Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Verdict

As an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle range and a first-generation mainstream colour e-reader, the Kobo LIbra Colour is a winner in just about every area. The software is packed with features you’ll want to use and the colour screen makes more types of content accessible.

Pros

  • The colour screen does have some benefits
  • The software is really good and has many features not available on Kindle devices
  • Proper page-turn buttons

Cons

  • The whole package is expensive
  • Kobo store is hard to navigate and not as good as Amazon’s alternative

Key Features

  • Colour E Ink diaplay7-inch E Ink Kaleido 3 display, with a 1264×1680 resolution
  • Waterproof bodyIPX8 rating for protection from 2m of water for 60 minutes

Introduction

The Kobo Libra Colour has kicked off a new wave of e-readers with colour displays, and I am already sold.

The colour display here isn’t like the one on an iPad or Android tablet. It’s still the same E Ink tech found on the Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Oasis, just with the added benefit of, well, colour.

Should you buy the Kobo Libra Colour just for the screen? No, I don’t think you should. But as a viable, more open alternative to Amazon’s Kindle behemoth, it is certainly worth considering. Here’s why.

Screen

  • A colour display on an e-reader
  • 7-inch is a good size for an e-reader
  • Various backlight modes

The Kobo Libra Colour stands out from the various Kindle rivals thanks to its colour E Ink display. This is more of a welcome addition rather than a huge single reason to update, at least for the majority of books I read, but it is the natural step forward that I am sure will be commonplace in a few years.

The Libra Colour already seems more advanced as a device than even the very best Kindles on the market simply because of this change.

Kobo Libra Colour front highlight
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The colour display is notable in a few respects. It makes reading graphic novels and children’s books – or pretty much anything with colourful illustrations – a far more complete experience. You don’t get that burst of colour common with high-end OLED panels. Instead the muted colours have more in common with actual printed paper. It looks good, and plenty of tablets are good for reading if punchy colours and high resolutions are important.

Colour has been added to the homescreen, giving more pop to book covers both in your library and the Kobo store. Book covers are also shown in full colour when the Libra Colour is put to sleep. These are all minor changes, but now the tech is out and able to achieve this it seems odd going back to the monochromic Kindle Paperwhite.

Kobo has found some other neat uses for colour, too. Pair the Libra Colour with the £70/$70 Kobo Stylus 2 and you can highlight passages in books, keeping them distinct with various colours.

This stylus also can be used to take notes inside books and in the dedicated notebooks section of the software. It’s an expensive accessory and makes the overall package very pricey, yet it is a nice addition for those who want to add some extra functionality. 

Kobo Libra Colour front reading
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Influx of colour aside, this is a very good 7-inch E Ink display. Resolution flips between 300PPI when reading anything black and white and 150PPI when colour is introduced, both sharp enough to have text look crisp. There’s a light for night reading and this can be warmed up too, making it easier on the eyes in darker rooms. 

Design

  • Waterproof body
  • Multiple smart design choices
  • Physical page turning buttons

If the addition of colour feels like the future of e-readers, the design Kobo has used feels distinctly last-gen. In fact, very little has changed over the previous Libra. This isn’t really a negative, but don’t expect any design flourishes or high-end metal materials like the Kindle Oasis.

For a device that‘s meant to be thrown in a bag and pulled out in various locations, the Libra Colour archives its goal. It’s built out of plastic – a lot of which Kobo says is recycled and ocean-bound, a huge positive – with a textured back that aids grip.

The display is shunted to the side, with the added space housing two very firm page-turning buttons. As someone who laments Amazon’s insistence on making all of its newer devices touch only, the tactility of the buttons here is very welcome. I don’t think I have used the screen once for flipping through a book and I doubt I ever would. The two buttons are very stiff though, and require some force to press.

Kobo Libra Colour back standing
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Like any good e-reader, the Libra Colour is waterproof. It has an IPX8 rating, meaning it can be left in around 2 metres of water for an hour. In real terms, it means it’ll be fine used, and accidentally dropped, in the bath or swimming pool.

