Kobo Glo review

29 Oct 2012

Not as well made as the Kindle Paperwhite, and PDF handling is poor, but the price is very tempting

Price when reviewed: 
100(£100 inc VAT)
5

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.

Kobo Glo

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.

Kobo Glo

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £83
Price inc VAT £100
Overall rating 5
Performance 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5

Screen

Screen size 6.0in
Resolution 758 x 1024
Colour screen no
Touchscreen yes

Battery

Integrated memory 2.0GB
Memory-card type microSD

Dimensions

Dimensions 114 x 10 x 157mm (WDH)
Weight 185g

File format support

Plain text yes
HTML yes
PDF yes
EPUB yes