Kobo Announces Its New Line of E-Readers
September 6, 2012 | 11:27 pm
By Dan Eldridge
A fair amount of important news related to e-books broke today, but due to hoopla surrounding the Amazon press conference that took place in Santa Monica this morning, much of it didn’t receive quite the amount of attention it probably would have on any other day.
For starters, Kobo made a valiant effort to get a jump on today’s all-consuming Amazon news by announcing a line of new e-readers–the Kobo Mini ($79.99), the Kobo Glo ($129.99) and the Kobo Arc ($199.99 and $249.99). Those prices are the same for both the U.S. market and the Canadian market, by the way.
Wired‘s Geek Mom blog has a good roundup of the new line; if you’re a tech-newbie, I’d recommend giving it a read if you’re thinking about buying one of the models. Line-time tablet and e-reader users should check out the write-ups from VentureBeat and Good E-Reader, which has a hands-on review of the Mini.
If you’re in the market for a reader with a built-in light but don’t happen to live in the United States, you’ll definitely want to consider the new Kobo Glo. Why? Well, it looks as if Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite won’t be available outside the U.S., for instance, and the specs on the Kobo Glo seem to make it a more impressive model than the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight (which costs $10 more that the Kobo Glo).
As for the specs, the Glo boasts a 6” E Ink XGA Pearl screen with 1024 x 768 resolution. And while it only has 2GB of storage, it also has a Micro SD slot; popping in a card will take you up to 32GB. If you skip the SD card, the Glo will still have room to store roughly 1,000 books. Once you punch it up to 32GB, however, you’re looking at enough space for 32,000 books—totally unnecessary, of course, but incredibly cool nonetheless.
Battery life is estimated at one month, assuming the light and the built-in Wi-Fi are both turned off … which doesn’t really tell you anything. There’s also a non-glass touchscreen that’s said to be both glare-free and fingerprint-resistant. And of course, there’s a micro USB port.
Interestingly, the Glo is a frontlit device (as opposed to the more common backlit readers), as is the Kindle Paperwhite reader that Jeff Bezos announced at today’s press conference. (The Paperwhite, however, is only $119 if you’re willing to put up with Amazon’s Special Offers; it’s $179 without the ads. And if the reports coming in from writers who attended today’s press event can be believed, the Paperwhite is one heck of a solid device.)
That begs the obvious question: Assuming you live in the U.S., where both of the new frontlit readers will be made available, what benefits does the Kobo Glo have over Amazon’s Paperwhite? It’s a bit too early in the game to answer that question, of course. But we’ll keep you updated once the Glo begins making the proverbial rounds.
The Kobo Mini is the line’s new entry-level reader; its diminutive size seems to be one of its main selling points. With a 5” E Ink touch screen featuring a Vizplex V110 display, it weighs in at just 4.73 ounces (134 grams). This thing is tiny. Kobo’s website, in fact, brags that it’s “the world’s smallest and lightest full-featured eReader. And like the Glo, it has a no-glare E Ink touchscreen and built-in Wi-Fi.
It also has 2GB of storage (with 1GB available to store books, just like the Glo), but it doesn’t appear to have an SD slot. (Not that you’d need one. Who needs to have more than 1,000 books on their e-reader?) There’s also a built-in dictionary, and just one button: an on-off button. You can choose from a black or a white reader, while three add-on interchangeable backs—in ruby red, purple or teal—can add a bit of color to the mix. Full tech specs here, and a handy FAQ list here. Aaccording to Kobo it’ll be available soon, and we’re assuming that means sometime before the end of September.
Formerly known as the Vox, Kobo Arc is clearly the line’s Kindle Fire competitor. And although I’ve never had a chance to play around with the Vox, the Arc does look like a pretty serious tablet. It comes with a 7-inch screen, a universal 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack, and built-in dual front facing speakers with SRS TruMedia sound.
Arc runs Android’s 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS; 4.1 Jelly Bean will be available in a few months, according to Kobo. It also comes in either 8GB or 16GB models; the $199.99 price point refers to the 8GB model, and the beefier 16GB Arc costs $249.99.
Available in November, the Arc also has a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if Bluetooth will be part of the package. And since this is an ‘open’ tablet, e-readers could presumably download the Kindle and Nook apps, which would make for one heck of a high-quality e-reading experience. As far as battery life is concerned, Kobo says you’ll get 10 hours of reading or video time with the Wi-Fi turned off.
(Check back tomorrow for a scorecard-style roundup of the new Kindle line.)