Is the Kobo Aura HD worth the hype?

 Is the Kobo Aura HD worth the hype?  Is the Kobo Aura HD worth the hype? On Thursday, April 25, 2013, Kobo launched what they’re calling a “re-imagined” eReader: the Kobo Aura HD. It’s being marketed as “the only premium eReader on the market,” offering an enhanced eReading experience, which improves the onscreen reading clarity by 20% from that of any other HD eReader. More importantly, it’s been designed specifically for avid readers. On the same day that it was launched, I began reading my first eBook on this very same device, which was given to me by Kobo in exchange for my honest opinion of it. Does it live up to the hype? Keep reading this eReader review to see if it’s worth picking up one for yourself or adding it your wish list for an upcoming gift opportunity.

Now, the Kobo Aura HD isn’t my first experience with a dedicated eReading device. Before it died last summer, I’d been using a Sony eReader Pocket Edition for a few years, which doesn’t have touch screen technology. Since December 2012, I’ve been regularly reading for a Kobo Mini, which like this new option, does. I happen to enjoy the Kobo Mini with its cute size and soft body texture, but the Aura HD is a cut above any other eReading experience I’ve had while reading a book from my Kobo Library. Many eInk eReaders have an obvious delay when you turn the “page” until the new page appears, usually with an accompanying flash on the screen that is semi-disruptive. With the Aura HD, however, you move from page to page without any of the typical lag time  of other eReaders. I guess that has something to do with the speed of the 1 Ghz processor with which it’s equipped, so while you might get used to a slower processing time of other products and/or settle for physical copies to avoid the annoyance, you can rest assured that this time, the difference between reading a book and an eBook won’t be noticeable.

One aspect of this eReader that is highlighted in the product literature is just how much crisper the text looks on the Kobo Aura HD screen than it does on any other eReader available as of March 2013. The truth is that with my pretty excellent vision, I didn’t notice much of a difference between my other eInk technology experiences and this one…at first. It was easy to read, and it didn’t strain my eyes in normal lighting conditions, but if I hadn’t compared the screen to my other eReader, I wouldn’t have thought much of it. But then I did, and I quickly realized my mistake.

First, I noticed that the quality of the cover image was like night and day. Image shading is of the highest quality without any obvious gradations between one level of grey and the next and complicated images, such as those details on the cover of Kiera Cass’ The Elite, are rendered beautifully. Since you don’t spend much time on the cover, this might not seem like a big deal. However, I did my own side-by-side comparison between the text clarity on both the Kobo Mini and the Kobo Aura HD and the results are worth noting. Not only are the letters crisper, whether you select a smaller or larger sized font on the screen, but also they seem to be a darker shade of black with thicker lines making up each of the letters. If you worry that reading on a device will cause more eyestrain than a physical book, then you don’t need to worry anymore, and if you tend to seek out larger print books, then a quick adjustment makes your favorite eBook any size that you want the letters to be. Can’t say the same about a standard book from the local bookstore or library.

So now you know what I think about this eReader in normal conditions, but what about in low light conditions? With most other eReaders, you have to keep either the main light on while reading or stop reading when the lights go out. (Yes, there are some models that have a light function, but none of the one’s that I’ve ever tried do.) Now that I have this new eReader, I no longer have to worry that I’m keeping my significant other awake when I want to read well into the night, move into another room to let him sleep, or use the flashlight app on my iPhone while also holding the book or eBook I’m reading, which can be kind of cumbersome and eats up my iPhone’s battery life pretty quickly. (Yes, I’ve actually done all three of these things when I couldn’t put a book down in the past. None of which were ideal.) Moreover, you can adjust the amount of light emitted from the screen, so you can read easily in a pitch-black room or even when the sun has just begun setting and you just want to finish one more chapter before you turn on the light.

Finally, for those of you who want to make your reading life more social or might want to put the book down without letting go of this eReader, the Kobo Aura HD does the trick. You can turn on a function that automatically shares your reading life on your Facebook profile, surf the web on it’s black and white web browser, or play any one of a few different preloaded games. Personally, I haven’t tried any of these aspects, so I can’t comment on them, but you probably want to know that they’re there if you need them.

Clearly, there are a lot of positives about the Kobo Aura HD, and overall, I do think it’s worth not only the hype, but also the price. That said, there is one negative that I’ve experienced since trying it out. As a book blogger, I sometimes receive eBooks rather than physical copies for review. While the Kobo Aura HD supports EPub, PDF, and even DRM EPub or PDF files if you authorize Adobe Digital Editions and your device, it doesn’t mean that all of these files will run as well as a book you bought via KoboBooks.com. In fact, I recently had to resort to reading a PDF on my computer via Adobe Digital Editions because it’s heavy design and image based aspects made the Kobo Aura HD slow down to a snail’s pace. Perhaps EPub files from other sites or PDFs that aren’t as image dependent in the design will work better for you though.

All in all, I have to say that I’m happy to have a Kobo Aura HD now, and I bet that despite the issue I had with one PDF, you will, too.

Buy a Kobo Aura HD today!

  12 comments for “Is the Kobo Aura HD worth the hype?

  1. Muhammad U Chachar
    August 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Battery is not as long lasting as it is boasted. I use it about 30 minutes per day without light and wifi off and battery lasts 4-5 days. The manufacturer claims 2 months and reviewers just copy paste that. In reality battery life is better than tablet but not as good as claimed. Or do I have a defective unit.

