Kindle vs Kobo heats up – ZDNet anoints Kobo Aura HD ‘best eInk Reader’

Kindle Paperwhite is in danger of losing its ‘best eInk Reader’ crown.

Kobo delivered the Kobo Aura HD earlier this year with an HD eInk screen. The HD screen, obviously, gives Kobo Aura HD an edge over Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight. However, the handful of reviews were mixed – with the reviewers finding various faults in the Kobo Aura HD.

Now, we have the first Kobo Aura HD review that claims the HD eInk screen makes Kobo Aura HD better than Kindle Paperwhite. It’s from ZDNet. It’s a contentious claim. However, let’s take a look at why ZDNet thinks Kobo Aura HD is ‘the best eReader’.

Why ZDNet thinks Kobo Aura HD is ‘the Best eReader’

Context: The reviewer’s previous favorite eReader was Kindle Paperwhite. Before that he liked the Kobo eReader Touch. I think that makes the case for a relative lack of bias.

Reasons why the reviewer thinks Kobo Aura HD is the ‘best eInk Reader’ –

  1. Display Resolution of 1440 by 1080 pixels. On a 6.8″ screen that translates to 265 pixels per inch. This is considerably better than Kindle Paperwhite’s 758 by 1024 resolution and 212 pixels per inch pixel density. 265 pixels per inch is approximately Retina-level pixel density.
  2. The reviewer also says Kobo Aura HD has a lighting solution that has no visible glare spots – even when brightness is set to 100%. Kobo calls the lighting solution ComfortLight and it apparently lights up the entire display evenly. Some Kindle Paperwhites had problems with leaks and shadows at the bottom edge. Some Nook Glowlights had problems with bright spots at random places on the screen. Kobo Aura HD apparently bypasses both issues. Note: This is just one device. So we don’t know if the problem is solved or this single device happens to be perfectly lighted.
  3. Kobo Aura HD has a unique design at the back with ridges. This apparently fits better in your hand than a flat back. I don’t really know what to think of this advantage. Note: Kobo Aura HD seems to be a larger device (makes sense given the 6.8″ screen size) and that would actually be a negative in my book, ridges or no ridges.
  4. There is a button dedicated to turning the light on and off. A definite advantage over Kindle Paperwhite where the light can’t be turned off.
  5. MicroSD card slot at the bottom. This is definitely a big plus over Kindle Paperwhite. The microSD slot supports cards up to 32GB.
  6. Note: A little miffed that the reviewer hasn’t mentioned Kobo Aura HD disadvantages. So I’ll add a few of the ones I know of – Kobo Aura HD is supposed to be less polished than Kindle paperwhite, Kobo support is supposed to be atrocious, Kobo Store has less range and slightly higher prices than Kindle Store.
  7. Kobo Aura HD’s processor is 1 GHz and is supposedly 20% faster than the processors on Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight.
  8. The 6.8″ screen is a bit bigger than Kindle Paperwhite’s 6″ screen.
  9. Support for ePub. This is an advantage over Kindle Paperwhite. ePub means books can be bought from Kobo or Nook or Sony. Kobo Aura HD also supports PDF and MOBI formats.
  10. Formats supported include txt, html, rtf, cbz, cbr.
  11. 10 font styles and 24 font sizes. This is definitely good.
  12. There are some games included for quick breaks – chess, solitaire, word scramble, sketch pad, Sudoku. Of course, Kindle Paperwhite has a whole array of apps and games (a few hundred) so this is actually a Kindle Papertwhite advantage.
  13. There are some good options. A reading status thingie on the bottom left shows – stats for the chapter, upcoming chapter, graph of future chapter length, stats for how many hours are left in the chapter and the book.
  14. Dimensions of Kobo Aura HD are – Length: 175.7 millimeters, Width: 128.3 millimeters, Edge depth:  7 millimeters, Max Depth: 11.7 millimeters, Weight:  240g. This is a bit of a disadvantage as Kindle Paperwhite is more compact and lighter – It’s 213 grams in weight and its dimensions are 6.7″ x 4.6″ x 0.36″ (169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm).
  15. Kobo Aura HD comes with 4 GB internal memory while Kindle Paperwhite only has 2GB.
  16. Price is a disadvantage for Kobo Aura HD at $169. Kindle Paperwhite is $139 without Ads and $109 with Ads.
  17. Kobo Aura HD comes with a wall charger while Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t – you have to pay $10 to add-on one.
  18. Kobo Aura HD comes with Kobo’s Reading Life. Depending on your perspective, this is a good thing or a bad thing. I think it’s good. It lets you view your reading stats – book progress and time to complete the book, hours of reading, average pages per minutes and more. I particularly like the idea of knowing the number of books you have finished and hours of reading you’ve done.
  19. Available in black and white. Also says ‘Coffee’ color on the website, but can’t find that for sale.

