The Kobo Aura HD is a new, limited-edition "luxury" ereader aimed squarely at high-volume readers. Boasting an enlarged 6.8-inch e-ink screen with 265 dpi, 4GB of inbuilt storage, oodles of premium features (including an inbuilt light) and a blatantly stylish finish, it's essentially the coffee table book of ereaders. Read on for our first impressions.
The Kobo Aura HD's main claim to fame is its WXGA+ Pearl e-ink screen which has an impressive resolution of 1080×1440 and 265 dpi. At 6.8 inches, its screen offers an additional 30 per cent reading space compared to the majority of ereaders on the Australian market.
Other notable highlights include 4GB of inbuilt storage (compared to 2GB found on most Kindle devices), a front-lit light boasting even, full-screen illumination, Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n, a faster 1GhZ Freescale i.MX507 processor and support for EPUB and Adobe DRM file formats. If Kobo is to be believed, the battery will last for around 500 hours of continuous reading; even if you always keep the light on.
According to Malcolm Neil, Kobo APAC's director of content acquisition and publisher relations, the Kobo Aura HD is a response to customer demand for a "premium" HD ereader with extra screen real-estate; something that is hard to come by in Australia.
"With the release of Aura HD, we tried to match what readers are looking for," Neil said. "That immersive experience they get when they open a book was one of the prime drivers. The larger screen size was probably the most important thing for high-volume readers; these are people who typically read a book a week."
The boost in resolution was also a direct response to requests from customers. "They wanted a crisper viewing experience, particularly for books with illustrations and line drawings in them. Plus, if they're reading in a smaller font, the crispness of the 265 dpi makes all the difference."
Naturally, an ereader lives and dies by the pricing and availability of its ebooks. Neil reckons the Kobo platform comfortably trumps its rivals in this area.
"Our content library stacks up against what is actually available on a Kindle for an Australian customer. With the exception of self-published stuff, I'd be very surprised if there was a book on Kindle that isn't on Kobo and I wouldn't be surprised if we have quite a few that they don't."
We've been playing around with the Aura HD for a couple of days now and can report that the screen is indeed capable of producing extremely sharp text (and bigger fonts, if you're eyes aren't what they used to be). The inbuilt light also lives up to Kobo's claims, producing an even swathe of light that basically replicates a tablet display at the brightest setting.
The controls, meanwhile, will be instantly familiar to anyone who has handled a touch-based ereader. We found the onscreen icons to be highly responsive, although they may be a little on the small side for older readers. Finding your way back to the home screen is also initially confusing, although with a bit of practice, everything became second nature.
If we had one caveat, it would have to be the price of the device. With an Australian RRP of $219.99, it is only slightly cheaper than a Google Nexus 7. In addition to offering the full gamut of tablet functionality, the Nexus 7 is a pretty decent ereader in its own right -- a strength it shares with most other tablets.
According to Neil, what the Aura HD provides over its feature-packed Android and iOS rivals is a precise, dedicated reading experience uncluttered by additional bells and whistles.
"In essence, [our customers] want to get the same experience they can get from reading a book and they were quite upfront about this. They just want it to work well and to look good. To use a book analogy, it's like a limited edition demi-hardcover."
The limited-edition Kobo Aura HD will be available from select Australian suppliers in June for $219.99.