Showing posts with label Kobo Aura One. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kobo Aura One. Show all posts

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Kobo neglects basic features

The latest firmware update for the Kobo Forma gives the option to enable or disable the header and or the footer in KEPUB e-books. I own the Aura ONE and the latest firmware does not support the feature. It appears, for now, the feature is restricted to the Forma. Due to its unique design, the Forma’s firmware has features that are not available on other Kobo e-readers. The choice to enable or disable the header and or the footer is not one of these device-specific features and so I expect other e-readers will support it soon. It is a choice that Kobo should have supported long before but neglected.

Kobo has a history of neglecting basic features, e.g. advanced PDF support, exporting annotations, landscape reading (a feature only available on the Kobo Forma) and syncing personal documents to collections. The upside is that it is relatively easy to install add-on software, e.g. KOReader, and patch the device to get some unsupported features to work. However, many of these patches are hit and miss - it would be better if Kobo developed Nickel to support these features natively.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

What processor is the Kobo Forma using?

Kobo, on their official page, isn't very clear about the processor that runs on the Kobo Forma. You need to visit their media library webpage to find out that the Forma's processor is the same one that runs on the older Aura ONE, i.e. the single-core NXP i.MX6. The Kindle Oasis uses a more capable 1GHZ dual-core i.MX7D processor. The difference between the single-core i.MX6 and dual-core i.MX7 is noticeable - the Oasis is zippier than the Kobo Aura ONE. It is odd that Kobo decided to stick with the same processor considering the Forma is meant to be their now premium e-reader. Maybe the selection of the same processor was a trade-off due to the Forma's E-Ink's Mobius screen technology.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Kobo releases a top of the line e-reader

Kobo has released a top of the line e-reader: the Kobo Forma. The model, it appears, is not intended as an update to the Kobo Aura ONE (the Aura ONE is still listed on the Kobo website). Instead, it is meant to rival the Kindle Oasis but with a bigger screen. The device looks a lot like the Kindle Oasis and is priced similar too.

The Forma also supports landscape reading (I never understood why Kobo never supported this basic feature), auto-rotates like the Oasis and is slightly larger than the Kobo Aura ONE (the Aura ONE's screen size is 7.8 inches; in comparison, the Forma is 8 inches).

In my opinion, the biggest difference is the Forma's E-Ink Mobius screen. E-Ink Mobius is a plastic-based screen that is lighter and more rugged than the glass-based E-Ink Carta that is now used on most e-readers.

I found this video of an unboxing of the Forma (it is in French but you get a rough idea on the Forma's design and functionality).  From the video, it is clear that the Forma's design, in contrast to the Oasis, is more symmetrical and made of hard plastic. This might be a significant positive to many users that don't like the Oasis's large bump on one side and cold feel.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

KOReader's improved battery life on the Aura One

KOReader has gradually improved battery life on the Kobo Aura One. At first, KOReader drained the Aura One's battery that it was necessary to carry a charger. However, the same can be said with Kobo's own software (Nickel). It took far too long but Kobo's recent updates finally resolved the erratic battery problems. Personally, I prefer Nickel for e-books and KOReader when reading PDF files (there is no E-Ink platform that matches KOReader's PDF features). Fortunately, it is relatively easy to switch between Nickel and KOReader on the Aura One.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Kindle Oasis Review: The Oasis sets the new benchmark for an e-reader

Without doubt, the latest iteration of Kindle Oasis is the best e-reader from Amazon. Yet, this is expected considering the pricing and premium tag. The question is if the device offers that much extra to justify the price differential in comparison to other e-readers. Overall, while Amazon should have done more to distinguish the Oasis, the device sets the benchmark for a feature rich and immersive e-reading experience.

An a-symmetric design that doesn’t work 

I am not a fan of the device’s design. The metallic back, without a case, is cold to the hand and the device’s lopsided design makes it uneven to hold. Amazon designed their official case to attach magnetically to the thicker end to provide a flat reading surface. Unfortunately, this leaves part of the metallic back exposed when the case is closed (Amazon withdrew the official case due to design flaws).

