Kobo Wi-Fi Review


Overview

The Kobo Wireless reader is one of the two models that Kobo currently have on the market. They released the Kobo Touch edition reader more recently (the newest model as of 2011).

The Kobo Wi-Fi uses a button interface rather than the touch screen and resembles the same style of design as the Cybook Gen 3. There are a few unique features on the Kobo Wireless reader, for example the reader comes ready loaded with 100 classic reads meaning there is already content on the reader so that the user can get straight into using the device. Not only this but it’s also a freebie, which is always nice.

The Kobo Wireless Reader is compact and lightweight making it the perfect companion for the user who plans to carry the device with them often plus the reader comes in a choice of colors (lilac, silver and onyx) giving the reader a nice personal touch and brightening up the device.

Hardware and Features

kobo wi-fi reader

One of the main features that Kobo have promoted on the device is the stylish design with the Wireless Reader coming in a choice of Pearlized Lilac, Onyx and Metallic Silver. This allows the consumer a slight color preference and adds a personal touch to the reader. Weighing in at only 221 grams and measuring 10mm in depth the Kobo Wireless Reader is compact, lightweight and perfectly portable.

The interface of a navigational pad in the bottom left of the device allows the user to easily navigate between pages on the reader. The overall reading experience on the Kobo Wireless Reader is enhanced due to the large range of books available on the online store along with the 100 free classics that are included with the reader.

The inclusion of Wireless connectivity is the biggest feature on the reader, hence the name as this makes the reader much more mobile and allows the user to download books straight to the device without the need for a computer.

 

Technical Specifications

Color Availability: Porcelain & Lilac, Porcelain & Silver, Onyx – The choice of colors gives the reader the opportunity to slightly personalise their reader and makes the device more stylish and aesthetically pleasing.

Dimensions: Height x Width x Depth 184 mm x 120 mm x 10 mm – As can be seen from the dimensions the Kobo Wireless reader is very compact meaning that it will easily fit into a handbag or a pocket so that the user can transport the device.

Weight: 221g – The Kobo Wireless Reader is fairly light meaning that users can easily transport the device and also hold it comfortably for long periods of time whilst reading without strain.

Screen: 6” eInk screen with 16 shade grey scale – The display used on the Kobo Wireless reader is one of the most advanced screens on the market with 16 shade grey scale giving the users images great detail when displayed on the reader. The eInk screen works via contrast rather than backlighting meaning that the display can be read easily without straining the eyes, even in direct sunlight.

Memory: 1GB internal memory, SD Memory Card allowing expansion up to 32GB – The Kobo Wireless Reader has plenty of room built in, allowing the user to have a library of around 1000 books. If this becomes full the user has the option to expand the storage up to 32GB.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 2.0 USB – The inclusion of a wireless connection within the Kobo Wireless Reader is one of the biggest features and gives the reader ultimate mobility by allowing the user to download books straight to the device without having to connect (USB 2.0 connection) the reader to a computer.

Battery Life: 10 days or 10,000 page turns – With the Wi-Fi connections on the device enabled the reader will last for 10,000 page turns on a single battery charge. With Wi-Fi enabled the device is quoted at around 10 days, this will depend on how much the user reads daily.

Supported Formats: EPUB, PDF, TXT and some graphic formats (not stated) – The supported formats on the Kobo Wireless Reader are fairly limited and are completely document focused, therefore the Kobo Wireless really is just a reading device.

Font: 2 font styles, 5 font sizes – This gives the user some leeway in how their books are presented on the reader.

 

What's in the Box?

The Kobo Wireless Touch comes simply packaged in a cardboard box within a sleeve featuring a graphic of the image on the front. There is a sticker which is cut and then there is a white cardboard flip box which pulls out from the sleeve, featuring the Kobo logo in the centre. This simply splits in half to open (resembling a book, nice touch) and reveal the reader held in place on the right hand side and a built in box on the left hand side. The packaging is nicely designed and also fully recyclable.

Within the box are the accessories that come with the reader, the top of the box simply opens and a cardboard tray is pulled out, the first thing you will see is the Kobo quick start guide giving instructions so that the user can get up and running with the reader quickly and easily without experiencing any problems. The only other accessory that comes with the Kobo Wireless Reader is the USB 2.0 cable that is required to connect the device to a computer.

Kobo Wi-Fi Reader Vs...

