6 February 2013

REVIEW: Kobo Touch

Not a new product but one that we at The Test Pit have gotten fully to grips with over the past three months. With an increasing number of eReader options available to consumers, and after fiddling with quite a few different makes and models, we have to admit that the Kobo Touch is our fave by a long shot.

It’s tough to be a Kobo (or for that matter a Nook or any other kind of eReader) because people have the tendency to refer to any e-ink reader as a Kindle, just as some will constantly call any tablet an iPad. Mostly our mums. But just as the debate will rage between what mobile operating system is best, iOS or Android, so people waffle on about Kindle versus everything else. We opt for everything else.

The Kobo Touch is a dream to hold. Seriously, the soft-feel plastic case is gentle on your mitts and an actual pleasure to grip. This is mostly due to the quilted back – not actually quilted mind, but rather raised and bumpy with a velvety feel. Despite the ‘soft-as-a-kitten’s-cuddle’ feel, the Touch is solidly built but surprisingly light.

On the outside you have the sleep/wake slider on top, a mini USB charging/syncing port on the bottom and a rugged silver ‘home’ button up front. There is no headphone jack so audio books are a no-no unfortunately, but there is a micro SD card slot. This allows the user to put content and books onto the Touch without having to download them straight to the device or sync with a computer. It’s this kind of flexibility that reminds us of Android’s advantages over iOS.

The screen is the standard six lovely inches and (of course the name is the clue) is touch sensitive, hence there being no other buttons on the case itself, unlike the standard Kindle. Kobo’s latest user interface is open and spacious, with the ‘home’ screen displaying a selection of your books’ covers and links to settings, the Kobo online store (which can be accessed via the reader’s WiFi connection) and something called Reading Life. Reading Life is Kobo’s social network all about books – unsurprisingly. Readers get awards for finishing books, sharing book updates on Facebook and even for reading after midnight. We were a bit surprised to occasionally get an alert on the device informing us we have won another award. We’re sure one popped up congratulating us for wearing socks.

The touch screen works excellently and is very responsive - not as responsive as a multi-touch touchscreen of a tablet for example, but still very useable.  It took only a few page turns for our thumbs to become accustomed to gently tapping the right hand side of the screen without thinking. Even a task such as typing in the search bar or making notes on selected passages was a pleasure. The Touch also has a built in web browser, which despite being displayed in black and white e-ink, is still pretty decent. We logged onto twitter, searched Google, checked emails – all very useable and a welcome extra.

The Kobo store is very well stocked and we couldn’t find a book available through Amazon that wasn’t also in Kobo. The average price of books was around £4.99, with new releases by well-known authors being a bit more, as you might expect.

So, after fiddling with an array of eReaders, including the big names like Kindle and Nook, we’re firmly in the Kobo camp.

£80-£100 (depending on where you buy)

Check out books and readers at www.kobobooks.com
© The Test Pit

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