I’m going to preface this with a disclaimer: At no point did I receive any compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Kobo Inc. or Rakuten for the content of this review. Any fanboying spent over this product is mostly because it really is that good, not because I was paid to!
Kobo is not a name many of you may recognize, and I aim to change that. The little Canadian start-up grown big on Japanese yen (by way of the “Amazon of the East”, Rakuten, purchasing Kobo in 2011) has cranked out some quality readers and tablets over the years, and the Aura HD is my choice of partner.
Ah, my beloved “Cafe” brown Kobo Aura HD.
It’s an absolute joy compared to my 2012 Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve gone through 3 Paperwhites due to cracked screens in under a year, and while Amazon’s customer service in that field is amazing, I’d much rather avoid cracked screens altogether. The Kobo has never even been scratched (it has a slight ding on one corner of the device– my bad, I slipped and dropped it one time).
The Paperwhite I chose back in 2012 has 3G and is a little zippier in navigation and page turning, but real advantages end there. Much can be ballyhooed over a whiter screen on the Kindle, but when it comes to my personal reading experience, I focus on the novel, not the page the novel’s on.
The Kobo is easier to hold with one hand due to the shaped back (as seen in the above ad), uses slightly lighter materials (read: glossy plastic), and the star of the show is definitely the 6.8 inch very-almost-nearly-1080p resolution screen as opposed to the Paperwhite’s 720p screen. The backlight — forgive me, ComfortLight— is very fair and even, and can be cranked up to almost being garishly bright, which in natural sunlight makes the page look white as a sheet. The battery life of the Aura HD is about the same as the Kindle Paperwhite (2-3 months depending on how judiciously you use it).
The open format nature of the device means I was able to strip the DRM from my Kindle collection (over 200 books on device, another 150 in the cloud) and port it to my Kobo, which barely put a dent in the HD’s storage (which can be expanded by up to 32GB) when completed. I can also put almost any format of ebook (even the three or four books I bought from Barnes and Noble’s Nook service– also a good service with great devices) on the Kobo with little to no trouble, as opposed to the endless trouble the Kindle gives me.
Kobo’s store is jam-packed with everything I could possibly want to buy (and like I said, I already ported the other stuff from my Kindle anyway), and more, but the web interface could be a little more streamlined. All my favorite authors are there, and even while Amazon maintains lower prices on almost everything, Kobo’s prices are still reasonable enough that I don’t mind paying a little extra, and bargain hunting is actually pretty easy due to frequent promotions and sales.
All I really have to complain about is that the lightweight plastic the Aura HD is made from saves weight, but feels a bit cheap compared to the rubberized back of the Paperwhite, and I do miss that constant pro-bono 3G connection from Amazon.
That said, I will never go back to Kindle, because Kobo has delivered so well on every front– there’s something to be said for their corporate philosophy of focusing entirely on reading, as opposed to Amazon, yet another company who wants to rule the world. Kobo just wants to rule over books, and if they keep to this level of quality (or, perish the thought, get even better), I’m inclined to let them.
For $179, I view the HD as entirely worth every penny. It’s damn near perfect. This isn’t to say the Nook GlowLight or Kindle Paperwhite are in any way bad; I just prefer the Aura HD to both of them.
The day I put down my Aura HD for good is the day when Kobo releases another improved version.