Kobo Wi-Fi Reader Vs. Kobo Touch Reader

The Kobo Wireless Reader is manufactured by the company Kobo (there name is an anagram of book) and at the moment they currently have another reader on the market which is the Kobo Touch Reader (Read our Kobo Touch Reader review). There are some similarities between the two readers but it is important to see how these compare.

In terms of design the readers are very simple with both devices featuring the same diamond pattern on the back of the design with the same color options, the Kobo touch edition is also available in a pale blue.

Both of the devices have Wi-Fi capabilities on them which are the same and therefore the speed of the connection is the same. The main difference between the two readers is that the Kobo touch edition works on a touch screen interface. This makes the navigation of the reader much easier and the touch screen is very responsive. With the option to use the touch screen with finger touch or a stylus the Kobo touch also eliminated problems that may arise from users who struggle to use touch screens with only a finger touch input.

The internal memory on the Kobo touch edition is also double the memory on the Kobo wireless reader having a built in 2GB as an oppose to 1GB this means that a much larger range of books can initially be stored on the device. Just like the Kobo wireless edition the touch edition also has the ability for expandable memory with a built in memory card slot. This can also be expanded up to 32GB and therefore the storage on the devices is much of a muchness.

The Kobo touch has a definite advantage over the wireless reader as the supported format range is much larger with the technical specifications listing EPUB, PDF, TXT, HTML, RTF, MOBI, CBR, and CBZ. The most important formats that have been added are the MOBI format, as this allows the reader to support a whole new range of eBooks and also the CBR and CBZ formats. These are the formats that comic books usually come in and therefore the Kobo touch is suitable for a whole new type of market.

Neither of the devices support audio playback, which is not a necessity however would be a nice feature as many other readers on the market now include this function and it seems to be fairly popular. The battery life on the devices is also the same standing at 10,000 consecutive page turns.

The screens on both of the devices are 6” eInk screens but the Kobo touch has the newer pearl technology used for the display which has higher contrast making the display easier for users to view. There is also the inclusion of a web browser on the Kobo touch so that the user can also browse the internet, this makes use of the more advanced touch screen interface.

Kobo Wi-Fi Reader vs. Sony PRS 650

The Sony range is one of the most popular e-reader ranges currently on the market, so how does the Kobo wireless match up to this big competitor. The most comparable device is the Sony PRS 650 (Read our Sony PRS 650 review) as they were released around the same time and both feature a 6” eInk display. Unlike the Kobo Wireless edition the Sony PRS 650 does not have Wi-Fi and is therefore completely dependent on a computer to allow files to be transferred on to the device, something that a majority of users find a pain, particularly if they do not use their computer often.

The user interface on the Sony PRS 650 is touch screen and the PRS is well known for having a developed and responsive touch screen interface. The touch screen can also be operated by finger touch or by stylus input, making it easy for the user to operate. The major advantage of the Sony PRS 650 using a touch screen interface is that it allows the user to add notes to what they are reading via freehand or an on screen virtual keyboard.

The Kobo wireless edition does not offer any facility for taking notes on the texts being read which is a major let down in comparison with the advanced notes feature on the Sony which allows the reader to annotate on the text just as they would on a real book. This is particularly useful for students who are using the reader to view texts that they are studying.

The Sony PRS 650 also has a wider range of supported formats in comparison to the few offered on the Kobo wireless with the technical specifications of the PRS 650 listing EPUB, PDF, TXT, RTF, DOB, BBeB, JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG and AAC. As can be seen from this there is a wider range of document files supported and there is also the support for audio playback on the device.

The memory on the readers is pretty much of the same as they both have SD card slots that allow the device to store up to 32GB of data. The internal memory on the reader is double the Kobo wireless however as the reader is designed to hold media files this is to be expected.

One area where the Kobo Wireless has a massive advantage is the price with the Sony PRS 650 being almost triple the cost of the Kobo. This gives an explanation as to why there are a lot more features on the Sony PRS 650 therefore it depends on how important these extra features are to the user.

Kobo Wi-Fi vs. Kindle 3

The Kindle 3 (Read our Kindle 3 review) is the brand leader on the market at the moment with most devices trying to match up, this is fairly comparable to the Kobo wireless as the prices are pretty similar and they have some of the same features. Both the Kobo wireless and the Kindle 3 have Wi-Fi connectivity however the Kindle is able to utilise this better with a built in web browser and also faster response. Amazon has been including wireless connectivity in their devices for a long time and as a result it tends to be far superior to the wireless that is included in other devices, such as the Kobo wireless.