The buttons are a real plus. They are located at the thicker end and make page turning so much easier with one-handed reading. The buttons can be used left and right-handed, as the Oasis supports automatic rotation.

Extra-size makes a difference

The extra inch makes a significant difference. The device is seven inch across and this means a thirty percent increase in reading screen estate. There is also extra width; the device’s width is closer to the Aura One than the Paperwhite. I find the extra space helps with text immersion and the extra width makes PDF text more legible in landscape mode.

Nice screen but nothing special

If you are coming from the Kindle Paperwhite then you will notice little difference in screen quality (both devices come with an E-Ink Carta screen and 300 DPI). I found the Oasis’s contrast slightly lacking but the text sharp.

The adaptive front-light has twelve LEDs that produce uniform lighting with little shadowing. The front-light is the best I’ve seen on an e-reader and significantly better than the Kobo Aura One. The Kindle Oasis, unlike the Aura One, does not support front-light colour shifting for night-time reading.

Kobo Aura One vs. Kindle Oasis front-light comparison 

Solid and stable software

As stated in a review of the Kindle Basic, Amazon’s Kindle software is feature rich and stable (I have provided an overview of the Kindle’s operating system in the Kindle Basic review. Also, I have previously posted on the Kindle’s good PDF support here). Amazon runs the near same software on all its e-readers. Software differences that do exist cater for device specific hardware features e.g. Bluetooth support and adaptive display lighting.

One software issue that continues to frustrate is the limited control over text display. Font size options are set in absolute size and the difference between, for example, size two and three is too disproportionate (the issue is accentuated with a relatively high 300 DPI screen). A possible solution, to get something between size three and four, is to increase font-weight to two. Unfortunately, this option only works with AZW3 e-books. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a software update that extends font weight options to MOBI e-books.

The Oasis comes with in-built Bluetooth support and Audible integration. I would recommend going for the 32GB Oasis if Audio books are something important (audio books take a lot of storage). Personally, I find something like a smart-phone, laptop or tablet better suited for audio books.

Battery life & waterproofing

This is Amazon’s first e-reader with waterproofing. I haven’t tested the feature but Amazon advertise the device with an IPX8 rating that can withstand immersion in up to 2 metres of fresh water for one hour.

I expected better battery-life, considering the pricing. Based on personal estimation, I found the Oasis’s battery life to be behind the Paperwhite but still last longer than the Aura One. This is not surprising as the Paperwhite has a larger battery capacity (the Paperwhite has a 1320 mAh battery capacity. In comparion, the Kindle Oasis 2 has a 1000 mAh battery capacity). Of course, battery life depends on, for example, front-light intensity, indexing and WiFi.

Too expensive for an e-reader?

Is the Oasis too expensive for an e-reader? Many technology websites answer in the affirmative. I think the device is dedicated to the e-reading community and for this segment of users, the Oasis might be worth-it.

The better question to ask, directed at dedicated e-readers, is if the Oasis is worth-it considering the existence of, for example, the cheaper Kobo H20 and Aura One? In my view, if it is merely a question of hardware then the Aura One would be the better choice. Even so, Amazon’s superior and polished software experience makes the Oasis the better overall e-reader.

Verdict

Initially, when the Oasis was released, I judged the Oasis to be priced too high for what it offers. After using the device, I have change my mind. Yes, the bigger screen finally distinguishes the Oasis compared to the Paperwhite and Voyage. However, more than just hardware, the software is what makes the Oasis standout. Most things just work better, compared to other e-readers e.g. smoother highlighting, syncing of personal documents across Amazon devices/apps, consideration of PDF support and the ability to export annotations in different formats etc.

The downside with the Oasis is that it is not innovative enough. I expect more from a high-end Kindle e-reader. For example, stylus support, a larger screen, better contrast and improved battery life. I think the broader issue is not just cost but also Amazon’s conservative strategy in the development of its e-readers.

