one color, black, therefore the Kobo can be slightly more personal for users, however it is not too hard to get hold of a case for the Nook.

Both devices offer Wi-Fi connectivity, so that eBooks can be downloaded straight to the device, without any necessary need for a computer, a massive advantage if you do not use the computer regularly, however you will need to charge the device on a computer via USB if you do not have an adaptor to charge via mains power.

The two devices are very similar, they both have platforms developed for Apple and RIM, utilizing devices such as the iPad and the Playbook. The Kobo does have automatic bookmarking across devices however, which the Nook does not offer, which could be a problem if you want to continue reading your book on a separate device and can’t remember what page you were on.

Both devices also offer Touch screens (you will note that the title of each reader contains the "Touch" which signals pretty much the MAIN upgrade over the previous models these new ones offer. The screens are pretty much the same.

The Kobo quotes half the battery life of the Nook, however it’s not clear how these are worked out, and most reports of the Nook only quote around 5 weeks at the top end of the battery life scale, in comparison with the two weeks that Barnes and Noble originally quoted. This seems to be a common trait with any readers released by these guys as they hype the device up to be able to do much more than it is actually capable of.

The main problem with the Nook, that I personally feel allows the Kobo to win this battle clearly is the way that Barnes and Noble decided to partition the memory on the Nook. They quote 2GB internal memory, however, the user can only access 240 MB of this to do with whatever they please. The rest is either consumed with the devices firmware or is ‘reserved’ for purchases from the Barnes and Noble store only. This means that if you previously had the Amazon Kindle, and as a result purchased a whole library of books from the Amazon store, if it was more than 240MB then you would have no other choice than to buy a memory card to store these books, or buy a whole new library, and it seems to be the latter half as the Nook doesn’t support eBook files bought from other online libraries, a massive downfall for the Nook, particularly when the Kobo does nothing of the sort.

Kobo eReader Touch Vs. Kindle 3

kobo touch vs kindle 3

Let's get this out of the way: the eReader touch has a touch screen while the Kindle 3 does not. That doesn't mean the Kobo automatically wins the comparison, however.

The color range, the Kindle 3 also has a range of colors, however they should probably be referred to as shades due to the selection being white, black and graphite. They are nice basic colors and the good thing is that they are fairly neutral, unlike the pinks and the blues that the Kobo incorporates, which although they are nice colors which brighten up the device, it does make me worry that the user could go off the color, especially if they plan on keeping the device for a long time. In this battle I think the Kindle 3 wins on color, however this could be personal preference and isn’t detrimental to the reader, particularly when cases for the readers are so readily available.

The Kobo and the Kindle 3 both offer free previews of eBooks however the Kobo does offer a lending service which Amazon and the Kindle do not. This is the service to lend your books to friends and vice versa, there are obviously conditions to this, obviously you must have the book purchased and in your library in order to lend it, not only this but the book can only be lent for 14 days. This service clearly mimics the idea of going to a library and withdrawing a book, this is a nice touch as it allows users to read books they may not normally buy, not only this but it also allows the users to share books with their friends, making a nice community for readers. Both of the devices support similar files, such as newspapers and magazines, the Kobo reader does support comic book files in addition, which the Kindle 3 does not list as a supported formats, however there isn’t any problem to perhaps saving comic books as PDF’s and working around it doing this. The one benefit of the Kindle 3 to the Kobo in terms of formats support is that the Kindle supports audio files such as MP3, meaning that the device has music playback. The Kindle 3 is also fitted with the option of headphones and also speakers in the top of the device. Making the Kindle 3 double as a fairly decent music device as well as a reader, and it might have been a nice feature if the Kobo had included this in their reader.

In terms of size, the Kobo is much smaller than the Kindle 3. In terms of dimensions this is to be expected due to the fact that the Kobo is completely touch screen, in comparison to the Kindle 3 which has a QWERTY keyboard and buttons in order to operate the device. Therefore if the user is planning to carry the reader around with them on a regular basis, say perhaps they wanted to be able to fit it in their handbag, there is much more portability with the Kobo. The weight of the Kobo is also much lighter than the Kindle, the only problem with the Kobo is that it is possibly too small. One complaint is that the thin border around the screen which is the space for the user to hold it is very thin, and as a result of this and the reader being touch screen, users have found themselves accidently flicking pages, not the best thing when you’re halfway through reading your book.

The main downfall of the Kindle 3 when competing with the Kobo is the memory on the devices. They both have the same internal memory, however the Kobo device has built in SD card slots, allowing the devices memory to be expanded up to 32GB. This knocks the Kindle 3 considerably, especially considering that some people may want to store MP3 files on the device, in the occasion of this, 2GB is not going to go very far at all and however much the user wants music on their device, they are probably going to have to sacrifice this feature if they want to have a wide range of eBooks stored on the device. A shame, and yet odd in comparison to the Kobo which allows a massive 32GB of memory, yet doesn’t support MP3, therefore all of the files that are going to be stored on the reader are going to be fairly small, averaging around 1MB, in theory letting the user store around 32,000 eBooks on their library, which in all fairness, is definitely enough.

