Review: Kobo Aura

Features and performance in an elegant design

Our score: 4/5
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Published: October 11, 2013 2:10 PM
Updated: October 2, 2014 2:40 PM
By Marine Goy
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
Kobo waited until late August 2013 to release the Aura, the Canadian firm's new 6-inch e-reader with Wi-Fi and front-lighting that follows on the heels of the Aura HD, the larger, more expensive model Kobo dubbed the "Porsche of e-Readers". But the device the new Aura takes after most is the Kobo Glo, adding new-and-improved specs and an edge-to-edge design. The Kobo Aura comes in a choice of pink or black.

Design and Build4/5


Each of Kobo's e-readers has one thing, one little touch that makes it different. Here, it's the "edge-to-edge" display. Unlike the Kobo Glo and Aura HD, the screen doesn't have a plastic border surrounding it; instead, the façade is all one smooth piece. The back is covered in high-quality granular plastic that makes it easy and comfortable to hold. The whole build inspires confidence, and clearly makes it an elegant device. It's also lighter than the previous models, at 174 grams (the Kobo Glo weighed 185 g and the Aura HD weighs 240 g). The Kobo Aura is 15 cm long, 11 cm wide and just 8 mm thick, making it one of the thinnest e-readers we've reviewed.

Kobo Aura

Front and back

Most of the commands go through the Aura's touchscreen, so there are only two physical buttons, both located on the top edge of the device: one for ON/OFF and the other for the reading light.

Kobo Aura
Red ON/OFF button and reading light button

Inside the body is a 1 GHz Freescale i.MX507 processor, which has the power to give the Aura a fluid interface and navigation. It's one of the processors Freescale developed specifically for e-readers, in partnership with E Ink. According to Freescale, the i.MX507 is theoretically capable generating images of up to 2048 x 1536 pixels.

The Kobo Aura has twice the storage capacity of the Kobo Glo. Like the Aura HD, it can store over 30,000 e-books with 4 GB that are expandable by up to 32 GB via the microSD slot. The battery life has also increased, lasting over two months, which is higher than the previous models, which only lasted up to two months.

The Aura comes with all the added features you expect out of an e-reader: multilingual dictionary, built-in translators, a search function, note-taking using the virtual keyboard, sharing for social networks and a wide range of text display options. There are 11 fonts, one of which is specially designed for dyslexics, and 24 font sizes, all of which can be made thinner or thicker depending on your preference. Margins are adjustable and text can be justified.
 
Unfortunately, the virtual keyboard isn't the easiest one we've seen on an e-reader: the keys are so small that you have no choice but to type slowly in order to hit each letter.

Users can sort the books in their library by most recently read, title, author, file size and file type. It takes a matter of seconds to select a book in the library, display your book shelves or perform a search from the home page. In the note-taking function you can underline passages or take notes in a separate window using the virtual keyboard.

Screen4/5


The Kobo Aura has a 6-inch Pearl E-Ink ClarityScreen capacitive touchscreen with low-flash waveform. The resolution is 1014 x 758 pixels and it has a 16-level grey scale. The major downside of this screen is that it collects fingerprints galore. It has higher contrast than the Mini, but lower than the Aura HD. The figures we measured were similar to a white sheet of A4 paper.

Like the Kobo Glo, the Kobo Aura uses ComfortLight technology, making the screen legible in the dark. However, while that's a real plus for reading in low lighting, users are advised not to use it in pitch black conditions, as it can be tiring on the eyes. The brightness is adjustable, and when you've found the right level, this screen is much less tiring on the eyes than any tablet or computer monitor. However, the light isn't uniformly distributed across the screen, with the centre of the screen appearing darker than along the edges.

File Formats4/5



The Kobo Aura supports a wide range of file formats: ePub, PDF and MOBI for e-books; JPEG, PNG and TIFF for images; TXT, HTML, XHTML and RTF for text; and CBZ and CBR for comic books.

Comic book fans may rejoice: CBZ and CBR have finally made it onto a Kobo e-reader. That said, for enjoying the pictures, a larger device (such as the 6.8-inch Aura HD) would be preferable.
 

Kobo Aura
 
Multitouch has also finally made it to a Kobo e-reader, and you can pinch-to-zoom in PDFs (or double-tap, if you prefer). You can also navigate through a document by sliding your finger, at which point a preview window appears at the top left of the screen. However, in this mode there are a few seconds of latency every time you change pages.

There's no audio function, so users who prefer audio books or text-to-speech will want to go with, say, the PocketBook Touch Lux, one of the few e-readers to boast an audio function.

Features4/5


While the only games onboard are the classics Sudoku and chess—you can find them in the settings menu—we really like the fact that there's a sketch pad and a web browser. Social networking fans can sync the e-reader with their Facebook account in order to post passages in the newsfeed, which is a great way to share your favourite parts or quotes with friends.

Kobo has included a number of other features, such as Reading Life, which tracks your progress through your books and gives you statistics about your reading (number of pages turned, hours spent reading, etc.). You even get trophies for your reading stats. Another feature is Pocket, which allows you to save articles you've found online and read them offline on the Aura or on a smartphone, tablet or computer. Beyond The Book allows you to perform advanced searches on specific themes in the book (characters, locations, historical facts...) by simply highlighting words or passages. An algorithm then generates information to shed light on the subject, Wikipedia-style.
 
4/5 Kobo Aura DigitalVersus 2013-10-11 15:10:00

Pros

  • Elegant, lightweight body with impeccable finish
  • Fluid interface
  • 4 GB of storage, expandable by up to 32 GB
  • Front-light
  • Pocket for reading online content when offline
  • Dyslexic-friendly font
  • Supports a wide range of file formats
  • Good suggestions for books to buy

Cons

  • No audio functions
  • Screen smudges easily
  • Ghost images in PDFs

Conclusion

The Kobo Aura is like the Kobo Glo, but better: it has a sleeker design, twice as much storage, longer battery life, a multitouch screen and the handy Pocket feature. Once again, Kobo has won us over with an all-star product and an elegant design.

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