The Kindle 3 also comes with the option to buy the device with 3G connectivity using Amazons free 3G connection although this does significantly increase the price of the device. This makes the 3G much more mobile than the Kobo as a connection to the internet can be gained pretty much anywhere.

Neither of the devices have a touch screen interface and they both work on a button input however the Kindle 3 features a QWERTY pad which allows the user to easily search the device for certain authors or titles, a major advantage over the Kobo which has not sorting method and also has a time consuming method of finding books on the device. The QWERTY keypad also makes it easy for the user to take notes and browse the web as it is a fast way of inputting text into the device. The user interface is definitely stronger on the Kindle 3.

The major let down for the Kindle 3 that is although it has 4GB internal memory (much greater than the Kobo) it does not have a built in SD card so there is no way to expand the memory on the device. This could be a massive problem considering the reader can playback audio and therefore will need to store audio files on the device. These files tend to be quite large and as a result 4GB will fill up extremely fast meaning that the Kindle 3 cannot really be used to its full capability.

On a whole the supported format range is pretty much the same on either device, the technical specifications for the Amazon kindle list AZW (a special format created by amazon specifically for the Kindle range) PDF, TXT, MOBI, PRC, AAX, AA and MP3. The fact that there is audio support is an advantage over the Kobo however the Amazon Kindle eliminates any format support for EPUB documents which are extremely popular and therefore mainly limits the user to the books available on the Amazon store.

The Kindle 3 is quoted at up to 4 weeks with the wireless disabled and 10 days with wireless connections enabled. This is about the same as the Kobo although the wireless edition gives a more accurate idea of battery life by quoting it in terms of page turns. With the Kindle it is estimated on a set amount that users will read daily however this isn’t status. General user feedback has said that the reader will normally last around 20 days without wireless connections enabled. Music playback will also eat the battery.

Connectivity

The connectivity is the main feature on the device as the Kobo Wireless Reader was the first reader released by Kobo that had wireless connectivity built in. The wireless connectivity within the device is simply a Wi-Fi connection, allowing the user to connect to the internet wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection. This tends to be a lot of places due to most homes having Wi-Fi, also with Wi-Fi hotspots across the country there is the possibility to connect in the outdoors. Many popular restaurant and café chains now offer free Wi-Fi to their customers.

The connectivity on the Kobo Wireless is fairly strong and works fairly fast, the main benefit of the connection being that the user can easily download books straight on to the device, eliminating the need for a computer. If an adaptor is bought for the device it also makes it possible for consumers who do not own computers to buy and use the device.

The Kobo software for the computer is basic but good. The software was given a lot of hype by Kobo claiming it to be amongst the best software for use with e-readers. The design of the software is very stylish and modern with a nice desktop shortcut, always a benefit. The programme is easy to grab a hold of by simply downloading the software from the internet, not a hardship as it is freeware, the download is quick and the installation is easy. There are also a range of applications developed by Kobo for different platforms, therefore your Kobo library can be transferred on to more than on device.

The user navigates through the programme using the tabs at the top left hand side of the screen, with the software running smoothly and quickly the Kobo software is easy to use and allows the user to browse the online store and download books all within the programme. There is the option to drag and drop certain files on to the library and also to just sync the whole library to the device.

 

Supported File Formats

The technical specification for the Kobo Wireless Reader lists EPUB, PDF and text as the supported formats on the device. As can be seen this is not a very wide range compared to some other readers on the library. The Kobo Wireless does also support image files such as GIF and PNG  as the reader displays the book covers of titles on the device however for some reason this was not listed in the specifications.

Unlike many other readers that were released at the same time, the Kobo Wireless Reader does not have the ability to support audio files such as MP3 or WAV. This is not detrimental to the running of the device but does mean that the reader is simply built for the purpose of being a reading device and that only.

The EPUB format is the most common format of eBooks and was specifically developed for that purpose, having re-flowable content so that the books can be seen on a range of screen sizes. Therefore the limited support isn’t too detrimental as most books are ePUB format anyway, if not, freeware such as Calibre can be downloaded in order to convert the format of the files so that they can be viewed on the reader.