Overall, Matthew Miller at ZDNet considers the Kobo Aura HD the best eReader available today. He writes –

Sony used to be the premium ebook reader company … that premium crown now goes to Kobo with their Kobo Aura HD.

Based on everything he has shared, and the details at the Kobo site, I have to say it certainly seems like the Kobo Aura HD has left the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight in the dark. I might have to get one of these to see how they are in everyday use.

How much of a threat to Kindle Paperwhite is the Kobo Aura HD?

We’ve covered how Kobo Aura HD is the ‘shiny new HD eReader’ and how that makes Kobo Aura HD a threat to the Kindle Paperwhite.

This glowing Kobo Aura HD review from ZDNet, however, takes things up a notch. It’s one thing for a device to be the ‘new new thing’. It’s quite another for reviewers to start anointing it the new King of eReaders.

Kobo Aura HD is suddenly a HUGE threat to the Kindle Paperwhite –

  1. Firstly, it’s the NEWEST eReader. HD sells. So, having the newest eReader, which is also the only HD eReader, is a big advantage.
  2. Secondly, if people are beginning to call it ‘the Best eReader’ and the ‘winner of the premium crown’, then that only adds to visibility and sales.
  3. Thirdly, people forget that for readers the quality of reading is worth more than a $20 to $50 price difference ($10 for charger). If you love reading and can afford the extra $20 to $50 (depending on whether you consider ads intrusive or not), then you’ll want to spring for the Kobo Aura HD.
  4. Fourthly, based on the details people are sharing and the specifications, the Kobo Aura HD seems clearly better than the Kindle Paperwhite – on paper. That hasn’t happened since Nook Glowlight last year. An HD screen is worth more than a reading light. So, if anything, Kobo Aura HD is much stronger positioned right now than Nook Glowlight was in the months before Kindle Paperwhite launched.
  5. Fifthly, Kobo has set the bar and also demonstrated to Amazon that B&N might be losing focus but Kobo is getting hungrier.

If, and this is a big if, a reader didn’t have an existing library of Kindle Books, then Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD would be a really, really hard decision. I’d guess that Kobo Aura HD would win out 30% to 45% of the time. That’s huge.

If a reader has an existing library of Nook Books or Sony Books or Kobo books, then it’s not much of a contest. Kobo Aura HD can read the books. Kindle Paperwhite can’t. Kobo Aura HD would win 50% to 60% of the time.

The latter has to be very worrying for Amazon. As Sony has faded away, and as B&N is in danger of slipping away, it has seemed that Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite would sweep up more and more readers. Unfortunately for Amazon, Kobo is providing an option for Nook owners and Sony eReader owners that threatens to be clearly better than Kindle Paperwhite.

For the next few months Kindle vs Nook has become irrelevant. It’s all about Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD now. I’ll add a specific Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD post because Kobo Aura HD seems to be much stronger than assumed. Might even buy a Kobo Aura HD to see if it really is as good as claimed.