Kobo Aura HD eBook Reader (Review)

If you’re a fan of ebooks and usually read more than 50 of them a year then the new Kobo Aura HD eink ebook reader may be exactly what you need to enhance your reading experience.

Kobo Aura HD eInk eBook Reader

Malcolm Neil, Kobo’s Director of Content Acquisition and Publisher Relations for the Asia Pacific told me that the Aura HD was a device with limited availability which was made specifically to fit the needs of the most voracious ebook readers.

According to Neil these readers had told Kobo that an ideal “luxury” eink reader would have a larger screen than 6 inches, a sharper display and larger battery capacity for long trips.

The Aura HD’s 6.8 inch screen offers about 30% more display space than a standard 6 inch ereader so you won’t have to flip pages quite as often. However this comes with a tradeoff of greater weight as the Aura HD is 240gm, compared to the Kobo Glo’s and Kindle Paperwhite which tip the scales at 185gm and 213gm respectively. It also means that reading the Aura HD with one hand is not easy, whereas holding the Kobo Glo on handed is comfortable.

Readers who are night owls or like to read in dark environments such as long haul flights can use the builtin front edge lighting which provides even light distribution across the screen. The light can be turned on and off using a dedicated button next to the top red power slider and it’s intensity can be set at a level that you find comfortable using a slider from 1-100%.

The Aura HD’s 1440×1080 screen resolution is noticeably sharper than the standard 6 inch models which have 1024×768 displays. This will prove useful to readers who wear glasses or contact lenses as the font size can be increased while still remaining sharp and displaying many words on screen.

Since I have only had the Aura HD on loan for 2 weeks I can cannot confirm Kobo’s claim that it’s battery should last 1-2 months if used to read for 30 minutes every day with WiFi off and the light on sometimes. However it is saying 75% battery left at present and as a general rule larger devices which have bigger physical batteries last longer between charges than their smaller competitors.

In terms of connectivity the Aura HD works with to WiFi networks upto and including the most recent N specification but only those running at 2.4Ghz not 5Ghz. As with all other Kobo ereaders the Aura HD is WiFi only and doesn’t have builtin 3G connectivity like the high end 6 inch Kindle ereaders do.

Readers who want to manage their ebook library on their computer can connect it via a USB port at the bottom of the ereader and use the Kobo Desktop App for Windows & Apple Mac OSX.

When the Aura HD is connected to your computer it appears as a USB storage device so you can also slideload any books or files you have in the following formats: EPUB, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RFT, CBZ, CBR. Thanks to it’s 1ghz processor the AuraHD is slightly faster at displaying complex PDF’s than other ereaders.

As a premium device the Aura HD has 4GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot next to the USB port so you can add upto 32Gb more storage. In theory this means you could store over 30000 books on the Aura HD though whether you’d be able to read that many in your lifetime is a different question.

The back of the Aura HD has a curious wave effect which is meant to make it easier to hold like a folded book, personally I liked the old quilted back pattern on the Kobo Glo and other previous models.

After using it to read for 2 weeks my verdict is that the Aura HD is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. While it’s superior to the smaller 6 inch Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite ereaders, calling it luxury is a bit much.

However it is true to say that for the moment this is the fastest, largest eInk ereader with the best screen available on the market. Since Amazon controls the majority of the ebook market globally it’s surprising Kobo hasn’t tried to sell a premium ebook reader like this before. If it can attract enough heavy readers who consume an ebook a week or more to the Kobo platform, that could draw a noticeable amount of revenue away from Amazon.

The Kobo Aura HD will be available from Australian retailers such as Collins Books and JB HiFI by early June for RRP $219.99 (probably a bit less actual retail price).

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