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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Kobo Aura

Introduction and First Impressions: Let me begin by saying, I have tried nearly every e-reader on the market. Sony Reader Daily Edition that took 20 minutes to turn a page, a terrible weekend with a Kindle that resulted in tears, a Nook that became annoying far too quickly, the Kobo Aura HD which I loved but only got to use for 10 minutes while setting it up for my Mother and a migraine inducing use of an iPad to read a book. I was on the point of giving up on e-reading but then Kobo came along and made everything better. It's not without some faults though—they are very minor though.

I was surprised when I opened the box how slight the e-reader itself is. It's so thin and light. It fits perfectly in my hand. Most e-readers feel a bit unwieldy and heavy in my smaller hands but this is perfect. The back is also designed to give a nice firm grip so I can read while walking—this is actually very important to me because I read while commuting.

Some basics about the Aura before we get started. The Aura has 4gbs of space—expandable with an SD Card up to 32gb, it has a 6 inch high resolution Pearl E-Ink Clarity Screen, it has 1GHz processor, and it can read ePubs, Pdfs, Mobi and txt. I haven't really used the PDF reader but I do have a few on there that I will read eventually.

Screen-One of my great frustrations with other readers has been the screen quality. Either they weren't sharp enough or they were too sharp and too bright. I am also particularly sensitive to backlight and too much can give me a migraine fairly quickly. I can absolutely say without any bias that Kobo has provided the best screen out of any I've tried. It's honestly only beaten by the Kobo Aura HD which features 265 ppi to the Aura's 212. It's almost as comfortable as reading a paperback. As someone who avoided e-readers for the longest time, this is very important. I need to feel as if I am reading a book—not a document—and the Auro provides me that experience. There is also very little eye-strain. In fact, the only eye-strain that occurred was when I decided to read a book straight through for 10 hours. It was the Anne of Green Gables series so it was acceptable. 

Reading Experience-I absolutely love how everything is so customizable within the book. You can change fonts, size of text, spacing, margins, sharpness of's just beautiful. You can even add your own fonts. I have to admit that I geeked out and found a Jane Austen font and used it on her books. Yes, it improves the reading experience dramatically. The processor is also excellent. It's a 1-GHz Freescale 1.MX507. Yes, I know, jibber jabber. But the page turns are so quick, faster than a blink of an eye, the keyboard is very responsive and there is very little ghosting. I appreciate this because my Sony Daily used to take forever to turn the page or highlight or do anything really. I could knit a sweater before that thing turned a page.

I also love the enhanced reading features. There is a dictionary of course. And it is responsive and quick. It doesn't take much effort for the word to be highlighted and defined. You can also add your own preferred dictionary as well. I also love that you can highlight a word or phrase and the Kobo will give you related information like articles and related books. I haven't had an e-reader that featured that before and I found myself using it very often.

Dashboard: I absolutely love how Kobo sets up the homepage. It's like my bookish world in a snapshot. It has all my collections, all the books I am reading at once, recommendations from Kobo...everything you want to see. It's more organized than anything I can come up with in my paperback reading world. I organize that with post-its and prayer.

Backlight: I am a nocturnal reader. I am an insomniac and I can often be found reading in the dark at 4am. A backlight on an e-reader is especially important to me and a good one doubly so. The backlight on the Aura is excellent. It tops out at 405 lux—beating even the Aura HD. Also the brightness is pretty even from the top of the screen to the bottom. 

Battery Life: This is probably one of the things that impressed me the most about the Aura. It's kind of nerdish of me but the battery life of the Aura is unbelievable. Staggeringly good. Kobo advertises two months but I think I will go another two without charging. I have been using my Kobo on a fairly regular basis for about two months and I have only had to charge it once in the beginning of October. It is currently sitting at 96%. So, in almost two months it has only used 4% of the battery...with wifi and backlight off most of the time. That is just ridiculous good.

Internet: the Kobo Aura comes with a 802.11b/g/n wifi connection. It's pretty quick. I bought a couple of books from the Kobo store and they downloaded to the Aura in less than 10 seconds. It kind of makes 3g seem superfluous—but what do I know, I don't even have a smartphone. The Aura also comes with a browser in Beta. I haven't used it much but I tested it by opening and logging into Booklikes. It's quick but it wouldn't be my preferred way to access the internet but it would do in a pinch.

SD Card: The only issue I had with my Kobo is a problem with the SD Card. And my Mother had the same problem with her Aura HD as well. Almost every time I turn the Aura on with the SD Card in, a message pops up saying that I have to format the disk to FAT32. The SD Card is brand new, just out of the box, and bought especially for this Kobo. I have also reformatted the disk and it works on other devices. It's not every time but it seems to be when the device starts up rather quickly. Almost like the processor is too quick and the SD Card reader needs to catch up. It does show in the device settings that it is there but I wish Kobo would fix this in some way with a software update. Because while it does not hamper my enjoyment of the device, the constant pop-up is obnoxious. 

Customer Service: I did have to contact Kobo's Customer Service a couple of times. Both of them had to do with the SD Card. Both times the customer service reps were kind, helpful and courteous. Whether by Twitter or by chat on the Kobo site, they helped me along and were patient with me. I think good customer service is as important as a good product and Kobo provides that.
Extras: The Kobo Aura comes with a few bits and pieces that are pretty interesting. Reading Life is one of my favorites. It keeps track of how much you've read, how long you've read, how many page turns etc. I love these stats. I geek out at them. You can also get rewards based on these stats. Pretty awesome.

The Kobo also has a pretty neat recommendations feature via the Dashboard. Seriously, it sees you when you're reading and it knows when you like something and it curates a collection of recommendations for you. It's just beautiful. It's picked some books for me that I would never have picked up before.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Kobo Aura is the new connection to Pocket. I am always coming across articles and blog posts that I want to read but put off till later but inevitably, I forget what it was, where it was located etc. Kobo's connection to Pocket eliminates that by connecting my Aura to my Pocket account and I can read all of those saved articles offline on my Kobo Aura later. I am becoming addicted to this feature just on blog posts alone.

Overall Impressions: This is one amazing little device. It really is. It is everything a serious reader would love in an e-reader. I don't think anything can mimic the feel of reading a book but the Kobo Aura comes quite close. I love my Aura. I'm planning on buying multiple family members and friends Auras of their own for Christmas. I am not going to rate this as I would a book but I am going to say that this reader converted someone who hated reading on an e-reader to a fan. A big one. The only flaw is with the SD Card but that isn't even close enough to being big enough to effect the rating. If I were to rate, it would get my highest rating--cupcakes. 

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