There are a few design choices Kobo has made that I wish Amazon would nab for future Kindles. The position of the power button is flush on the back and avoids any accidental presses, while the USB-C position on the side easily allows for charging and reading at the same time.

Features

  • Strong integration with Pocket and Google Drive
  • Kobo Plus monthly subscription service is available

Kobo has a simple approach to software. There are a lot of features here, both for reading and elsewhere, but everything is easily accessible and laid out smartly. There also isn’t an overwhelming desire to force you into buying books from a single source, a real issue with the whole Kindle ecosystem.

You can, of course, get books from the well-stocked Kobo store but there’s proper EPUB support and OverDrive integration. OverDrive lets you borrow books from your local library for free and it works very well if you’ve got a library card.

There’s also Pocket support for saving articles from online sources, another way of getting more content on the device. Kobo’s open approach is so much more welcoming than Amazon’s walled-off alternative.

Of course, Amazon’s dominance over the industry does have some benefits. The Kobo store isn’t laid out well and unless you search specifically for a title, I found it hard to find something new. There’s also no support for Audible audiobooks, meaning you’ll have to use Kobo’s audiobook store or subscribe to its monthly Plus service. Buying audiobooks at full price is expensive, with something like Shogun costing upwards of £30.

Kobo Libra Colour front text
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Bluetooth is onboard for connecting up headphones or speakers for audio output, and there’s dual-band Wi-Fi. There’s no cellular option, so a Wi-Fi connection is always required for online services.

The 32GB of onboard storage is more than enough for huge book collections and plenty of audiobooks while the dual-core chipset makes for a fast and fluid experience.

Battery life is hard to judge on e-readers. While a phone or tablet is judged on whether it can make it through the day, these devices can last weeks – more if you’re only reading on a short train journey each morning. The 2050mAh battery seems capable and the addition of colour doesn’t come with huge endurance drawbacks. 

I charged the device up when I unboxed it and a week later, and after reading one book, it’s down to 70%. By my maths, this should mean a good few weeks between charges and around three to four books. Charging is done via USB-C and a cable is included in the box.

Latest deals

Should you buy it?

You should buy if you want an e-reader with less restrictions

With a wide range of format support, OverDrive, Pocket and Kobo’s store there are loads of ways to find stuff to read on the Libra Colour.

You should not buy if you want access to the best book store

Amazon still has the best ebook and audiobook stores, and if you simply want an affordable reader without a colour display just get the Kindle (2022).

Final Thoughts

The Kobo Libra Colour is a very good e-reader. The colour display isn’t a seismic shift for the market, but now that I have used a reader with one I will struggle to go back to black-and-white Kindles. 

The new tech does have a price premium though, with the £199/$220 price comfortably more than Kindle Paperwhite – our current pick for the best e-reader.

There’s more to the Libra than just a nice screen, though. The design is basic but well thought out, plus it feels very durable and contains recycled plastics. I wouldn’t have an issue chucking this in my bag without any protection. The software is packed with features too, and it doesn’t feel overwhelmed by adverts or too many recommendations.

For anyone tired of Amazon’s tight control of the Kindle ecosystem, the Kobo Libra Colour is a worthy alternative that should give the shopping giant plenty to think about for future Kindle models.

Trusted Score
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star

Sign up for the Trusted Reviews Newsletter

How we test

We test every e-reader we review thoroughly. We use the device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Tested for 10 days

Read books and listened to audio

FAQs

Does the Kobo Libra Colour come with a charger?

You get a USB-C charging cable in the box, but no plug.

What colours does the Kobo Libra Colour come in?

You can get this in either black or white.

Full specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
IP rating
Battery
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Resolution
Ports
Colours

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2003, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.

Trusted Reviews Logo

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the best of Trusted Reviews delivered right to your inbox.

This is a test error message with some extra words