In recent years as their technology improves and prices drop, ereaders have increasingly become a favorite holiday gift. But which ereader should you choose? The two most widely recognized ones are of course Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. But there’s a very good third option – an ereader by Canadian company Kobo. But how good is the Kobo Glo? Read on to find out.
When I hold the Kobo Glo my first thoughts are: “This is what an ereader should look like.” Hearing that, you may therefore think the Kobo Glo is some kind of machine-crafted aluminum unibody device that was designed by Jony Ive. But it’s not – the Kobo Glo is anything but. Matter of fact, it’s made out of your average lightweight plastic. But it’s that simple white plastic body that fits just perfectly in your hand that is the reason I like the design so much.
It’s not showy. It’s not “techie” looking. It just looks like a very simple physical “frame” holding the text that is a book. I think that was Kobo’s intention and I think it’s admirable. After all, ereaders get all the press, but it’s the books that matter, right?
The Glo’s measurements are 114 x 157 x 10 mm (4.5 x 6.2 x 0.4 in) and it weighs just 185 grams—both the size and weight contributing to the pleasant experience of holding it in the hand for long periods. But besides the drop-dead simple design, another thing I really like about the Kobo Glo is that is has no physical buttons of any kind to move through the pages of a book, with its touchscreen handling all navigation.
For some ereaders that would be a problem but luckily the Kobo Glo has an incredible responsive touch screen and OS, so there’s really no need for any physical buttons.
Flipping the Kobo Glo over, you’ll find a removable back plate that can be swapped out with different colors. The unit I tested had the “Silver Star” colour plate, but they are also available in “Black Night,” “Pink Sunset,” and “Blue Moon.”
Display and Touchscreen
The Kobo Glo has a 6-inch XGA Pearl E Ink touchscreen with a 1024×768 resolution in a 16-level grey scale. That puts it at about 167 ppi. The screen is lit from the top down with a built-in “ComfortLight” technology, which isn’t all that different from what you’ll find aboard competing ereaders.
But don’t let marketing speak like “ComfortLight” sway you. What matters is how the screen and a book’s text looks to your eye—no matter what it’s called. Not that Kobo needed a fancy name for its screen tech as it’s one of the most beautiful ereader screens I’ve used to date.
The light is cast evenly across the display. It’s a very soft glow and is not harsh in the slightest. Reading it in a totally dark room was as comfortable on my eyes as reading it in a fully lit one. And the text, while nowhere near as sharp as the text on an iPad with Retina display, is pretty darn sharp with a contrast that could give the Kindle a run for its money.
The Kobo Glo sports a Freescale Solo 6 1 GHz processor; but again, don’t get too caught up in the official specs. What matters with an ereader is how fast pages load and turn, and how responsive the touchscreen is.
The responsiveness of the touchscreen is where the Kobo Glo really shines. None of my taps were ever misread, nor did I need to tap something again in order for a tap to register. Tapping a book on the homescreen saw it open within a second, ready and waiting for me to read it. Page turns were also very fast—so fast it’s hard to measure, but I would put them at less than half a second per turn.
To really verify how quickly the screen was registering my touch, I opened the included Sketch app on the Kobo Glo and was pleased to find there was no lag time between the line I was drawing and my finger as I ran it across the screen.
Software, Content and OS
The Kobo Glo has one of the more customizable reading experiences out of the ereaders I’ve tried. This is good for people that really like to customize the look and feel of their ebooks. But it could also lead to some confusion for those less technically savvy. For example, the Glo offers eight fonts with 24 different font sizes and further allows you to customize their weight and sharpness settings. Because I like tweaking my devices, I found this helpful. But again, all those settings could easily confuse my grandma.
The homescreen is nice and simple. The Reading tab shows you your five most recent books as thumbnail icons. Tap one to open it up. Below the book icons you can delve into your entire library, find more books to read, and view your “reading Life” stats, such as how many books you’ve read, pages you’ve turned, and total number of hours read. It’s a fun way to keep track of your reading habits.
Under the Discover tab, you’ll find spotlighted books to buy that may be of interest to you. At the bottom of the homscreen you’ll find the brightness slider tool. Tap it to adjust the screen brightness on your Glo.
Besides reading your books, you can also do the normal assortment of tasks like make notes, highlight text, and share your reading stats socially on Facebook and Twitter. A nice little feature of the Glo software is the extra apps that can be found in the Settings screen under “Extras.” These include a Chess and Sudoku game, the aforementioned Sketch pad app, and a web browser.
Multimedia and storage
The Kobo Glo sports 2 GB of internal storage with a micro SD card slot capable of taking a 32GB card. Some of that 2GB is taken up by the software and OS, but you should still have over 1GB to store all your ebooks. That will allow you to store about 1000 books, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever need to insert a micro SD card.
The Kobo store itself offers over 3.5 million eBooks, newspapers, and magazines, including over 1 million free titles. Besides ePub, supported file formats are PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, TXT, (X)HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR. Noticeably absent is the Kindle file format, but that’s how Amazon wants it.
You’ve got the normal range of Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and a micro USB port to plug your Kobo into a computer or wall charger. The Kobo Glo does not offer 3G, but that’s something I feel is almost entirely pointless on an ereader.
Battery and power
With the Wi-Fi turned off Kobo says the Glo offers over one month of reading time with the ComfortLight off, and “up to” 70 hours of continuous usage with the ComfortLight on.
I didn’t have the review unit I tested long enough to confirm those stats, but after spending about an hour reading with the ComfortLight on, the battery meter dropped only from 70% to 67%, which sounds about right considering their claimed battery life. Still, it seems like an ereader of this quality should have a longer battery life capacity.
For a suggested retail price of £99.99 the Kobo Glo is twice as expensive as the Nook, but still £10 cheaper than the new Kindle Paperwhite. But the Glo more than makes up for its double price over the Nook in both form and function, and at £10 cheaper than the Kindle it still comes in ahead considering it’s physically smaller and lighter.
If you aren’t already tied to Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem and want an exceptionally good, mid-priced ereader, get the Kobo Glo. The ComfortLight, the responsive touchscreen, and the OS make this an ereader that is just too good to pass up.