Kobo Vox Review

The e-book fever is one that has swept across the entire globe within a very short time. More and more readers are opting to read books from their hand-held communication devices rather than the contemporary paper way. This is why e-book stores are being set up practically every year to ensure readers can access practically any book in soft copy. Despite the stiff competition in the market, very few stores can stand their ground before Kobo, one of the largest and also most popular e-book stores to a significant percentage of readers. The e-book store avails e-books with Adobe DRM that are primarily in EPUB format. These books can always be downloaded to various applications on different platforms ranging from smartphones to tablets and other Android-powered gadgets.

The good news for many readers is that Kobo does more than just avail books for them to read. In addition to running one of the largest e-book stores in the market, Kobo also ventured into the manufacturing of dedicated e-book readers in mid 2010. Since the introduction of the original Kobo eReader, the brand has gone from strength to strength, releasing other advanced gadgets such as the Kobo Touch. However, the release of the Kobo Vox, their very first color reader tablet, is what has caught many by surprise. This is viewed by many as Kobo’s reaction to the release of more powerful readers by other top brands such as Nook, Sony and Kindle. How good it holds up against competition is what this guide will help you establish.

kobo vox

The Kobo Vox Overview

Much has been said and even documented about what the Kobo Vox has and what it doesn’t have. However, the final decision before making the purchase will always depend on you, the buyer. The Kobo Vox represents the beginning of Kobo’s venture into the Android tablets market. A single session with this gadget is all you need to realize that the Nook Color and other established Android tablets are in for a run of their money. The gadget resembles the hugely successful Nook tablet in more than countable ways. However, the most conspicuous difference is that Kobo took a more open approach by opting for an Android operating system.

The open-source nature of Android gadgets has made them extremely popular among the adventurous crop of users. This means that buyers of the Kobo Vox tablet will not have to hack the device before installing any third-party applications. Currently, this gadget is only available for purchase in Canada and the United States. It is expected to roll to other parts of the world in the later stages of 2012. Needless to say, this will largely depend on the reception and reaction it will receive from those who get it first. By the time you are done reading this guide, you will surely know whether or not this gadget is worth your savings.

Specifications of the Kobo Vox Tablet

The biggest mistake anyone can make when buying a gadget is to base your decision on the pre-release hype. There is nothing wrong with a gadget being lauded as a must-have. However, what is good for ‘everybody’ is not necessarily useful to you. This is why prior to making your purchase, you need to familiarize yourself with the specifications of the tablet. In any case, this is the only way to be sure you are getting value for every dollar you pay. Here are the Kobo Vox tablet specs:

  • A seven-inch multi-touch display with +/- 89 viewing angle
  • 1024 x 600 pixels in resolution
  • Android 2.3 operating system
  • 800 MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor
  • 512 MB RAM and 8 GB of internal storage
  • A micro SD card slot that supports cards of up to 32 GB in storage capacity
  • Access to over 2.2 million e-books in the Kobo store
  • Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Home, Menu and Back touch sensor buttons
  • Zinio and Press Reader apps for periodicals already pre-installed
  • Facebook integration, comments plus reading awards
  • Over 15,000 Getjar applications are supported
  • Other applications included are web browser, dictionary, e-mail, video player, picture gallery, contacts, calculator, calendar, Scrabble and so much more
  • Micro USB 2.0 port
  • Battery life of up to 7 hours
  • 14.2 ounces in weight
  • Dimensions of 7.6 x 5 x 0.53 inches

With all these features at your hands, you should be able to enjoy the best possible e-book reading experience. Fortunately, you can get this gadget at a fair price of $ 199.

Hardware and Design

When purchasing a gadget of this magnitude, the first things you will note are definitely the physical components. The kind of software used notwithstanding, it must be protected by supreme quality hardware components that offer not only compatibility but also durability. There are many hardware components that ship with the Kobo Vox tablet. To make your work much easier, this guide will break down the components and give a review of each separately. This will help you know what you can compromise and what leaves something to be desired.

kobo vox body

The Processor

A lot of concerns have been raised about the fact that the Kobo Vox comes with a single-core processor when most new generation tablets use faster dual-core processor. Many buyers have feared that the processor might not be able to cope up with their demands. However, the 800 MHz single-core processor of the Kobo Vox tablet handles most tasks with ease. These include web browsing, e-reading, scrolling, playing music, pinch-zooming and watching movies as well. The place where the gadget is likely to struggle is when it comes to playing games. Many advanced games that require faster processors may not be supported by the Kobo Vox. 

