Kobo Aura One review: A great Kindle alternative


Amazon’s Kindles sell like hotcakes every year, and for a while it looked like it had driven all its other competitors into the ground, with Barnes & Nobles’ Nook eReaders being one of the biggest casualties. Even Kobo, arguably Amazon’s biggest rival, went silent for a while, but now it’s back with an eReader that’s bigger and better than ever.

Enter the Aura One, a premium device with a massive 7.8in screen that has its sights set firmly on Amazon’s Kindle Voyage and Kindle Oasis. It’s also the first eReader in the world to come with a front-lit display that’s been specifically designed to reduce the amount of blue light it produces, so it should be a little easier on the eyes at night. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also rated as IPX8 waterproof up to 2 metres for 60 minutes, so you can read in the bath or by the pool without worrying about breaking it.

Find out the biggest differences between the Kindle and the Kobo 

Design

However, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s quite a lot larger than your typical eReader. Thanks to its 7.8in display, it’s almost more akin to a small tablet like the iPad Mini 4. This means more words per page, but it’s also quite cumbersome compared to the rest of its eReader rivals. For instance, it’s around 16mm wider than its 6in Kindle rivals, and its weight of 230g makes it almost twice as heavy as a standalone Oasis without a case. The Kindle Voyage, on the other hand, weighs just 180g.

Kobo Aura One logo back

A bigger display also makes it more difficult to hold one-handed, and the added girth takes some time getting used to. I’m much more at home with skinnier eReaders, for example, and I wasn’t able to quite wrap one hand around this one, especially as it’s pretty much the same size as your typical hardback.

As a result, the Aura One probably isn’t the best companion for packed commuter trains and buses. Of course, if you’re a two-handed reader or tend to read in bed or curled up on your sofa, you’ll feel right at home, even if the rear power button to wake it up is a little cumbersome to use.

It’s also made out of rather cheap and tacky-looking plastic, which pales in comparison to the stunningly designed Kindle Voyage and its even fancier Oasis sibling. You’ll be forever cleaning the Aura One as well, as it likes to keep hold off those greasy fingerprints while you’re reading.

Display and features

Design niggles aside, though, the Aura One’s 1,872 x 1,404 resolution display looks stunning. With a pixel density of 300ppi, it’s just as sharp as the Kindle Voyage and Oasis, and it was only when I moved in super close I noticed some jagged edges around a few letters. At normal reading distance, however, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Kobo Aura One corner logo

That said, the Aura One’s E-Ink Carta display did look noticeably duller than the Oasis when I compared them side by side, and black text didn’t look quite as deep. That’s not to say text looked bad; it’s just you don’t get that striking sense of contrast when reading the same book on a Kindle.

However, the Aura One’s biggest attraction is the ambient light sensor, which automatically tunes the screen brightness to match your current lighting conditions. The Kindle Voyage has this as well, but the Aura One goes one further with its ComfortLight Pro filter, which filters out blue light for a better reading experience after dark. Set a bedtime hour, for instance, and the screen will mimic the sun’s natural progression as it sets and rises, reducing the amount of blue light as it gets darker and making the screen appear warmer.

It’s an incredibly useful feature and knocks out the hassle of having to periodically tinker with display settings each time you read before bed. I normally read on my phone at night and get quite bad eye strain, but I had no such problems when I used the Aura One.

Interface

Kobo’s interface is a simple one and, much like Amazon’s offerings, is incredibly easy to use. The homepage is nice and slick and your library can be navigated by touch without any hassle. The Aura One gives you plenty of choice when it comes to font types and sizes when you’re reading, too, and you can also adjust margins, highlight passages, write notes and look up words. These features are available in Amazon’s Kindles as well, but it’s welcome to see them here nonetheless.

Kobo Aura One side

You can link it to Facebook to let your friends know what you’re reading – although I’m sure they don’t really want to see you’re reading 50 Shades of Grey for the fourth time – but it lacks some of the other social features you’ll find on a Kindle, such as Goodreads support and the ability to post passages to Twitter.

It does, however, support more file formats than Amazon’s Kindles, giving you greater flexibility when it comes to buying books. Whereas a Kindle ties you into buying books exclusively from Amazon, the Aura One supports EPUB, EUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, XHTML, RTF, CBZ and CBR files. What’s more, Kobo’s library lending programme means you can also use your Aura One to borrow eBooks straight from your own public library for free as long as you have a library card.

Battery life and storage

The only downside is that the Aura One doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expanding its storage, so you’ll have to make do with the 8GB of storage it has on board. However, this should still provide plenty of room for all your eBooks, and you can always delete and redownload them again at a later date if you find yourself running out of room.

Kobo Aura One power button

Battery life, meanwhile, is rated to last for up to one month, but this will obviously decrease depending on how long you spend reading each day. I often read for at least three hours a day, for instance, but it was still above 50% even after three days of use, so heavy bookworms should still get at least a week out of it before having to charge it up again.

Conclusion
Kobo Aura One main alt

The Kobo Aura One may have its downsides, but this is still one of the best Kindle competitors we’ve seen in recent years. Its ComfortLight Pro feature goes one better than the Kindle Voyage’s ambient light sensor and its waterproof protection means you read in more places without risk of breaking it. Its wide file support also makes it more flexible than a Kindle, but Amazon still has the edge when it comes to pricing and overall range. Of course, at £190, it’s not exactly cheap, but if you’re after a book-sized eReader for reading at night, then it’s definitely worth the extra investment. It wins a Recommended award.

Buy the Aura One now from Kobo

Hardware
Screen size 7.8in
Screen resolution 1,872 x 1,404
Storage 8GB
Memory card None
Dimensions 195 x 138 x 6.9mm
Weight 226g
Battery life One month
Networking 802.11n
Ports Micro USB
Format support
eBook support ePub, ePub3, PDF, MOBI, CBZ, CBR
Other file support JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, XHTML, RTF

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