In a market that’s increasingly dominated by Amazon and its Kindle, Kobo has relied on aggressive pricing and the promise of free books to get people interested in its own e-reading product. Its entry level device is the Kobo Wireless e-Reader, selling for £69.99 when we went shopping. Kobo sweetens the deal, too, by pre-loading 100 books onto the device. As you’ll quickly appreciate, though, this is a less maganamous gesture than it may at first appear, given the copyright free nature of the texts you’re getting. It’ll be a dream start for an English Literature A-Level student, though.
The device itself is just under the size of a sheet of A5 paper, and not that much heavier. This one’s not a touch-screen device, with interaction handled by a navigational control pad in the bottom right of the unit. Mounted along the left hand edge are options for Home, Menu, Shop and Back, which we’ll come to shortly.
The first feeling tat “you get what you pay for” kicks in when you turn the device on. It takes a little while to get going, and even less time for you to appreciate just how sluggish the control system is. You press a button on the navigational D-pad, and it feels as if the Kobo is lurching into life. Of course, this isn’t a problem if all you’re doing is reading and flicking pages, but if you want to look up a word using the in-built dictionary, for instance, that’s a lot of presses on the D-pad, and each one takes a little longer than you may be used to in order to register. Setting up wireless, too, and entering a password, will be a test of anyone’s patience.
When you are set up with wireless access, you can head to the Kobo shop. It’s too slow to spend much time browsing, here, but Kobo categorises things well enough, and there’s a welcome free section, too. To download anything, though, you need to head to the Kobo website and set up an account. It was, unhelpfully, down every time we tried.
When it gets down to its core job, of letting you read a book, the Kobo is a solid device. It marks your place in as many books as you happen to be reading, the display is comfortable to read, and the battery life is extensive. It’s also cheap, even though you’ll get a faster, and more responsive device if you pay the extra for the Kobo eReader touch, or one of the latest Kindles.
It’s probably best to file the Kobo under ‘it’ll do the job’ rather than ‘it’ll impress you’. It remains a decent, unspectacular product, at a decent, fairly impressive price.
- Attractively priced, and easy to read, doing its base job perfectly well.
- Sluggish, frustrating control system, that gets in the way of you getting the most out of the unit.
When you don’t have to interact with it, the Kobo Wireless eReader is entirely competent. But when you do, you realise where those corners have been cut.