Kobo Glo HD review: Better than the Kindle Voyage?
The e-reader market has been hit hard by the advent of tablets, as their high-resolution displays and auto-brightness features make reading onscreen more appealing than ever. However, there’s still something to be said for the feel and simplicity of an e-reader like the Kobo Glo HD.
E-readers don’t pretend to be able to do everything bar brew a cuppa. They do one thing, and one thing only, which is what makes them such an appealing prospect for book lovers. The question is, for £109, can the Glo HD make a dent in Amazon’s dominance of the e-reader market?
Kobo Glo HD review: design and features
Rakuten’s tagline for the Kobo Glo HD is that it’s “the most book-like e-reader” around – a laudable ambition, but one that isn’t reflected particularly in the design of the device.
It has a fairly bland, matte-plastic body that borders a recessed touchscreen, and a dimpled, rubberised plastic back providing grip. Measuring 115 x 9 x 156mm (WDH), the Glo HD is a shade thinner, shallower and shorter than Amazon’s Paperwhite, and a fraction thicker and lighter than the Kindle Voyage.
Aesthetically and in terms of build quality, it lags behind Amazon’s flagship e-reader, and it certainly can’t compete with the feel and tactile experience of reading a real book. On the plus side, though, the rubberised finish makes the Glo HD comfy to hold, which is an important consideration.
In terms of what it offers for the money, the Kobo Glo HD is a highly enticing product. It has a 6in, 1,448 x 1,072 E Ink Carta screen with a pixel density of 300ppi – the same as the far more expensive Kindle Voyage.
It has an integrated light that, with the brightness kicked up to full, beams out at a respectable maximum luminance of 115cd/m2. That’s slightly behind the Kindle Voyage’s 134cd/m2, but it still whitens the screen nicely in the daytime and leaves enough adjustment to make reading in darker conditions comfortable.
However, automatic brightness – a feature found on the Kindle Voyage – is conspicuous by its absence. Countless times I would switch the Glo on in a dark room only to be blinded by the light. And, occasionally, I’d accidently switch off the light completely, unable to turn it back up until I’d switched on a nearby light to see what I was doing.
Despite that black mark, reading on the Kobo Glo HD is a pleasurable experience. The E Ink Carta display delivers crisp and sharp text against a bright white background. In this respect, as Rakuten promises, it really does feel like you’re reading from the printed page.
Page turns using the infrared touchscreen are quick and simple, too. Fans of physical buttons will be disappointed, but turning the page over with a flick of the thumb doesn’t take much getting used to. Even with the Kobo set to fully refresh with every page turn, it doesn’t feel too sluggish.
If you opt to have pages refresh every five to ten pages, response times are even quicker, and there’s little to no apparent ghosting. Even comics remain sharp after multiple page turns.
Kobo Glo HD: software and interface
Kobo Glo HD boasts the same tile-based homescreen as its siblings, providing an easy way to get an overview of what you’re reading and a reasonably unintrusive way for Kobo to suggest new titles to readers.
For some reason, Kobo likes to give you obscure stats and achievement badges related to how much you’ve read and how quickly you’ll finish a book. This is a touch patronising, especially since most people who make an effort to buy a dedicated e-reader don’t need to be reminded to read.
But otherwise the usability and content on offer is pretty good. While Rakuten can’t match Amazon’s exhaustive and ever-growing library, it still has four million titles on offer, and few major modern releases are missing. And, don’t forget, the Kobo ecosystem is more open than Amazon’s, allowing you to read books you’ve purchased from almost anywhere, thanks to support for EPUB files and Adobe Digital Editions.
Elsewhere, the Kobo Glo HD also allows you to choose from ten font styles and 24 font sizes, and even adjust the sharpness and weight to your preference. You can also alter how you scroll through pages and access menus and the homescreen. Essentially, you can tailor the reading experience to precisely fit your preferences.
Kobo Glo HD: verdict
The Kobo Glo HD may not have the premium style and sheen of Amazon’s Voyage, then, but for the price you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better. It’s £69 cheaper than the Voyage, and the same price as a standard Kindle Paperwhite, compared with which the Kobo is clearly superior in hardware terms.
If you’ve already invested in Amazon’s ecosystem, it’s hard to recommend anything other than a Kindle, with Amazon’s bookstore off-limits here. But, if you’re open-minded on where you buy your ebooks, you could do far worse than the Kobo Glo HD.