E-readers certainly aren’t hard to come by these days. You can find anything from Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Nobles’ Nook to any variety of other, lesser known, readers. Consumers have a lot of options these days, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something for everyone.
Enter the Kobo Aura e-reader. No, I have never heard of it before prior to this review. I wasn’t even familiar with the Kobo brand at all. However, after spending a few weeks with my loaner unit, if you were to ask me which e-reader I would buy if faced with a choice, I might have to seriously think about it…even with the existence of the Kindle line. The Aura is a small, attractive, light e-reader, and it works wonderfully…if you can get past the bookstore woes.
To be fair, it’s hard to expect any online bookstore to ever live up to the monster that is Amazon.com. Even actual bookstores like Barnes and Noble most likely will fall short when it comes to the prices and sheer selection that Amazon offers. In fact, the entire e-reader “phenomenon” was basically started by Amazon and their Kindle devices, so the ball is sort of in their court, with everyone else just trying to keep up.
With that in mind, the selection of books available from the Kobo bookstore isn’t bad per se. It offers 3.5 million titles in books, magazines, comics, etc. It certainly isn’t shabby, but search for a popular author side by side with the Kindle store and you’ll notice some differences in what’s available. It also seems that the Kobo prices are often a few dollars higher.
However, none of this really matters since the Aura supports pretty much any file type out there (epub, pdf, mobi, jpeg, gif, png, tiff, txt, html, xhtml, rtf, cbz, cbr). That’s a pretty huge range of supported formats, more so than even my Kindle, so that’s one score for the Aura. It’s nice to be able to read anything from an epub to a cbr comic without any issues, though I do have to mention that reading a comic in black and white isn’t the ideal experience. Regardless of your preferences, know that the Aura has many options for you.
The Aura packs some decent specs, though it doesn’t really have any one thing that will blow you away. The 6” screen sports a high-res, low glare Pearl E Ink ClarityScreen with 212 dpi (equal to the closest competitor, the Kindle PaperWhite). It has a Freescale I.MX507 1 GHz processor, 4 GB of storage (expandable to 32 GB via microSD), wifi, a front light for reading in the dark, and a battery life of over 2 months (based on 30 minutes of use daily without the front light and wifi). All in all, the Aura is a solid little device.
Using the Aura is a comfortable experience as it is smaller and lighter than the Kindle PaperWhite. It has a bezeled back with a nice, grippy texture that makes holding the device something you never even think about. I’ve included some comparison pics with my Kindle to give you an idea of the size difference (the pics are of my older Kindle Touch, not the PaperWhite). It’s a sleek little device that should slip easily into your pocket without any drama.
When reading, the Aura offers some nice extra features that make the experience a bit more “fun.” You have an option to share favorite passages and quotes to Facebook, which is nice if alerting the world to your reading prowess is something you feel the need to do. Perhaps my favorite features are the “achievements” you can earn by doing a bunch of different things. The Aura will track your usage, and based off of your reading stats, you can earn awards. Now granted, these “awards” amount to nothing more than a badge, but any one of us that plays video games should be more than familiar with this concept, as it mirrors that of Xbox Achievements and PlayStation Trophies.
The Aura also packs a bunch of beta features, which is similar to the Experimental features in a Kindle. The beta features include some games like chess, a sketch pad, and a web browser. Presumably there will be more added to the beta features as more programs are developed. Either way, you can indulge in some nice distractions while using your Aura, as long as you are within range of a wifi connection (for the web browser).
I like the Kobo Aura a lot, but the price is an issue. The Aura retails for $149.99 from the Kobo website. The Kindle PaperWhite sells for $119.99 (or $189.00 for the 3G version, which no one really needs) and also has the benefit of the Kindle bookstore backing it up. With the combination of device price, bookstore price, and bookstore selection, it’s hard to suggest something like the Aura to anyone over its competitor, even given how much I like the Aura. Any cheaper, however, and I would go with the Aura. Its ability to use nearly any reading file out there makes it a very attractive alternative, and it’s a good looking and comfortable device to use.