To conclude, before the Oasis, the Aura One was the benchmark for a larger e-reader. Yet, if you are willing to go one inch smaller, the Oasis is the one to go for.

Friday, 1 December 2017

PDF support Comparison: Kindle Oasis vs. Kobo Aura One

I’ll be dedicating a longer post to review the Kindle Oasis. In this post I’ll compare the PDF capabilities of the Kindle Oasis and the Kobo Aura One. This isn’t a real contest, the Kindle’s PDF software is vastly superior.

The biggest issue is that Kobo doesn’t allow the user to interact with a PDF document’s text. Instead, what we have is a PDF viewer with some basic tools to fit text to width, fit text to page and to switch either to landscape or portrait mode. It is possible to Navigate table of contents if the PDF supports the feature. Pinch to zoom is a mess but there is the option to incrementally zoom-in via a size scaling bar. There is no option to tap to scroll down a page; to scroll down the user needs to drag downwards. The method is frustrating and slow, as you need to wait for the e-ink display to catch-up with your movements. Again, the biggest issue, other than the slow and frustrating navigation of PDF documents, is that you can’t highlight text, write notes or look-up definitions.

Double tap to zoom, tap to scroll & turning document page (Kindle Oasis)

The Kindle's PDF software allows the user to view a page in portrait or landscape mode, similar to the Kobo Aura One. The user also has the option to change margin size (there are three options). Pinch to zoom is not the best but still better than Kobo’s version of the feature. The best way to zoom-in, in portrait mode, is to double tap on a page. Double tapping removes the margins and, depending on the page size of the PDF, renders text legible in portrait mode. Further, tap to scroll is supported, whether the document is zoomed-in or not. I found it useful that the Oasis’s buttons only turn to the next page of a PDF document, rather than scroll down a page; this is a good implementation as it removes any confusion between page scrolling and page turning. I’ve created an animated GIF (see above) that demonstrates how to zoom-in to remove excessive margins, scroll down a page and then turn a page using the buttons.

One issue that is bothersome is the Kindle's activation of a full page refresh when scrolling or turning a page (with e-books, it is possible to turn-off a full page refresh with every page turn). Finally, all Kindle e-readers allow the user to highlight text, take notes, look-up words in the dictionary, Wikipedia (if on-line) and translate words (of course, this depends on the nature of the PDF document. For example, none of these features are supported with a scanned PDF document).

Update: I've written a correction to this post here.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Increasing the font weight of side-loaded fonts without patching Nickel

Nickel - Kobo's e-reader operating system - only allows the user to increase the font weight of native fonts. It is possible to change the software to activate unsupported features, including the option to change font weight of side-loaded fonts, but this requires patching (see here for further details).

I personally prefer to avoid altering the software unless there is a necessity e.g. installing KOReader for better PDF support. However, similar to activating full screen reading and exporting annotations it is possible to change font weight without patching (the code does not activate the font weight scale). To set the font weight the following code needs to be added to eReader.conf (the file is located in .kobo\Kobo) in the [Reading] section:

readingFontWeight\Bookerly=0.20

The code above changes the weight of 'Bookerly' to 0.20 but the code can be changed to work with any side-loaded font. The weight can also be changed and it might be a good idea to test different weights before identifying what works best. It is also recommended to open and edit the file with Notepad++ to locate the right section to add the code.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Kindle Oasis and PDF support

KOReader, in comparison to Amazon's native Kindle operating system, offers more features for PDF documents. However, KOReader's software is not stable and the interface is convoluted; the KOReader project is an excellent community driven project but there has been no stable release since November 2015. Thus, to get the right version to work with recent devices, e.g. the Kobo Aura One, it is necessary to download and install a nightly build.

