Thursday, April 28, 2011

My first impressions of the Kobo WiFi eReader

I finally got around to buying an e-Book reader today and I am now an owner of a brand-new Kobo WiFi eReader. I spent a great deal of time looking into the various options, like the Kindle, and read a lot of reviews of the devices on the market. In the end, going for the Kobo was the most accessible option because I could walk into my local Futureshop and pick it up (it was also on sale, which helped).

This little first impressions isn't going to go into the nitty-gritty details and it's not going to go on a feature comparison spree. I am going to tell you what my needs are and whether the Kobo was up for the challenge.

The screen
I needed a device with a comfortably-sized screen and one that offered quality close to actual print. The Kobo delivers on both of my requirements. The 6" screen feels good (it's about the size of a page of a small paperback) and reading off it feels almost the same as reading an actual book. Some letters at some font sizes may appear slightly grainy if you examine them closely, but I didn't find that annoying or disruptive. I didn't experience any eye-strain after reading at medium font size for about 3 hours under natural light.

One gripe I have with the screen is glare. There isn't much of it, but sitting in direct sunlight produced enough glare to make it annoying and forced me to angle the Kobo in a different way.

The hardware controls
All I needed was something simple, intuitive, and non-intrusive. The controls on the Kobo are super simple: five buttons and a directional pad. Along with the power button on top of the device, the left side houses the Home, Menu, Store, and Back buttons. The buttons are easy to press and are rubberized. I would've preferred the four buttons on the left side to have been on top, as I don't use them much and would prefer two clean sides for a more comfortable grip.

The d-pad is on the right side of the front of the device, which seems a little odd to me. Depending on how I held the Kobo, pressing the d-pad to flip pages wasn't always very convenient and would force me to adjust my grip.

One instance when I wished the Kobo had a physical QWERTY keyboard was when I was putting in my WiFi network key. My key is fairly long and consists of letters and numbers so using the d-pad to pick out the characters on the on-screen keyboard was not a pleasant experience. But since I only have to do that once, it's tolerable. I don't intend on doing on-device purchasing of books or much searching (I will use either my computer or my smartphone for that) so a hardware QWERTY isn't necessary.

The software
In the software department, my needs are simple yet again. All I need my eBook reader to do is store a few books and let me manage my book collection through my computer. The Kobo is happy to oblige. It has 1GB of internal memory which is enough to store quite a few more than a couple of books and is more than I'll ever need. It also remembers where I left off so I can easily get back to the page I was reading after a break.

On the management front, the Kobo does come with Kobo Desktop software. However, I opted not to use it and use Calibre instead. The device came preloaded with 100 classic books which I didn't want to keep on the device. Removing them was quick and easy with Calibre's help. Transferring my ePub collection to the Kobo was also painless. I was all set up and ready to enjoy a book in a matter of a few minutes.

The verdict
All I wanted was a simple e-Book reader that wouldn't strain my eyes, offer easy book management, and was comfortable and pleasant to use overall. The Kobo delivers on all three. While I've only had the Kobo WiFi eReader for less than a day, I can safely say that I'm happy with it.

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