 

Memory

The memory on the Kobo Wireless Reader exceeds expectations with only document files being stored on the reader not much space was needed. The reader has 1GB built-in memory which allows the user to store hundreds of books on the device. There is also a micro SD card slot so that the devices storage can be expanded up to 32GB, a massive amount, particularly as audio files are not supported and therefore there will not be any particularly large files stored on the reader.

Battery Life

With Wi-Fi enabled the Kobo Wireless Reader’s battery life is estimated by the guy at Kobo to be around 10 days. The user reports have said that this is slightly less however it is still a fairly strong battery life due to wireless connections taking up a mass amount of battery and in this area the Kobo is on a par with other readers on the market that offer wireless connectivity.

Due to the eInk screen it is easy to measure the readers battery life in page turns as the device only uses battery when the page is refreshed (this is with connections disabled) and therefore in theory every page turn uses a slight bit of battery. The battery life on the Kobo Wireless Reader is quoted at up to 10,000 page turns which is a fair bit of reading and will last some people around a month.

Battery life can be maximised by only enabling the wireless connections on the device when they are in use. Either way the battery life on the Kobo is strong and means that the user will not have to be charging the device all the time.

Screen Quality

The screen on the Kobo Wireless Reader is a 6” eInk screen which is what is featured in most other readers on the market. The eInk screen has many benefits which makes it perfectly suited for a reading device. As the screen works by contrast rather than a backlight the user can read the display for a long period of time without straining their eyes as would happen on a backlit screen.

Another advantage of an eInk screen is that it conserves battery life as the display only requires power every time it refreshes, therefore it doesn’t matter how long the reader spends on a page as this will not affect the battery life therefore the only time the battery will be used is every time the user turns a page.

Lastly the eInk screen does not create a glare in direct sunlight meaning that the reader can be read outside without the display becoming obscured. The majority of e-reading devices on the market use an eInk display and therefore the Kobo Wireless Touch uses up to date technology within the display.

Build Quality and Design

The design on the Kobo Wireless Reader has both positives and negatives, the aesthetics of the design are pretty nice. The color range and the diamond pattern on the back of the device are definitely positive points for the Kobo. The choice of color gives the user a choice and also brightens up what can otherwise be a fairly dull device. The pattern on the back also feels nice and adds a little decoration to the device. The overall reader looks sleek and modern and the thinness looks good on the device.

The build of the reader is strong and the reader feels like it is made out of good quality materials when handling it, the back is smooth and the whole device feels rigid and strong. The one downside of the aesthetics on the device are the navigational pad, I feel that Kobo could have designed this to be slightly more attractive however the way it is designed is practical and easy to use which is ultimately the most important thing.

The Good

The low cost of the Kobo Wireless Reader is definitely a positive as it allows users who cannot afford to spend mass amounts on a luxury device to be able to get Wi-Fi, therefore it gives users with a lower budget the same quality and features as some of its more expensive competitors.  The Adobe DRM support also means that the user can view a fairly versatile range of eBooks on the device even though the range of supported formats isn’t that large.
The fact that the reader comes with 100 classic eBooks is a great feature as it means that the user can get to reading on the device straightaway and also gets 100 free books, which is never a bad thing. Not only this but the Kobo Wireless reader can also be synced with Kobo apps. The news delivery service on the reader is definitely a plus with newspaper and magazine subscriptions being delivered straight to the reader so that the user does not have to worry about it.

The Bad

As with any reader the Kobo Wireless has its downsides, one of the main disadvantages is that the Kobo Wireless reader is definitely a basic advice and as a result only includes minimum features eliminating the luxuries such as audio playback. The user interface on the Kobo is not a strength either due to the fact there are no folders or go to options and without a text input this can make it hard to locate files, particularly if there is 34GB of data on the device. Not only this but there is also no bookmarking function meaning that it can take the user a long time to find the place they are up to reading.

The Bottom Line

The Kobo wireless is a very minimal reader and this is reflected by its low price however the reader is good. The features on the device are standard and are what most users would expect from a reading device although there are some features lacking in the device that should really be there due to the reader completely revolving around the purpose of displaying eBooks to the user. The design of the product is nice for a lower end price and Kobo have also done a good job in keeping the important features such as display and battery life strong alongside the inclusion of wireless connectivity.

With the new Kobo eReader Touch out, however, there is little point in getting a Kobo Wi-Fi now. The advantages of the touch screen make for a more user friendly experience.

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