Despite the extra features that KOReader supports, I still prefer Kindle's software. In my opinion, what makes the Kindle's software preferable is its simplicity. The menus are simple and clear - there is one display settings menu that changes orientation, margins and increases contrast. The pinch to zoom, relative to other E-Ink e-readers, works well. Further, highlighting is smooth and dictionary, Wikipedia and translation look-up are all supported. In other words, Amazon put some thought into their PDF support and get the necessary features right. This good PDF support is a significant factor that makes the recently announced Kindle Oasis, with its extra screen estate, an attractive e-reader, despite its relatively high pricing.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Simple solution to export annotations in Nickel

Nickel (Kobo's operating system), by default, does not allow the user to export their annotations. However, the feature can be enabled by adding some code. Similar to enabling full screen mode, to remove both header and footer, the user needs to add the following code to the bottom of Kobo eReader.conf using a text editor (the file is located in .kobo\Kobo):

[FeatureSettings]
ExportHighlights=true

With the feature activated, a new option appears to export all annotations to a text file. After exporting the annotations, it is then possible to access the text file in the Kobo drive. For further options, please visit this MobileRead thread.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Overview of eight inch e-readers

The six inch is the dominant e-reader size but there is a niche category of larger e-readers. Below is a list of available eight inch e-readers:
  1. There are two re-branded Boyue T-80 e-readers available through Icarus (Icarus XL) and inkBOOK (inkBOOK 8). I've tried the Icarus XL and inkBook 8 and they are near identical but with differences in the processor used. Both devices run Android 4.2 and utilise the same stock e-reading software developed by Boyue. When I reviewed the Icarus XL, I noted the versatility that Android offers and this is further extended with some Android applications that work well in E-Ink (recently Bookari - an Android e-reader application - developed an E-Ink optimised mode). The biggest issues with the T-80 are - (a) Poor display quality with a lack of contrast and significant problems with ghosting; (b) Under-developed stock firmware with few features. The second issue is resolvable with the option to install third-party Android applications but the first issue, being hardware related, is not. A positive of Boyue's T-80 is the powerful dual core processor that renders large PDF files quickly in comparison to other e-readers. Android and the stronger processor does impact battery life but still gives the user a few days of regular use.  Finally, in comparison to the Kobo Aura One, re-branded Boyue T-80 e-readers are priced too high. The Aura One comes with a vastly superior 300 dpi E-Ink Carta screen and retails slightly higher than the T-80. 
  2. Pocketbook InkPad 840 was one of the earlier eight inch e-readers. I tested the device and noted the lack of contrast, despite a relatively high 224 dpi E-Ink Pearl display, and both erratic software and battery performance. Unfortunately, the device doesn't come with Android and so the stock firmware is a serious limitation. The device's purpose built Linux based operating system is not completely closed and there is the option, for the more proficient user, to install KOReader. The Inkbook's front light - considering this was one of the earlier eight e-readers - is surprisingly good and superior to the Boyue T80. Pocketbook released an updated model - the Pocketbook Inkpad 2 - and state the contrast has been improved. Again, the device is priced too close to the Aura One to make it a plausible option.
  3. Onyx released the Onyx Boox I86ML with a 250 dpi E-Ink Pearl display that runs Android 4. I haven't tested the device but reviews praise the display quality. There is also a version of the Onyx I86ML with 1 GB of RAM (Onyx Boox I86ML Plus). At the moment, it is difficult to find an on-line retailer that sells the device.
  4. Bookeen released the Cybook Ocean 8 in 2014 with under-powered specifications. The Cybook Ocean was initially set to be released late 2013 but came out one year later. I haven't tested the device but reviews are negative.  
  5. Kobo Aura One - technically a 7.8 inch e-reader - is the one to choose. Kobo sells good hardware and its 300 dpi E-Ink Carta doesn't disappoint. Further, the front-light is the best I've seen on an eight inch e-reader. I use the device as my primary e-reader and think the device works well enough with e-books. However, as noted in a previous review, Nickel (Kobo's operating system) is significantly behind in software features compared to Amazon's Kindle line of e-readers. The biggest problem with the software, in my opinion, is the device's poor or near absent PDF support. Installing KOReader is not an ideal solution but it somewhat resolves the problem of poor PDF support. 

