Kobo’s latest eReader promises a touch of luxury in a market awash with budget alternatives. It’s a nice enough product, but I’m not convinced that the pricing is exactly right.
The Aura HD is another e-ink reader in Kobo’s arsenal; this includes models such as the recently discounted Kobo Mini and the backlit Kobo Glo, as distinct from its Android offering, the Kobo Arc
Where the Aura HD differentiates itself is in the combination of a very high resolution e-ink screen combined with backlighting and a battery designed to last a very long time indeed. Kobo’s pitch for the Aura HD is that it’s “designed for readers”. Leaving aside the obvious point that illiterates would be a poor market for an e-reader company to pursue, the idea is that those who do a lot of reading will appreciate a higher-end device.
Kobo Aura HD: On the plus side
The Aura HD’s 6.8″ display screen sports a resolution of 1440×1080, which means that an awful lot of folks reading this will be doing so on a screen with lower resolution. In some ways for e-ink that’s pure excess, but I can’t deny that it does look good, with a very clean and almost paper-like appearance.
It makes reading from the Aura HD quite effortless from an eye strain point of view, although that’s typically not too much of a problem with most e-ink readers anyway.
Kobo’s claim with the Aura HD is that the battery is good for up to two months, based on thirty minutes reading a day. There’s part of my head that says that a “reader” might do more than that per day, but it’s undeniable that the battery does have good capacity; within a week I’d barely taken a quarter off the battery capacity. It charges (and syncs) via MicroUSB, and it’ll supplement its 4GB of onboard storage with microSD cards if you need even more reading space. One nice feature here is that while Kobo has its own desktop software, Macs and PCs can treat the Aura HD as one big storage device, and it’s intelligent enough to sort out books just dragged and dropped that way.
The design of the rear is interesting. It’s presumably meant to be evocative of a stack of paper, and on the plus side, does provide a gripping curve on the back that works reasonably well.
Kobo Aura HD: On the minus side
The unusual design is both a plus and a minus for the Aura HD, because while it provides a gripping point, it also makes it stick out more in a bag. Kobo’s general design has used soft rubberised backs for its ereaders, but there’s none of that here; simply smooth white plastic.
There’s a bigger problem with the Aura HD, however, and that’s…
Kobo Aura HD: Pricing
Kobo’s list price for the Aura HD is $220. A quick trawl around online didn’t find any variance in that pricing, at least not locally.
Kobo Aura HD: Alex’s Verdict
The Aura HD does offer a genuinely nice ereading experience, but I’m not sold that this is quite enough at the asking price. In one sense, the Aura HD does everything right. It’s got a great screen, great backlight and exceptional battery life. The issue here is that it’s the most expensive e-ink product you can buy. I don’t find a non-HD e-ink display that hard on the eyes, but if you did, by way of comparison, Kindle’s Paperwhite can be had for $US119, and the 3G enabled version is still cheaper than the Aura HD.
There’s no shortage of “regular” e-ink readers, and if you can find one, Kobo’s own Mini continues to be sold at the bargain price of $49. $220 is a lot to lay down on a single e-reader — perilously close to tablet money — and while the Aura HD is very nice, I don’t think it quite justifies the price.