Though Amazon may corner the e-reading market with their popular range of Kindle devices, there are a lot of alternatives making the rounds. Generally, these operate on a modest price point, making up for their poorer advertising with cheaper costs. But it looks like Rakuten-owned Canadian company Kobo (an anagram of 'book', if you're interested) are launching a 'deluxe' e-reader, which they describe as the "Porsche of e-readers". Named the Kobo Aura HD, it is set to be released on April 25th, with pre-orders beginning on April 16th in the UK.
Above: the Kobo Aura HD, "the Porsche of e-reading devices".
The Aura HD boasts some fairly impressive specifications. Featuring the same Pearl E Ink display as the Amazon Paperwhite, the Aura has a screen measuring at 6.8 inches - larger than the round 6 inches offered by the Paperwhite. It also boasts a 265ppi screen: again, beating the 212ppi that the Paperwhite's screen offers. A 1GHz single-core processor powers the e-reader, which is modest in smartphone or tablet terms, but certainly speedy enough to handle the greyscale display and minor e-book shopping that the Aura HD will be used for. 4GB of storage space allows for a pretty substantial library of books and magazines, and the inclusion of a microSD card slot (increasing storage by an additional 32GB) makes it a travelling library for the power user. Though the battery size has not been disclosed, Kobo assures users that it can last up to 2 months, based on a sample of users reading for 30 minutes per day.
Above: the Kobo Aura HD side-by-side with the Amazon Paperwhite.
Design-wise, the Aura HD is fairly good. The back is angled for an ergonomic grip, ensuring a comfortable browsing experience for the user. The somewhat stark, geometric design might not be to everyone's taste; but like the Nexus 10 tablet, it's designed with usability rather than looks in mind, which we can't really fault. It weighs in at a modest 240g, which is around 8.5 ounces - slightly heftier than the Amazon Paperwhite, which is 213g, but this is understandable given the Aura HD's larger size. It comes in a range of three colours, Espresso, Ivory and Onyx (or dark brown, white and black, if you prefer). The main draw, however, is the 6.8 inch screen of the Aura, which features great viewing angles and excellent clarity for browsing. All in all, it's a pleasant looking device that may not be to everyone's tastes, but consciously echoes the design of a paperback book in an attempt to attain a classic and timeless aesthetic. Again, we can't really fault it for this; it makes sense given the marketplace.
Above: the excellent 265ppi screen of the Kobo Aura HD.
In terms of software, the Kobo Aura HD is broadly in line with what you'd expect. Modest Internet capability allows you to connect to the web via Wi-Fi and micro USB, in order to download books or browse low-intensity sites. The Cloud storage system Kobo Everywhere keeps a track of all the content you've downloaded, allowing you to access your collection of books, magazines and periodicals across multiple devices. Like Amazon, Kobo even sync up your progress in your various books, allowing you to save bookmarks and continue reading right where you left off! For the tinkerer, the Kobo Aura HD allows some modest editing tools, allowing you to highlight and copy & paste text, as well as take notes. A pre-packaged dictionary even enables you to look up unknown words on-the-fly. We're less impressed by the touted 'Social Reader' aspect of the Aura HD, however; the ability to track your reading stats and upload 'Reading Life Awards' to your Facebook makes reading sound like exercising.
Above: the Kobo Aura HD and its ergonomic, curved back.
Overall, though, the Kobo Aura HD remains a sturdy device with a lot to recommend it. It certainly packs more features, battery life and power than your average Kindle. Conversely, there's an increase in price - debuting at £139.99, it's thirty pounds more expensive than Amazon's flagship e-reader. And as consumers prove time and time again, competitive prices are very important in the e-reader market. But for the power user who wants more storage and a classier chassis for their device, the Kobo Aura HD is a bargain purchase. For that reason alone, we're positive its success is assured!
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Though Amazon may corner the e-reading market with their popular range of Kindle devices, there are a lot of alternatives making the rounds. Generally, these operate on a modest price point, making up for their poorer advertising with cheaper costs. But it looks like Rakuten-owned Canadian company Kobo (an anagram of 'book', if you're interested) are launching a 'deluxe' e-reader, which they describe as the "Porsche of e-readers". Named the Kobo Aura HD, it is set to