Friday, 7 April 2017

Kobo Aura One Review: Despite the flaws, the Kobo Aura One stands-out in the small world of larger e-readers

The Kobo Aura One’s 7.8 screen E-Ink Carta display makes it unique; it is the largest e-reader released by a major vendor since Amazon’s Kindle DX. Expectantly, demand is high. In this review I will focus on the software side and if it maximises on the different use-case possibilities of a larger display.

Hardware 

The 300 PPI display is crisp and sharp. One minor complaint is the Aura One’s flush tablet-like display that slightly affects text contrast – this is possibly due to the screen’s extra layer. Overall, in my view, a flush display does not work with an e-reader screen. The front-light is impressive and uniform, considering the larger eight inch display, and compares well to the Paperwhite (see comparison pictures between the Aura One and Kindle Paperwhite).

An innovative feature, since followed by Tolino with its Vision 4 HD, is Kobo’s ‘Comfort Light’. In the words of Kobo, the Aura One “senses how much light is available, and can automatically adjust the brightness level for you. It can also change the colour of the light”. The auto-brightness light sensor is not new, with Amazon introducing the same feature with Kindle Voyage; what makes ‘Comfort Light’ innovative is the ability to change the colour of the front-light to match the time of day. This feature is similar to blue light filters that many vendors, including Amazon, release with their tablets. I personally turn off the front-light when using an e-reader – to avoid any light emission – but it is a useful feature to ease eye strain for users that don’t mind reading with the front-light on.

Battery life is a negative point. I would estimate the battery life, with both WiFi and front-light turned off, to be between Amazon’s Paperwhite and Android e-readers. The Icarus XL that I reviewed, for example, required a charge within three days of regular use. From my experience, the Aura One has superior battery life compared to the Icarus XL but is significantly behind the Paperwhite. When the Kobo Aura One was released, many users reported problems with excessive battery drain in stand-by mode or when syncing the device. However, a number of updates were since rolled-out and these helped with the battery problems. A problem I noticed – a possible firmware bug – is a sudden ten percent drop in battery when reading – possibly due to background tasks running – and so you need to be mindful that the device is not always reporting the correct battery state. A positive is that the Aura One re-charges quick, compared to other e-readers.

Overall, Kobo clearly put serious thought and consideration with the Aura One’s hardware design and development. The front-light is impressive and uniform for its larger size – far better than the Icarus XL – and the display quality compares well to Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite. Also, the device, according to Kobo, is water-proof for up to 60 minutes in up to two meters of water.

Comparison between Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite & Kobo Aura One (click to enlarge)


Light uniformity comparison between the Kobo Aura One and Kindle Paperwhite (click to enlarge)

Kobo Aura One Comfort Light set at maximum (the light incrementally increases to this reddish/orange shade, according to time of day, when set to auto)

Software 

Nickel – Kobo’s operating system – feels under-developed. First, I will state the positives with Nickel, followed by some problems that I experienced:

Positives

(1) Enhanced typographical options – In comparison to Amazon, Kobo offers some extra typographical options. The user is able to add fonts and change both font weight and text alignment. However, changing font weight, without patching the firmware, is not available with side-loaded fonts.

(2) Pocket & Overdrive integration – It is possible for users to sync their saved articles via Pocket integration, to then read on their device. OverDrive integration allows the user to borrow e-books from their local public library to read on the Aura One.

Negatives

(1) Amazon, understandably, due to scale and size difference, offer superior cloud services. For example, with all Kindle devices, the user is able to sync their e-mailed personal e-books (this includes bookmarks, notes and highlights). Further, when the user emails a document to their device it is then available through the recently released Amazon cloud drive. Kobo, with some consideration, could offer similar services through integrating Nickel with external cloud service providers e.g. Dropbox. Kobo already allows user to send and sync online articles via Pocket integration and so further integration with other services is a viable option.

