The Kobo Aura HD has a great screen, but its deficiencies should make consumers look twice at the $169.99 price tag.


Kobo bills its new e-reader, the Aura HD, as the “Porsche of e-readers” — an e-ink touchscreen Wi-Fi device that justifies its $169.99 price tag with a large, high-resolution front-lit screen. I tested the Aura HD and found the screen lovely, but the overall device not worth the price.

kobo aura hdLook and feel: Plasticky

Out of the box, the Aura HD is ugly to my eye: White (it also comes in black and brown) and plasticky-looking. The Aura’s back is indented to make it easier to hold, and it’s nice to have the grooves there; I found it about as comfortable to hold as a hardcover book.

Because the Aura HD is larger and slightly heavier than most e-readers, though, it’s less comfortable to hold than a smaller e-reader, meaning that any benefit from the indented back is effectively canceled out. It has a 6.8-inch screen, compared to the standard six inches, and weighs 8.5 ounces (the Kobo Glo weighs 6.5 ounces; the Kindle Paperwhite weighs 7.8 ounces).

There are only two buttons on the Aura buttons: An ugly red power switch (why can’t it be metallic?) and a white button that turns on the light.

kobo aura hdThe screen: Great light, crisp text

The screen is the best part of the Aura HD. Kobo says that the screen’s resolution, 265 dpi, is the highest on the market, and text is indeed crisp.

To turn on the light, you press the button on the top of the Aura and it turns on at 100 percent brightness. You can’t adjust the light’s brightness through the button, though; rather, you have to tap a lightbulb icon on the Aura’s screen to adjust the brightness.

The light itself is great. It spreads evenly across the screen and is noticeably better than the light on the Kobo Glo when the two devices are compared side by side — the light on the Aura is a little softer, and less fluorescent-looking.

The reading interface: I want my home button

Tap the center of the screen, at the bottom, to pull up the menu — including the home icon, light adjustment icon, font options, etc. It’s the trend now for e-readers to have no physical home button, and I miss them; once you’ve used an iPad or iPhone, you’re in the habit of tapping something below the screen and you notice when it’s not there.

Page turns and refreshes are perfectly speedy. Kobo says the Aura’s 1 GHz processor is 20 percent faster than others on the market, but I didn’t find the page turns noticeably faster when compared to other new e-readers.

kobo auraBottom line: Nice screen, but not worth the cost

Yep, the Aura HD’s screen is great. While I was testing the Aura, I compared it to the Kobo Glo, and there is no doubt, when the devices are side by side, that the Aura’s screen is superior.

In real life, though, most users don’t have two e-readers open at the same time, and when it’s just you and the Aura, the device’s deficiencies detract from its great screen. I simply don’t like the Aura’s larger form factor and the extra bulk that it adds. And apart from the screen, the device feels cheap — from the buttons to the plasticky design to the fact that the Aura includes a USB cable for charging but no AC adapter (since it’s supposed to be high-end, why not include that little extra?)

Kobo says the Aura is aimed at avid readers who aren’t particularly price-sensitive, but even those who don’t care that this device is $40 more than the Glo (and $50 more than the ad-supported Kindle Paperwhite or the Nook with Glow Light) shouldn’t automatically trade up: The Aura’s added bulk is not a luxury feature.

  1. The Kindle PW is .47 pounds and the Kobo Aura is .53 pounds because of the bigger screen. So what you are saying is that .06 pounds makes the Kobo to heavy to hold comfortably.

  2. To someone who is visually challenged, as I am, that noticeably sharper, better illuminated screen, with a larger range of fonts and font sizes, is worth its weight in gold. Personally, I like the slightly greater heft. Makes it feel more substantial to me, and the indents in the back help to hold onto it despite the arthritis in my hands.

    While it’s hard, with my arthritis for me to physically hold a heavy book, the lightest e-readers seem to fly out of my hands — the Kobo provides a good compromise, for me.

    You did not mention that once you set the brightness through Settings, you can put the unit to sleep _and_ turn off the light with one nudge of that “ugly” (but visually easy for me to find), non-metallic button. And when I turn it back on, the light is on at exactly the same level I set it.

    For me, this is a terrific upgrade in my reading experience. Maybe for someone younger and with much better eyes, it wouldn’t be, but for me it is.

  3. Stupid review! Probably made by a ignorant Republican!

    1. *wonders if this person is an idiot liberal, or an intelligent yet dishonest conservative posing as an idiot liberal in order to illuminate the stupidity from which the vast majority of them suffer*

  4. Nichole Hart Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    I just opened mine. It came today. I’m setting it up. I have a Nook ST w/GL and I loved it. I just wanted something a little bigger. So far the screen is beautiful and I don’t mind the “plasticky” feel or the “ugly red button” ..I couldn’t care less what color the button is and it’s so funny how many people pick on stuff like that. I also got the espresso color and it’s really a nice color. I am buying this for reading only. I read a book or more a day so this fits the bill. I paid the extra and after paying the same price for the kindle fire and hating it because I couldn’t read an entire book without charging it, I feel like this is worth the money.