  2. August 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Well, I didn’t use it for a full two months between when I received it and reviewed it, and I certainly read for longer than the recommended 30 minutes of reading time. I think I’ve only read the one book on it so far, so I can’t really compare.

    It may be a defective one. I would talk to Kobo about it as they would know better what testing options create the battery last that long. Also, wondering whether you put it on standby between reading or turned it off completely because I’m sure that would make a difference as well, and you didn’t mention it.

  3. Muhammad U Chachar
    August 27, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I must report that last time when the battery completely drained to 0% on my Kobo aura hd I put it on recharge and let it charge unto 100% undisturbed. I still kept it for about an hour past 100%. Thereafter I read on my kobo aura for about 40-50 minutes and the battery still shows 100%.
    It could be that this full charging (from 1 to 100%) has somehow resolved any problem with battery and/or software. I am not sure but its great thing for me to happen. Though I still fear that it may be battery charge % on screen freeze which I experienced in past on recharging battery, when battery charging % shown would be stuck at some % but upon disconnecting and reconnecting charger the % would show jump increase meaning the battery was charging but not showing increased charge. So I hope that this pleasant experience is also not similar that the battery is draining but not showing drain as % and still shows 100%. I will give feed back in a few days. but for the moment it all look great with battery life.

  4. Muhammad U Chachar
    August 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks Melissa, yes I had been putting it on sleep between the reads and not turned off completely and I am doing the same now.

  5. Muhammad U Chachar
    August 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I have to share my other experience with kobo aura hd.
    The high lighting of text or dragging the ends of highlighting cursors are glitchy and do not move accurately and smoothly. I have to try a few times to get exact passage I want to highlight. most of time it overshoots or undershoots desired placement and is also very slow to respond. It takes quite some time for the line between the two cursors (showing the selected area between the two cursors) to finally appear.
    Any tips or suggestions.
    I also suggest to kobo that export of selected text or linking notes written ONE NOTE or similar app would increase academic use of this device.
    Reading experience so far is great, crisp letters the way I want them to show, no issues with page turns. Overall good reading experience but highligting of text or note writing options could be improved. I read non-fiction mostly and need to quote some passages elsewhere and wanted better share options for academic use.
    Thanks

  6. August 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Thanks for this comment, Muhammad. Just so you know, I don’t work for Kobo, so I can’t pass this info on to anyone at the company.

  7. August 28, 2013 at 7:02 am

    You’re welcome, Muhammad. I’m fairly certain that if it’s not turned off completely between reads that the battery would drain more quickly. Even if you were reading for less than 30 mins a day. Also, depending on what other functions you use on the eReader, like highlighting or bookmarking pages, maybe that would drain it more quickly as well.

  8. August 28, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Great feedback, Muhammad. I didn’t try highlighting on the Kobo Aura HD, so I can’t speak to that unfortunately. I mostly read fiction and am not at university anymore, so I’m more likely to bookmark a page than highlight a specific passage.

    I would send your question and comment directly to Kobo though. I don’t work for them, so I have no way of giving your feedback to someone who could help you.

  9. Bri
    January 28, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the review. Just picked this one up myself after the SO broke my Sony. Also glad someone noticed the resolution! I couldn’t even read the 1st gen Kindle and others because I thought I was going blind due to the resolution. The Sony was the only 200+ ppi reader at the time and I gladly purchased it. I have to say, this jump is still a very welcome addition as I can no longer see any jaggy edges on text no matter how hard I look.

    One shortcoming I did find was the default page refresh setting, it was rather low, something like refresh after every 6 pages. This causes some minor aberrations on text for me, so a quick setting fix and I solved the issue.

    Will be interesting to see if the new kindle will match or exceed this resolution, but either way it’s always good to have someone pushing the market to better places!

  10. February 13, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Thanks, Bri, I’m glad that you appreciated my review of the Kobo Aura HD and its screen resolution. As I said in the review, I’ve never had too much trouble reading on other eReaders (though I never had the 1st gen), but the side by side comparison I did with the Kobo Mini showed a huge gap.

  11. William Oak
    October 14, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Hi.
    Only wish to concur with Mr Chachar regarding battery life. The battery on my Kobo Aura HD does not last very long. I have WiFi on disabled and lights typical around 50% (average) but the battery still only lasts 4-6 hours. A far cry from Kobos claim on 30 hours in 60 days.

    I still think this Kobo is great and I love reading on it, but the battery problem makes it impossible to read any where else than at home and I usually only bring a tablet with me, since it will last two to three times longer. Kind of beats the purpuse of a E-ink reader, and will I not recommend anyone to buy one before Kobo Inc. recogonize the problem and solves it. So far the company is in (public) denial to the problem even though I am aware of serveral other users with the same problem.

    If anyone reading this is using Goodreads, I have created a group called: Kobo Battery Life
    Please join so we can find out how many we are.
    Thank you for your time.
    Have fun :D

  12. October 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for your comment, William, regarding the battery life of the Kobo Aura HD. I haven’t used this eReader in quite sometime as I have a new one, so I really can’t compare my experience with the one that you’re reporting. I would say that using the light at all would increase the battery usage from the base version that is mentioned by Kobo though. It is unfortunate, however, that you need to take a tablet rather than your eReader because the battery doesn’t last long enough in your estimation.

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