(2) PDF support is poor – Kobo, similar to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, aim to tie their users to their own e-store. Amazon, however, considers PDF support and offers good features e.g. highlighting, taking notes, translation and increasing PDF contrast. While Amazon’s range of Kindle e-readers may be used as a viable PDF e-reader this is not the case with Kobo. Nickel’s PDF software is, at most, a basic viewer, with no way to interact with the text. There is no possibility to highlight or make annotations and both scrolling to navigate and pinch to zoom are erratic. Another problem, is the lack of tap to scroll and so to scroll the user needs to drag down the screen; this is cumbersome and slow with E-Ink.

(3) Problems with EPUB rendering – Kobo’s e-books come in their own propriety format – KEPUB. KEPUB books render well and are responsive to changes in margins, line spacing and offer further typographical options. However, with EPUB e-books, surprisingly, considering KEPUB is based on EPUB, the Aura One rendering is poor. Basic settings, e.g. margins and line spacing, are not responsive to changes in reader settings. This poor EPUB rendering means it would be better to convert side-loaded e-books to Kobo’s native KEPUB format via Calibre – this isn’t a problem with a few e-books but those with large libraries may find the process a hassle. Amazon, adopt a propriety format of MOBI, with their own e-books, but you still get near identical support with side-loaded MOBI e-books. Of course, Amazon adopting MOBI and not supporting EPUB is a definite negative. 

(4) No direct way to export notes and highlights – There is no way to export personal highlights and annotations or to store the exported content online. Amazon, in comparison, with both personal and purchased books, via their Kindle Application, allow users to export their highlights and annotations to Evernote or via email; further, there is the option to create flash cards for revision. To support similar features, it is possible for Kobo to develop a partnership, similar to Pocket, with Evernote. The partnership would then allow the user to store a notebook of their annotations and highlights in the cloud via Evernote integration. Established Android e-reader applications – for example, Moon Reader and Bookari Reader – allow users to export their annotations to their favourite note taking application.

(5) Forced header and footer – By default there is no way to disable the header or footer – both take up a portion of screen estate. It is possible to add a patch to disable both header and footer but the full-screen patch, sometimes, cuts the text at the edge of an e-book. The issue with a header and footer, in my opinion, substantiates the central problem with Nickel – an operating system with some stand-out features, e.g. Pocket, Over-Drive integration and extra typographical options, but with under-developed and limited e-reading features.

(6) Navigating device folders – This feature is neglected by both Kobo and Amazon. It is possible to organise your side-loaded through folders but there is no option to navigate these folders on the device. Kobo allows the user to create collections, to categorise both purchased and side-loaded books. However, unlike Amazon, Kobo only syncs purchased books to the created collection.

(7) Highlighting text is cumbersome and you need to be careful when dragging to select the required passage. Further, there is some lag when entering text for annotations.

I think the major problem with Nickel is that it was designed primarily to support purchased Kobo e-books and is directed at leisurely reading. Users who wish to use a Kobo device as an all-round e-reader, to interact and engage with an e-book, will find the device’s firmware limiting. Many features, noted above, are easily integrated into Nickel but it seems that Kobo’s views their primary goal to sell fiction e-books (similar observations may be applied to other vendors). I would still say Kobo’s support for KEPUB is good – specifically its expanded typographical settings that others don’t offer – and so the Aura One, despite the noted limitations, is a viable e-book reader. However, the same cannot be said in regard to PDF support.

KOReader 

Unfortunately, due to poor PDF support, installing KOReader is a necessity if the user requires a functional and feature rich PDF reader. Below are some issues to consider with KOReader:

(1) Battery life in KOReader – Compared to Nickel, KOReader is not yet optimised with the Aura One. In comparison to Nickel, and this applies to PDF reading, I noticed the battery drains quicker. In other words, expect battery life to be reduced if you intend to use KOReader regularly. However, there are regular nightly releases of KOReader and battery life continues to be improved. If you are willing to use KOReader then, in my opinion, it is the best PDF reader, at the moment, available for E-Ink.

(2) Central PDF features work well in KOReader – PDF text recognition, highlighting, annotation, cropping, increasing contrast and touch to scroll all work well with the Aura One. Also, compared to Nickel, PDF rendering speed is much better. I personally use KOReader exclusively as a PDF reader and export my annotations offline to the device’s storage. Thus, I haven’t tried more advanced features.

