30 August 2017

Impressions of the Kobo Aura One

From Wikipedia:
The Kobo Aura One was released on 6 September 2016 and it is the first e-reader with a 7.8-inch E Ink Carta HD waterproof touchscreen display with a 300 ppi screen. The Aura One weighs 252 grams and measures 195 by 138.5 by 6. 9 mm. It has Wi-Fi, 8 Gio internal storage, and 512 Mio RAM. The Aura One is lit by nine white LEDs and eight RGB LEDs around the frame. The additional RGB LEDs allow the device to have a night reading mode that limits the blue light that comes from white LEDs. It was the first Kobo eReader with built-in OverDrive support.
I bought one of these to replace a Keyboard Kindle, my first ereader, which I have owned from new. Among the features that attacted me were the screen size and illumination, OverDrive support, and the ability to display .epub files.

The screen size is indeed a plus, enabling one to set larger font and margin sizes and still see plenty of words on the screen. The 300 ppi display is excellent, too, though I was less impressed by the illumination. It becomes patchy as it veers towards the red end of the spectrum.

The rendering of .epub files is idiosycratic to say the least. Some files that render perfectly elsewhere have no top margin and need to have the @page directive altered in the CSS. Widow and orphan control is ignored and can result in clumsy white spaces at the bottom of the screen; this apparently cannot be fixed in .epub files, though Kobo are said to have their own standard – .kepub – which allows such control. Just what we need, another ebook format. At least one html entity, lowast, is invisible in .epubs, which leads me to wonder what other eccentricities exist in the software.

Font choice is an appealing feature of the Kobo Aura One. Most of the built-in fonts (two or three of which, serifed, provide an acceptable reading experience) can be adjusted for weight – made more or less bold – and the size is more finely adjustable than in most ereaders. You can use your own fonts if you prefer, by creating a folder called ‘fonts’ in the root directory and dragging them there. However, such fonts are not adjustable for weight without specialist tweaking of the hidden configuration files. I did not feel confident enough to play about with those and in fact deleted the sample fonts I installed as being far from easy to read.

Initially I was pleased with the Kobo Aura One, despite its eye-watering price. Unfortunately its battery would not retain a charge. Charged to 100% last thing at night, and with the device in sleep mode, it would report perhaps a 30% charge in the morning. The drain while reading seemed reasonable; it was only while sleeping that the power ebbed away. Needless to say, this is a deal-breaker as far as an ereader is concerned and I returned my specimen as faulty.

Given the trouble and faffing about this has caused, I did not want a replacement and opted for a refund instead. There are reports at MobileRead of similar problems; if Kobo’s attitude to quality control is so lackadaisical, I am not prepared to be an unpaid tester, especially given the fact that the store where I bought mine is 15 miles away on congested and thoroughly tedious roads.

In all, then, I cannot recommend the Kobo Aura One – or perhaps any Kobo device – and have gratefully returned to my ancient but reliable Kindle.

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