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.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Is it worth upgrading to the Kobo Forma?

Is it worth upgrading from the Aura ONE to the Kobo Forma? In short, the answer is no. Even if you don't own an e-reader, the Aura ONE is the preferable option. Below are some reasons to not upgrade or choose the Forma:
  • The Kobo Forma might have different dimensions but there is no significant screen size increase diagonally (the Forma's mimicking of the Kindle Oasis 2 is described as an 'ergonomic design' by Kobo). Rather, I think some might prefer the Aura ONE's dimensions that give it the feel of an A5 size book.
  • Both devices have an identical battery capacity, i.e. 1,200 mAh. 
  • Both devices have water-proofing.
  • You don't get a performance bump with the Kobo Forma as both devices run on the same processor (NXP i.MX6).
  • Both devices support comfortLight PRO. 
  • Both devices have the same RAM (512 Mbytes) and storage (8GB).
Other than 0.2 inches screen size increase, what extra features do you get with the Kobo Forma? Physical page buttons, auto-rotation, a robust E-Ink Mobius screen and a weight decrease from 226 grams to 197 grams. I don't think these extras warrant the Forma's price difference. As I will soon post, I would pick the Aura ONE over the Kindle Oasis 2 too. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Kindle Paperwhite is finally updated

I thought Amazon wasn't going to update any Kindle in 2018 but I got it wrong. Amazon, with little fuss, updated the Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle Paperwhite 4 is a typical Kindle update, i.e. incremental with just enough to justify an overdue refresh.

The Kindle Paperwhite keeps the six-inch display (something expected considering the 'premium' Kindle Oasis 2 has a seven-inch display). Storage goes up to 8 GB or 32 GB for the extra space required due to Audible support. There is also water-proofing, Bluetooth support, an extra LED for the front light and the weight is decreased to 182 grams.

The Paperwhite 4 is also more robust than the previous generation and is designed to withstand small drops. There is no indication that the Paperwhite 4 is using E-Ink Mobius, so it is not clear what Amazon did to make the screen more robust. Due to the extra features and storage, Amazon has increased the pricing from £109.99 to £119.99.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Pixel Slate is a niche two-in-one for dedicated Google users

Google just released the Pixel Slate. It is an impressive device but expectantly - following the Apple and Microsoft trend - pricing is inflated. The Intel Celeron model starts at £549 (add an extra £189 for a keyboard)! To compare, the Acer C302 Chromebook Flip with an Intel M3 processor is priced at £500 and can be bought on sale for £400. If the Pixel Slate sold the entry-level configuration with an M3 processor it might make the starting price acceptable.

Pricing aside, I think Google is taking a specific angle with the Pixel Slate: a device that synthesises desktop and mobile computing environments. The operating system is built around the desktop Chrome browser. At the same time, there is access to mobile platform applications. The Surface two-in-one line offers desktop computing and Apple's iPad-Pro line is a traditional tablet running a mobile operating system. Slowly Google is attempting to bridge the divide between desktop and mobile platforms and this can be further seen with the recent beta support of Linux applications.

Yet, despite trying to take on Microsoft and Apple, the Pixel Slate is a niche product. The Slate's inflated price might be a put-off for many users, especially considering that there are more powerful and better equipped Microsoft laptops at similar prices (Apple laptops are even priced similar to the high-end Pixel Slate configuration). The user-base of Chrome OS are not power users and might not need anything beyond an M3 processor. As stated, something like the ASUS C302 Chromebook Flip is a better choice. Of course, for Google fans, the Pixel Slate offers the very best of all things Google. For this small user-base, loyalty comes first and other products might not be considered. 

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.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Amazon focuses on Alexa enabled devices and neglects the Kindle

Continuing the focus on Alexa functionality, Amazon announced a range of new Alexa enabled devices (I think some of these devices, e.g., the Amazon Basics Alexa-powered microwave, are gimmicky). We've also seen this Alexa focus with the so-called new update of the Amazon Fire HD 8 - an update that wasn't really an update but instead focused on the show mode charging dock.

I think Amazon will continue to market their e-readers but there is a realisation that e-reader ownership continues to drop. A new Kindle Paperwhite, for example, might not alter this trend. The Kindle Oasis, on the other hand, is marketed to the committed digital reader that will pay extra for a premium device. Considering the e-reader trend, I cannot see Amazon updating the Kindle Basic or the Paperwhite in 2018 and the Alexa related hardware event confirms the neglect of the Kindle.