A good number of games will run smoothly on the Kobo Vox tablet. However, those with a fetish for more advanced game such as Angry Birds could be a little disappointed. There won’t be any problem when you play the game in silent mode. However, when the birds are flying and the sound is on, you will have to deal with occasional stutter. Despite the fact that many games will play well, Vox is anything but a gaming machine. You should not purchase it if you are in the market for a gaming gadget. Games aside, the processor will perfectly handle the common tasks such as reading e-books and web browsing.

The Screen

kobo  vox screenkobo vox screen image

kobo vox image

 When you are buying any hand-held communication device, especially one for reading e-books, the screen is always one of the most important considerations. Whether you will be reading, sending mail, watching videos or browsing the web, the screen is always at the center of every operation. The quality of the Kobo Vox screen is the first thing that hits you when you start using it. The gadget comes with a 7 inch FFS+ display that boasts a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. Not only are colors bright, detailed and vivid but the texts are also nice and crisp. With many budget tablets offering less resolution, the Kobo Vox’s high quality display is easily its strongest point.
The other thing you need to check is whether the screen will work perfectly even in outdoor lighting. Like most screens these days, this one is glossy and very reflective. This means that outdoor reading will not be as enjoyable as with an E-Ink e-book reader. However, the screen of the Kobo Vox towers tall above majority of its peers in terms of outdoor reading. It is more than readable unless you expose it to direct sunlight. The text quality is as impressive as that of the Nook Color. The background is lighter and the text noticeably darker than on most other tablets.

The Externals

kobo vox buttons

There are many things that make the Kobo Vox different from other tablets in the market. One of them is that it has 3 capacitive Android buttons just below the screen for Home, Menu and Back. The white backlight that illuminates these buttons whenever the device is turned on will help you trace your way even in a dark room. The rear of the Vox features the brand’s patented quilted backing that makes the gadget very comfortable to handle. The sides of the Kobo Vox come in four different color options, namely black, pink, green and blue. This means that irrespective of your color preference, you can always find one that fits your style.

The Kobo Vox tablet also ships with a USB cable that allows you to connect the device to your personal computer.  It also features volume and power buttons, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a micro SD card slot that supports cards of up to 32 GB. At the top right corner is a built-in speaker that outputs sound. This will come in handy when you need to listen to music or audio books. However, at very high volumes, the speaker will start to crackle.

Kobo e-Reading Application

There isn’t much difference between the Kobo e-reading app and the Android app, only that the former adds some unseen features. In addition to nine font styles, users will enjoy various font sizes, reading stats and awards as well as options for landscape mode. The app also lets you adjust the brightness level to dim whenever you need to read at night. The other unique feature of the Kobo e-reader app is the integration with Facebook. This will give you access to statistics on other users who have read or are reading a given e-book. You can also leave a comment below the book you read or view comments left by other readers. It also supports notes and highlights, but launching them will take some time.

Note that you don't have an e-ink screen like the non-tablet models, so you get all the disadvantages and advantages of the regular tablet screens.

Music and Video

In this age where entertainment is rare and often expensive, the ideal gadget should always offer ample multimedia integration. The Kobo Vox comes with the Android music player that supports a MP3, MP4, M4A, WAV, AAC, 3GP, OOG, FLAC and MIDI file formats. The sound quality isn’t that great, but you can also take advantage of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Video playback on the Vox is surprisingly great and Adobe Flash is also supported. There is no YouTube app but a bookmark is provided to the mobile website in case you need to watch the low quality videos. If you desire HD videos, you might want to install the YouTube app from the Android market.

Kobo Vox vs. Other Tablets

This section shall take a look at how the Kobo Vox fares against the best in the market:

vs. Nook Color

The Kobo Vox and Nook Color are very difficult to separate. This is because both run on the Android 2.2 OS, offer up to 32 GB expandable memory and come with 7 inch screens with resolutions of 1024 x 600 pixels. When it comes to application, Vox gets the upper hand with a whopping 15,000 apps compared to the Nook’s 700. Despite being slightly heavier, the Nook offers a slightly longer battery life and more internal memory (8 GB).

vs. iPad2

The iPad2 ships with a larger 9.7 inch display that boasts slightly better resolution at 1024 x 768 pixels. Despite both devices offering 512 MB RAM, the iPad2 works faster due to its 1 GHz processor. In addition to Wi-Fi connectivity, the gadget also lets you enjoy 3G internet and Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity. However, these features will cost you $ 500 or more which is perhaps the only advantage the Vox has.

vs. Kindle Touch

The Kindle Touch was introduced in response to touchscreen Kobo and Nook devices, and has since done a good job to catch up. The introduction of the onscreen keyboard made it one of the most portable gadgets in the market. However, this means that you will have to put with a smaller 6 inch screen. The two devices are hard to separate in terms of screen quality and processing speed. Your choice here will most likely be between the depth of the Amazon e-book store and the diversity of the Android market.