About the PC software

The PC software for the Kobo was hyped by them quite a lot before the readers release, and I don’t feel users will be let down by the software that Kobo have released. Firstly the design of the software is very nice, with a nice logo which I don’t mind being on my desktop, particularly as the Sony logo was so cheap and nasty. The programme is easily downloaded, for free, and also for users who may be installing the Kobo app for use on other platforms such as Mac and other products by Apple and RIM. The software is modern and minimalistic using tabs to navigate throughout the programme. One of the strongest points of the software is that it runs smoothly and quickly, even when downloading books, all of which can be done within the software. Browse the library, choose a book, click download and the book downloads straight into your library. It is easy to manage books to be stored on your reading device and they can easily be dragged and dropped onto the device if you want a selection, or to sync the whole library. The download of the software is very quick and only takes minutes to install, therefore when you receive the reader you can be up and running straight away, a major benefit, as nobody likes to wait an age before they can play with their new gadgets.

Supported File Formats

The technical specifications for the Kobo eReader lists EPUB, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR. Really keeping to basics, the Kobo only supports the basic formats that a user would expect to see from any device. EPUB format stands for electronic publication and is the file format for the majority of eBooks. The format is designed for reflowable content allowing the text to be altered to create the best display on any device that is showing the file, a key feature for eBooks as the words need to be reflowed. The most interesting supported format on the Kobo are the CBZ and CBR. These are known as comic book archive files, these are compressed image files such as JPEG and GIF contained in a single RAR file. When opened the file displays the images in the correct order, one or two pages at a time, which is why it is most commonly used for comic book files. The inclusion of this format is nice, particularly as I haven’t seen it on other readers in the market. It opens the eBook up to comic enthusiasts, although the sentiment of having a comic is important to a lot of this population, they can also be worth a lot as many are collectibles, therefore having a digital copy of the documents would be a massive benefit to anybody who wants to read them a lot, without damaging their originals.

One of the formats the Kobo should have really included is audio files, as most of their competitors have this, and it seems a very popular format, allowing users to double up their reader as a music device which is a very desirable feature. However it is not a necessity and that is the argument the Kobo has, particularly with its much lower RRP than many of its competitors.

Memory

The memory on the Kobo eReader is definitely one of its strong points. The in-built memory is 2GB, although straight away half of this is taken up for the firmware of the device. As a result, 1GB is actually user accessible. This may seem extremely small, however at eBooks averaging out at around 1MB per book, this will store up to 1000 books in theory, which is probably more than enough for most users. It cannot be forgotten that PDF files and a few other formats can be larger than this, as a result it depends on what files you are storing as too how accurate this is.  Due to the lack of audio files on the reader the lack of internal memory isn’t a massive concern. Even if it was, the Kobo device has SD card slots installed with the ability to expand the memory of the machine up to 32GB, for just storing eBook, document and graphic files this is a massive amount, and I doubt any user will ever need more. Even if they do they can easily purchase another memory card and swap them around as and when they please.

Battery Life

The battery life on the Kindle is quoted as up to 1 month if wireless connectivity is disabled. This is a fair enough claim, and actual reports on the reader say that if the user is reading a substantial amount every day and keeps their wireless connectivity disabled then they will usually get around 3 weeks life out of the device on one single full charge. This is comparable to most readers on the market, the only device quoting a significant difference is the Nook with up to 2 months, however there is not really and reality to this quote as the device only tends to last around one month with wireless connectivity disabled. The Kobo’s battery life drops to just 10 days if the Wi-Fi is enabled. The main reason for what seems like such a large drop is that when Wi-Fi is connected it means the battery is constantly draining whilst the device is in use, however if not, the only time the device will consume any battery is every time a page is turned, therefore the battery life is lengthened when the Wi-Fi is disabled. If Wireless is managed well and disconnected after use, there is no reason that the battery life will be much difference than the 3 weeks.

Screen Quality

kobo touch screen

The screen on the Kobo uses eInk pearl technology with 16 shade grey scale. It is 6” and in summary is the top of the range, matching its competitors, with the Sony PRS 650, Kindle 3 and the Nook simple touch using exactly the same screen/display type.

The main benefits of an eInk display is that it works on contrast rather than a backlight, as most screens do, therefore it can represent the properties of paper, for instance the reader can be read even in direct sunlight, as on an eInk screen there is no glare what so ever. Just like paper. The 16 shade grey scale refers to the range of shades used in the display, this tends to be 16 or 8, a reader that uses 8 shade grey scale is the Cybook Gen 3, the main difference between the Cybooks display and the Kobo’s is that the Kobo will be able to show images in greater detail, due to the wider range of shades that the reader can display.

