16/04/2013 14:45 | By Richard Melville, contributor, MSN Tech

Kobo Aura HD ereader review

Does Kobo's newest ereader have what it takes to steal the Kindle's crown?

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Kobo Aura pictures

What’s great?
HD screen, great battery, huge storage and touch screen functions.

What’s not?
Slightly heavier than a normal Kindle.

The bottom line:
A premium price ereader but it beats the Kindle on build quality, usability and battery life and has a better screen too. The only question is will you pay £139 when a standard Kindle is £69?

Kobo Aura HD review on MSN Tech (© Matt Farrington Smith)

Kobo Aura HD: Review

The battle for the best ereader on the market has started again in 2013. In the left corner, there’s Amazon with the backlit Kindle Paperwhite and, from 25 April, there’s Kobo with the Kobo Aura HD which has essentially doubled the performance of a standard Kindle and the price tag at the same time. At £139, however, it’s still keenly priced for readers who don’t want the glare and fatigue that comes with reading on an iPad Mini or Kindle Fire.

Kobo Aura HD: Build

The Kobo might be slightly heavier than a Kindle but it’s still a featherweight compared to mini tablets and the unusual ridged back actually makes it easy to hold. The power and light buttons are solid as is the frame and everything feels rugged. Tapping the screen very hard doesn’t cause any flex and we’d happily throw this in a bag without a cover, though the official SleepCover does look appealing.

Kobo Aura HD (© Richard Melville)

Kobo Aura HD: Usability

The fact that the Kobo Aura HD is touch screen makes everything easy, especially if you’re used to the technology and find several buttons counter intuitive. The menus are clear and the power and light buttons are easy to use too. The ten page guide that you’ll see first time around replaces a manual and you’ll be up and running in a couple of minutes.

The library system is clearly laid out and you can purchase books over Wi-Fi or sync with your laptop. Importantly, you don’t need a laptop to buy and download books, just a home or cafe Wi-Fi connection and your debit card. The HD screen means you can fit slightly more on the 6.8 inch screen by shrinking the font size and that means less page turns. The act of page turning is a simple right to left swipe which feels natural compared to a book too.

Kobo Aura HD (© Richard Melville)

Kobo Aura HD: Performance

The HD screen is the key USP here and it works brilliantly, even though the screen is based around black and white E ink technology. As usual, it results in a comfy read on the eyes but images and book covers have noticeable clarity against a standard Kindle. There’s 265 pixels per inch compared to 167 pixels on the £69 Kindle. The 4GB storage is impressive, able to store around 300 books, meaning you’ll be unlikely to need the Micro SD card slot to expand the storage.

Battery life is quoted as two months, double the Kindle which is useful, rather than breath-taking and adds to the weight. After all, who finds themselves away from a power socket for more than a month?

We’re not sold on the social network features (which can be turned off) and ‘Reader Life’ rewards and challenges set by Kobo but there’s no denying that the operating system looks more advanced than the one offered by Amazon’s Kindle and gives you a more modern, web browsing feel to previewing books and magazines.

The Kobo does feel more book-like than a Kindle and for some, that’s a price worth paying, even if the library isn’t as truly comprehensive as the Amazing offering, especially with the Amazon Prime book service.

Kobo Aura HD review (© Matt Farrington Smith)

Kobo Aura HD: Verdict

The Kobo is the best e ink ereader in town but at a price, both physical and in terms of pure content compared to Amazon. However, it’s the gadget that supports WH Smiths, local book shops and offers an increasing amount of comics, graphic novels and fiction from new writers unable to break in to the crowded jumble sale of books on Amazon.

The HD screen and variable backlight is worth the premium price alone and the battery life and giant storage are nice if non-essential extras. On paper, it beats the Kindle Paperwhite and while an ereader will never replace a physical book for some, this is as close as a gadget has come.

4 stars

Kobo Aura HD: Available now, £139 - check the latest price with Bing

Also on MSN Tech:
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Nook HD review

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