(3) The installation process is not difficult but it is not for the novice user – anything that goes wrong with the e-reader, during the installation process, may void the device’s warranty. I would prefer if Kobo offered a viable PDF reader to avoid third party applications but, at the moment, it is only the option for users that want more from the Aura One.

Overall, if you are looking for a larger e-reader then the Aura One is the one to choose. Smaller vendors, e.g. Onyx and Boyue re-branded e-readers, do not match Kobo for hardware quality. Yes, these e-readers offer greater versatility with Android pre-installed but usually the screen quality is sub-par in comparison to the Kobo Aura One – an e-reader is defined, foremost, by its display quality. If Amazon released an eight inch Kindle then it would be, by far, the stand-out choice. At this time, in the small world of larger e-readers, Kobo Aura One is the best option. Fortunately, due to the community driven KOReader project, the user can use the Aura One as an all-round e-reader, despite the limitations of Nickel.

Pros 

Enhanced typographical options
Pocket and Overdrive integration
Excellent display
Impressive and uniform lighting for a 7.8 inch device
Comfort Light is an innovative feature
Relatively open, with the possibility to install third-party software and patches

Cons 

Restricted software features
Poor PDF support
Slow PDF rendering
Poor EPUB rendering
Sub-par battery life for an e-reader

 Overall Verdict: 7/10

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Kobo Aura One's software

I will be reviewing the Kobo Aura One soon. However, I will be using this post to note one point regarding the device - the software does let-down the overall experience. My experience with the Aura One cements just how superior Amazon's software is compared to Nickel (Nickel is the operating system Kobo built for their e-readers). In the upcoming review I will provide some examples. Despite the software let-down, I like the Kobo Aura One and would easily recommend it over any other eight inch e-reader out there. Of course, in recommending the Aura One, it should be noted that the pool of larger e-readers is small.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Problems with the Kobo Aura One cover?

There are some reports of problems with the Kobo Aura One’s official cover - specifically, some covers fail to put the device to sleep when closed. Kobo decided to put the power button on the back, so it is difficult to find a universal case that is compatible with the device. However, some iPad Mini cases work with the Aura One. Two features identify these compatible cases - first, is the use of elastic bands or flexible bands that holds the device (most iPad Mini cases come with a form fitting hard plastic casing). Second, a large hole at the back for the camera.

The Kobo Aura One is similar to the iPad Mini’s dimensions and, due to this, flexible elastic bands should work with the device. Further, as the device’s power button is placed on the upper left of the device, it matches the location of the iPad Mini’s camera and so it is possible to access the power button. As an example, I’ve found Belkin’s ‘Smooth Bi-Fold Case for iPad Mini’ to be compatible with the Kobo Aura One.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

What is the right e-reader size for PDF files?

The release of the 7.8 inch Kobo Aura One raises the question on what makes the right size to read PDF files. The answer depends on use-case scenarios. For example, many humanities books come in an A5 size and the 8 inch form factor is ideal for these books. On the other hand, science books and complicated PDF files, with a two column layout, require closer to 10 inches to be comfortably read. Similarly complex magazine pages are better suited to larger colour tablets.

Personally, I find the eight to nine inch e-reader to be the right size. At this size there is the right compromise between size for comfortable reading and portability. It is not too small, e.g. six to seven inches, but not too big for one-handed reading. The portability and convenience of a smaller form factor makes a big difference for long reading sessions, especially outdoors or in tight spaces on public transport.  I prefer to read in portrait but can switch to landscape, if half a book page is viewable and text size is legible. With six inch e-readers the landscape view often gives you snippets or small text and it is easier to lose your place within a larger book.

