This is Kobo’s latest attempt to muscle more of the ebook reader market away from Amazon. The Kobo Aura HD’s main selling point is its ultra-sharp 6.8-inch screen that, thanks to its 1,440 x 1,080 resolution, is 20% sharper than the Kindle Paperwhite. Neatly, it’s around 20% more expensive than the Paperewhite, too, so which is the more telling statistic?
Amazon has always had a slight edge over rivals in the design stakes, but the Kobo Aura HD does more than most to redress the balance. It’s available in Ivory, Espresso and Onyx – that’s white, brown and black to the rest of the English-speaking world – and the rear has two ridges that make it easier to hold in one hand. They work, very well in fact, as the Kobo Aura HD sits snugly in your hand despite the fact it’s a little over 20g heavier than the Kindle Paperwhite.
So far it’s good news, then, and while superficially the Kobo Aura HD is no great looker, ebook readers are best when they’re discreet and simple and the Kobo fits both bills. Our only slight grumble, and it is only slight, is that one small segment of the front-fascia of our review sample didn't clip perfectly to the rear section, resulting in a barely audible creaking noise when squeezed. It’s a trivial issue, but one that shows the build quality falls just short of flawless.
Ebook readers are rarely ‘feature packed’ but the Kobo Aura HD does better than most. Kobo quotes 4GB of built-in storage, though only 3.17GB of that is free to actually use. That’s ample for…well…more ebooks than we can count, but unlike any Amazon Kindle there’s a microSD slot as well, which supports up to 32GB cards.
That’s overkill for ebooks – the Kobo Aura HD doesn’t support audio books – but it does make transferring large book collections from one reader to another a good deal easier. Collections are quickly and efficiently imported the moment you insert a card, too.
Nestled next to the microSD card slot is a miniUSB port – a standard one so that, should you forget or lose the provided cable, it won’t be hard to find an alternative. Battery life, incidentally, is ‘up to two months’ though Kobo also claims ‘up to one month’ when the light is used for 30 minutes per day. We haven’t had the Kobo long enough verify these claims, but our battery is hovering around the 80% mark after a week’s use – with and without wi-fi – which puts it on target for four to five weeks in normal use.
There’s a smattering of ‘Extra’ features tucked away in the settings. These include Chess, Solitaire, Word Scramble, a sketch pad and Sudoku – all, bar one, useful commuter time killers. There’s also a web browser, not that you’ll need it unless you’re logging into a Wi-Fi hotspot.