Can Kobo’s latest ebook reader take on the mighty Amazon Kindle?
Kobo has been producing good ebook readers for some time, keeping pace with Amazon's Kindle and even beating the bookseller to the launch of a touchscreen reader. Now Kobo has launched an ereader with a backlight at the same time as Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite and The Nook Glowlight, leaving Sony's ereaders in the dark.
The lighting comes from five low-power LED bulbs in the base of the Kobo that shine upwards, diffusing the glow across the screen. The result is a light that is less harsh than the backlit screen of tablet computers like the iPad. The Kobo Glo is a pleasure to read - brightness can be controlled with a simple slider on the touchscreen or the light can be switched off entirely.
Read more: Ebook reader reviews
The Kobo Glo eink display is clear and crisp, although when viewed side by side the Kindle Paperwhite is a bit crisper, particularly with the backlights at the brightest setting.
The customisation options on the Glo are impressive. There are ten typefaces to choose from, including one designed specifically for dyslexic readers. Like the Paperwhite, you can set line spacing, justification and margin width. The Typegenius option in the advanced settings for text display give precise control over the weight and sharpness of fonts, with a before and after panel to show the impact of changes.
You can also customise the page-turn settings, defining which part of the display will flick back or forward a page – something that left-handed users will welcome.
The main difference between Kobo's ereaders and Amazon's Kindles is how you can buy and read books. Amazon limits readers to its own store, while you can use the Kobo to purchase books in the ePub format that is used by independent booksellers. You just need to download the free Adobe Digital Editions program from the Kobo site.
Kobo also makes it easier to search for free ebooks. You can view books rated by other users or alphabetically by title, but not by author. It's easier though, to browse the free selection on the Kobo website, where you can log in with the same account details and select books to read before synchronising the Glo by connecting it to a PC with the supplied USB cable or over a Wifi network – there is no 3G version. Onboard storage is 2GB, plenty for about 1,000 books.
There's a clear and concise set up guide to follow when you first log in that demonstrates which areas of the screen to tap to turn pages or access the main menu, as well as how to highlight words, view dictionary definitions and add notes to texts. We found the menus intuitive to use on the whole, although the Discover view for browsing titles using a carousel view felt clumsy due to the slow refresh rate of the display.
There is a selection of additional apps, including a rudimentary web browser, a touch-based sketching tool and a chess game that you play against a sarcastic computer opponent.
You can use a Facebook account to manage the Kobo or connect the account with the Kobo app, which, with your initial permission, updates your Facebook friends about which books you have read and passages you have marked.
The Kobo Glo is a very good ebook reader but comparisons with the Amazon Kindle are inevitable, particularly as they are two of only three ereaders with a lit display (the third is the Nook Simple Touch Glowlight).
Our verdict is that the Paperwhite wins out by a short nose, partly because it does not use battery power when in sleep mode and partly on display quality - but we are nit-picking. The Glo is perfectly good, and its support for alternative book stores and library borrowing will be very attractive for many people. It's also £10 cheaper than the Paperwhite and the Nook. It is just as worthy of our Buy It award as the Kindle Paperwhite is.
Read more reviews
A fine alternative to the Kindle Paperwhite.
Easy to read, lit touchscreen; Highly customisable; More flexible purchasing options than the Kindle
Updating your subscription status