Another important factor to consider, especially with the eight inch e-reader, is the right software to optimise reading with an eight inch screen. With KOReader, for example, it is possible to set reading to scroll mode and alter PDF page margins. Accordingly, many PDF files can be comfortably viewed and navigated, considering the restrictions of a smaller eight inch screen, in portrait mode.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Kobo releases the Kobo Aura One & Kobo Aura (Edition 2)

As expected, Kobo released two e-readers - the Kobo Aura One and the Kobo Aura (Edition 2). The Kobo Aura 2 is a six inch e-reader that comes with an E-Ink Carta screen and a lower 212 ppi. As 'The eBook Reader' states, the Kobo Aura (Edition 2) makes little sense. The Kobo Glo HD is an ereader with 300 ppi and a similar E-Ink Carta screen and is only $10 more than the Kobo Aura Edition 2. The price differential is minimal that it becomes difficult to understand how this device fits in the Kobo e-reader line up.

The 7.8 inch Kobo Aura One, on the other hand, is an innovative e-reader. I am interested to see if Kobo managed to get the front-light to work with the larger display (early reviews appear to be positive about the front-light). With the front-light comes a blue light filter termed 'ComfortLight PRO'. ComfortLight PRO, in the words of Kobo, works by "reducing blue-light exposure, the enhanced front-light technology protects your eyes and provides the best nighttime reading experience. The automatic setting mimics the sun’s natural progression, emitting the optimal brightness and hue based on the time of day". Personally, I generally turn off the front-light but for those wishing to use the front-light, for night time reading, the user is able to change the colour temperature to ease eye fatigue.

The device's let down, judging from this review, is the little work done by Kobo to improve the PDF reading experience. You still can't highlight and annotate and the touch to zoom appears to be inconsistent. Thankfully it might not be a serious problem, as KOReader should release a version for the Kobo Aura One.

Amazon may respond to Kobo, in regards to hardware enhancements. However, judging from the past - as posted before - I don't think Amazon will release a larger e-reader. History tells us Amazon responds to hardware enhancements - e.g. front light and screen resolution - but ignores, since the Kindle DX, screen size differentiation. Also, Amazon operates at a different level to Kobo and may judge a turn of direction, to include a larger e-reader, a risk. The uniform six inch is viewed, by Amazon, as the right size for an e-reader - light and the size of a paperback book. Further, to go large means a re-think of the Kindle line-up. The good thing with the Kobo Aura One is that it is more open than Amazon's Kindle range. Further, with its larger size, coupled with KOReader, it makes an excellent multi-purpose stand-alone e-reader.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Kobo Aura One details & why Amazon may not respond with a larger e-reader

The Kobo Aura One's details are leaked and it confirms a 7.8 inch e-reader. The Aura One is an e-reader with premium specifications - it comes with water proofing, 512 MB RAM, 8GB internal storage and a 300 ppi E-Ink Carta front-lit display. Importantly, the listing states the price at 229 Euros - in comparison the six inch Kindle Oasis is priced at 290 Euros. I don't think Amazon will respond with a larger e-reader. Amazon didn't respond when Kobo released the 6.8 inch Kobo Aura HD in 2013. For Amazon, size doesn't seem an issue and its near complete dominance of the e-book market means it can set its own agenda. At the moment, it aims to gradually improve the range of six inch e-readers, offering choice at that size, but there is no indication it is interested in offering a larger e-reader. However, I could be wrong.

On the other hand, it is the niche vendors that might need to revise their devices and pricing. Since the near uniformity of the six inch e-reader, alternative vendors set-out to meet the demand for larger e-readers. Overall, the quality of these devices are sub-standard, with out-dated hardware and often poor software. Further, as larger vendors neglected the larger e-reader, the price of these devices are inflated. Eight inch e-readers (e.g. Icarus Illumina XL, Pocketbook Inkpad 2 and Onyx Boox i86) retail at a similar price to the Kobo Aura One but with inferior hardware and software (PDF support is poor on Kobo e-readers but there is the option to install KOReader). Unless Amazon releases a larger e-reader or alternative vendors seriously re-consider their offerings then Kobo Aura One is the stand-out and only serious option, at the moment, if Android is a non-issue for the end-user.