Another massive benefit of the Kobo deciding to use an eInk display is that it only consumes battery every time the page is refreshed, so no matter how long it takes the user to read the one page it will still take up the same amount of battery. This allows the reader to have maximum battery life on their device, a feature that wouldn’t be possible if the Kobo had a backlit screen. The only downside is that the reader cannot be read in the dark as it does not provide its own light.

The Kobo Touch Reader ups the ante over the previous model (Kobo Wireless Reader) with the addition of a Touch screen -- the same as the Sony 650 ereader. The new Nook Simple Touch also offers a touch screen (while the older Nook does not). The Kindle 3 does not have a touch screen.

Build Quality and Design

kobo touch body

The design of the Kobo is very minimalistic and modern. Firstly the size, the dimensions of the Kobo show that the device really is tiny, and much smaller than its competitors. This design has many benefits but also some disadvantages. One of the benefits of the Kobo is that due to it being extremely small, it is also light, and easily transportable, making the Kobo the perfect choice if the user is planning to carry it around in their handbag all day. Also when holding the reader, as it is light it does not cause any strain on the reader when they are holding the reader for long intervals of time. The reader also comes in Lilac, Blue, Silver or Black, this is a nice touch to the design and allows the user to choose the color and makes the device slightly more personal. There is also a pattern on the back of the reader which is very attractive and adds a little decoration to a device that can otherwise look plain and boring. The biggest problem with the design of the Kobo is that the ledge running all the way around the screen allowing the user to hold the device is very thin and can result in users accidently changing pages by touching the screen which can be hugely annoying. The build of the design feels well built, although it could do with being a touch heavier, as it feels as if there is nothing to the device, and quite a lot of people like some weight in a reader.

Apps & Other Goodies

The Kobo Touch includes a web browser so you can surf the web. There is also a hidden application game (Sudoku). You can read it from the "About Kobo Touch" menu from the settings area. Go to the About Kobo Touch menu then scroll to the very last page and tap the smallest name.

The Good

The Kobo keeps up with its competitors, the screen used is up to date with its technology and provides the reader with everything they need from an eReader display. The addition of the Touch screen keeps the device competitive with the new Nook Simple Touch and the Sony PRS 650. The inclusion of comic book files being supported on the device is also another major benefit of the Kobo as most readers do not offer this feature, and it opens the reader up to a whole new market.  

The design of the Kobo is definitely a good point of the reader offering portability and personalization. Not only this but the Kobo looks very pretty, there is no other word to explain it really, but the device is probably the most attractive on the market and this will be an important factor to many users.

Most importantly, the price is much lower than some of its competitors, particularly the Sony readers, this is a massive benefit as everyone likes to save money if they can, and the reader still provides the same services and features of its competitors.

The Bad

There are some downsides to the readers, one is that there is no audio support for the reader, which is not detrimental, however it would have been nice to have the function on the reader. I feel this could have bumped the price up significantly and this may have put users off who only wanted the device purely for the reading facilities on it, which after all is the main purpose of the device and some people seem to forget this.

The other major downside to the Kobo is the problem of users accidently changing pages whilst they are reading. Although it is nice to have such a small reader, I think they should have designed the Kobo with a slightly thicker border in order to prevent problems such as this, an issue that may be addressed in later editions of the device, however if this is continuously happening then it is a major nuisance. Therefore I suggest that anyone planning on buying the reader goes to a store to sample it first as depending on how you hold the reader could mean this is or isn’t an issue.

The Touch screen addition is a welcome addition over the previous model. However, the touch screen is lacking in some of the features the other touch screen readers offers such as landscape mode, ability to add notes, the ability to add bookmarks, and a dictionary. Word is that these features could be added in via a firmware update in the future, however.

The Bottom Line

The Kobo reader is a great little device, it competes well against its competitors, in some areas beating them, and if you are looking for a device just for reading then the Kobo is probably for you as it provides all the basics that are needed for reading eBooks, the display is still top of the range and the touch screen is very responsive. The main strengths of the Kobo is its portability due to the size and weight and the design, as it does look much more attractive than other devices such as the Kindle 3. The price is also a major bonus.

The reader is nicely designed and gives the consumer some room for personal preference and choice when choosing colors and so on. All of this and the fact that the Kobo reader is priced considerably lower than many of its competitors even if they do not have any additional features. You really can't get an ebook reader with a touch screen any cheaper than the Kobo Touch Reader.

More Information

Kobo eReader Touch Reader

Price: $129

Buy from KoboBooks.com