Kobo Glo review
Not as well made as the Kindle Paperwhite, and PDF handling is poor, but the price is very tempting
Review Date: 29 Oct 2012
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £83 (£100 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Kobo doesn’t dominate the ebook market like Amazon does, but its reader devices have been quietly catching up in terms of quality. Last year’s Kobo Touch came within a whisker of taking the crown in our ebook reader Labs. This year, the Kobo Glo brings it even closer.
Like the Kindle Paperwhite, this reader’s key selling point is its built-in light. Tap a small square button on the top edge and the light-grey background of the Glo’s E Ink screen turns bright white. The light comes from a series of five tiny LEDs embedded in the bottom bezel, which cast their light upwards across the surface of the E Ink panel. Brightness can be adjusted depending on the conditions.
It sounds a little Heath Robinson, but this system really does work well. In bright sunlight, E Ink is far more readable than an LCD-based tablet, with no glare or nasty reflections to deal with, yet that integrated light means you can continue to read when the lights go down, or even in the dark. The Glo’s light is much brighter at its top setting than the Kindle Paperwhite, although it can’t quite match the evenness of the Amazon device.
The Glo matches the Paperwhite in other aspects as well. It uses a 6in, 758 x 1,024 resolution E Ink Pearl panel, lending text a crisper, smoother look than on 600 x 800 panels of old. There’s an integrated store accessed via Wi-Fi, which we’ve found in the past to be pretty well stocked, at least as far as bestsellers is concerned. Apps for Android, iOS, Mac and PC, meanwhile, allow you to swap between devices at will, with bookmark synchronisation allowing you to pick up where you left off.
While its touchscreen isn’t capacitive like the Paperwhite’s, its infrared-based system works as well enough. There’s 2GB storage for your books and documents, and no speakers or headphone output.
In terms of the way both devices look and feel, we prefer the Kindle. It’s slimmer than the Kobo, the bezel sits closer to the surface of the display, and the build is less plasticky. The Kobo’s white bezel picks up grime pretty quickly, too, and we soon found ours covered in ugly grey newsprint smears after using it to commute with for a few days.
We prefered the reading experience on the Paperwhite, since text looks blacker and sharper. However, there isn’t much in it, and the Glo counters this by offering more flexible text display options. Where the Paperwhite gives six fonts of varying sizes, the Glo ups this to ten and allows much finer adjustment of text and page appearance. For each of the fonts there are 24 different size settings, it’s possible to adjust their weight and sharpness, plus there are nine line-spacing settings and six for margin spacing.
Another positive for the Glo is that it supports a wider range of more useful file formats natively, including both DRM and non-DRM EPUB files. This means you can load books bought through other stores and borrowed from e-libraries far more readily than you can with the Paperwhite. We’re not over-enamoured with the device’s PDF handling – panning is smooth enough, but zooming and page turns are positively slothful. On our test PDF the Glo took three seconds to turn each page, a further six to enter zoom and pan mode, and another three to exit so we could turn the page again. A pity, since with the ability to expand storage via microSD this could have been the ideal PDF reading device.
Despite that, we think that Kobo has done well with the Kobo Glo. For reading EPUB files it’s a top-class reader, more flexible than the Kindle Paperwhite, and its light and screen are only a whisker behind. We prefer the design and build of the Amazon device, and that makes it our favourite by a slim margin, but at £10 cheaper the Kobo Glo is a very tempting alternative.
Author: Jonathan Bray
I'm tempted between the two and EPUB support goes a long way for me on the Kobo but I need to get hands on with the Paperwhite before I decide.
I have heard number of comments that the Amazon device has a strange light/dark unevenness at the bottom of the screen which I must say puts me off, seems to be true as Amazon posted on their site stating this is normal and to be expected.
The demo model of the Glo I played with for sometime in WHSmith had a nice even brightness and was very nice to use, I liked having an actual on/off button for the light too.
Only gripe I really had was the fact quite a chunk of the bottom of the screen was taken up by the 'page X of X chapter X' info bit, with the light on this becomes a black bar and seems a waste of the available screen, the thin progress bar of the Kindle is much less intrusive. Tried as I might I couldn't find a way to disable this, if it can be removed/hidden then please let me know as I think I'd probably take the plunge on the Kobo if so.
By Deano on 31 Oct 2012
Bookeen have a really interesting device on the way as well with ultra fast e-ink, enough to show animation so they say! I think colour e-ink will be the future. www.kindlecolour.eu
By paulandsoulefe on 3 Nov 2012
The black bar at the bottom when the light is on can be disabled in the settings deano. It did annoy me until i figured that out!! Everything else has been great though!
By vinnyc on 7 Nov 2012
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