Quick Review of the Kobo Vox

The Pros

It is rather ambitious to expect any gadget to come without any flaws. The reverse is that it can be very disappointing when a device comes without anything that will impress you the moment you start using it. The best gadget t o buy is always the one whose pros outweigh the cons, a description that suits the Kobo Vox. Here are some of the advantages that this tablet lays to the table:

  • Since it runs on the Android 2.3 operating system, users will reap all the benefits of an open-source platform.
  • The supreme screen quality will ensure that users experience crisp text and very brilliant colors with wider view angles.
  • The gadget is also generous in terms of storage capacity, with an internal memory of 8 GB that can be expanded through the micro SD card slot.
  • The quilted back of the tablet gives it a nice feel and makes it very comfortable to handle.

The Cons

Below are some of the cons that you will have to put up with when you purchase this gadget:

  • You will not be able to use Google Apps or applications from the Android market without first hacking the device.
  • The single-core processor that comes with the Vox still lags behind the dual-cores in the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire in terms of processing speed.
  • Some of the software required a little bit of polishing. Some minor bugs that could easily have been scrapped can really get annoying at times.

The Verdict

You are definitely not decided yet even after going through the quick overview. Truth be told, the Kobo Vox tablet has proven to be a pleasant surprise. This is especially because of the excellent screen quality that surely takes a back seat to no other. In addition, the introduction of the open Android 2.3 operating system has added a lot of dimension to the gadget’s functionalities. Users can download and install great application from the Android market, including apps competing with the Kobo e-reader. Considering its price of just about $ 199, it is by far the best budget tablet currently lying in stores.

The biggest challenge the Kobo Vox tablet will have to put up with is none other than comparison. It is inevitably going to be compared to market veterans such as the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet. The unnerving bit is that against these two, the Vox is bound to crumble. The only lifeline lies with the fact that it offers an expandable memory slot unlike the Kindle Fire, costs a whopping $ 50 less than the Nook Tablet and is available internationally. If it were released about the same time as the Nook Color and featured a dual-core processor, then it could stand up to these two. This notwithstanding, it remains the best deal you can find for a budget tablet.

There is 1 comment
Wendy
August 07, 2012 - 18:11
Subject: I hate the Kobo Vox

It's not my Kobo Vox, it's my septuagenarian mom's, and I freely admit that we got off to a bad start, because when she opened the box on Christmas morning 2011, the wall plug for the charging cord wasn't in the box, so she couldn't start using it right away. Not being able to use your toys on Christmas morning is a massive disappointment.

Design Fail #1: You cannot charge the Kobo while it's plugged in to your computer to charge. I really don't understand why not, when my Sony eReader can, and it has the same micro-USB connector.

Design Fail #2: Once she finally got her hands on a charging cable, and had the thing up and running, she tried to set up the Wireless on it. This was when we discovered that the software was designed only to find visible wireless networks; there was no option for "add other network", as there is on truly smart machines. (This has now changed, I'm pleased to see.) So we had to unhide her hidden wireless network, so that the Kobo could see it.

Design Fail #3: The Kobo doesn't come with a micro-SD card of any kind (not even a 2GB one!), but the software isn't clever enough to recognize that there's no SD card installed, and thus disable the memory option to store books on the micro-SD card, if the slot is empty.

Design Fail #4: The Kobo Desktop software can only be used to manage books purchased from the Kobo store. If you want to add books from any other source, you have to use a separate application for that. Fortunately, there's Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/), and it works with pretty much every kind of e-reader.

Design Fail #5: If you want to add ePUB books from any source other than the Kobo store, you have to (a) buy a micro-SD card for this purpose, (b) copy the files to the SD card, and then (c) import the books into the reader from the SD card.

Design Fail #6: The "device charging/starting" light is located on the front bezel of the case, which means you can't see it if you've got the Kobo in a protective case. Which means you have to lift up the edge of the case to see the light.

Horrid, horrid device, IMHO.

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Kobo Vox

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