The Kobo family has been joined by Aura HD – an eReader with integrated front light and high-resolution screen. The Japanese company’s new top ebook reader can now pitch against the competing Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Take a look at our review of the Kobo Arc too.
Shaken out of its brown card box, the flagship Aura HD initially disappointed us by not having the tactile quilted feel of the Kobo Touch.
The back panel here has four irregular plastic panels joined together at shallow concertina-like angles to help the device fit the hand.
There are three colours to choose from: Espresso, Ivory and Onyx. Just like the Kobo Touch the Aura HD requires Kobo Desktop App to be installed on a computer before the first use, available for Windows and OS X. This app also allows you to buy books and browse through the Aura when it’s connected.
Navigation is still through the touchscreen, with simple single-touch dabs made to leaf through virtual pages.
At 240 g it’s heavier by 40 g than Kindle’s Paperwhite but it still feels like it weighs next to nothing in actual use. Small and light it’s a perfect fit for every handbag.
Downloading books from the Kobo Store is not a problem. Uploading books from the computer – that was a bit more difficult and it’s not easy to find help on the website. Imported PDFs were not immediately recognised by the reader and were not visible within the app when reader was connected to computer. We had to restart the Kobo Aura HD a few times for our own imported books to appear.
The Aura HD takes a 6.8-inch E Ink screen, with 1440 x 1080 pixels. That gives it a decent Retina-approaching resolution of 265 dpi which makes font letters look really crisp and sharp. Even pictures, when viewed without the light on, looked like real photographs, rather than photos shown on a screen of an electronic device.
Page turns, when the screen must refresh, still suffer the usual E Ink lag
But the front reading light is a wonderful thing. Reading by day or night was never easier, whether at night outside on a dark train platform or under broad daylight. The screen is very responsive, sometimes almost too sensitive. Unfortunately multi-touch gestures, as found on the Kobo Touch, are gone.
Just like all other Kobo products Aura provides us with Awards and statistics on our reading habits. All shareable via Facebook of course and switchable.
A built-in dictionary is provided by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate, which gives useful basic definitions when required, but compared to the Kindle or iBooks dictionary it’s not so informative.
The Aura HD includes 4 GB of flash storage built-in, which can by extended by 32 GB with a microSDHC card. The existing storage is more than plenty for ebooks, of course, which take up so little space compared to music and video. There is no choice when it comes to wireless connections – the Aura is a Wi-Fi-only device.
We found battery life to be very good. With Wi-Fi and ComfortLight switched every time we used it, and an average 45 minutess reading every day, it lasted for 23 days.
Besides the efficient LED lighting, the battery is only exercised by screen refreshes, and over that time period we read three-quarters of a 650-page biography.