    1. do you still like your KOBO? I am looking to buy for a voracious reading senior citizen…the qualities you mentioned are what I want for her…BIG screen- easy to use…black and white crisp print…thanks for your feedback!

  5. bartimaeus2011 Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    The big takeaways from this review are that Laura doesn’t like a screen larger than 6″ or the fact that it isn’t an i phone/pod or pad, also that smaller screened devices are cheaper.

    Well it’s nice to know those things, but not terribly helpful.

    There is no doubt that the Aura HD is for a niche market, people who don’t want a bigger screen, won’t value it. People who don’t mind current resolutions won’t value the higher resolution and people who don’t want to have a library of many thousands of books and comics won’t value the storage.
    Personally I think the white and brown coloured versions are unappealing, although those seem to be the colours that sold out in pre-order, so others certainly aren’t of my mind on that.
    I bought a black one, which at least to me looks pretty classy. I can’t say it feels plasticky but perhaps there is a difference in the quality of the builds between different Aura HDs, mine feels solid and well built. The texture of the body is slick and if there weren’t the unusually shaped back it might have been difficult to hold, but the ridge seems to do away with that problem and I have no difficulty in holding the ereader in one hand for extended periods of time.

    The quibbles that I would have with it are primarily software and UI based.
    It gives no indication for example how many books are in your library, the only clue when in the library are the number of pages that it takes to list them all.
    On the plus side you can organise your library into shelves of your own choice which can make finding the particular book you want or type of book you want much easier than browsing through the entire libary.
    The reading life section which allows you to view stats of your reading habits and awards you badges for things like finishing a book, adding books to your library, spending an hour or two reading etc and allows you to share such wonders on facebook seems utterly pointless and of strictly limited appeal to a very limited number of people, mostly the kind of people who wouldn’t be buying this device in the first place.

    The extra adjustments to margins, font sizes and types that you can make are great and the advanced features there that allow you to adjust the weight and sharpness mean you can get books presented exactly how you want them and will suit many heavy readers as well as those with poorer eyesight.
    The light is pretty darn good and seems to be state of the art at the moment.
    If this device did nothing more than giving some quality targets for standard devices to aim towards it will be serving a useful role.

    It won’t be for everyone, but it is very good at what it does and in certain areas puts most other readers to shame. Kobo have a reasonable book store but while you can buy books directly on the device you’d be better off doing your browsing and purchasing from it on a computer. Kobo’s bookstore is, in my opinion, better than sony’s poor effort but it is still well behind Amazon’s and the prices are a little dearer on the titles I’ve checked.

    With the nook apparently falling far behind and sony seeming to have forgotten to compete at all it is a good thing that Kobo is putting some real effort into competing with the top dog. They still need some work on the UI and on their store but the Aura throws down the gauntlet to Amazon and it will be interesting to see what it can push Bezos to do.

    1. bartimaeus2011, that was a much more in-depth, considered, and well thought out review than the original article. Thank you.

      1. Tracey Cross Tuesday, May 21, 2013

        Yawn….!! Another reviewer slating a kobo product. They spend all of five minutes with the device and suddenly they think they’re experts. Lol! I’m fed up of reading bad reviews about kobo products. I owned four paperwhites all with faults. Bought a kobo glo. Love it. It has never let me down with a pink screen (yes, kindle I’m talking about you. Shock, horror!!!) I think amazon pay these daft reviewers to slate kobo. Glad to see others aren’t sucked in by their idiotic reviews.
        I think the aura is amazing. I borrowed a friend’s for two days and loved it but still love my glo. By the way you must have got a dud as its definitely not cheap and plastic!

    2. But you do have to admit that the original reviewer had a firm grasp of the superficial.

  6. this device is perfect for the only reason you should buy it: reading books. This review, as well as others i’ve seen lately, is written by someone who is used to tablets and knows nothing about ereaders.

  7. John Van Hulst Thursday, May 9, 2013

    To say a product is not worth its price because of its look and feel: white, plasticky-looking, an ugly red power button; and a GUI not having a home button where it should be if you’re used to an iPad or iPhone, says more about the quality of the reviewer than about the quality of the product….

    1. James Blake Thursday, May 9, 2013

      Have to agree with the other commenters, people who complain about a heavy ereader obviously don’t read books. Every hard cover book I own is heavier than the aura.

  8. As someone who has purchased an Aura, the only real complaint I have is how slippery the device is. While the back design does help to keep things comfortable, it would have helped to have a softer material on the backside.

    The reviewer was quick to point out how costly the Aura is compared to a ad-supported Kindle, but really, I certainly thank Kobo for not trying to pass unwanted advertising. That goes for all their devices.

  9. Never ever purchase a Kobo. We bought a Kobo after Christmas. It worked for one month. Then failed. It developed a problem that a lot of the ereaders develop which is lines of words both going horizontally and vertically. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the case or the screen. The item was NOT mishandled. They told my daughter too bad, this problem is Not covered. This was the Glo backlit model. We bought a Kindle a few years ago, it developed this same problem. Our Kindle was replaced. Do NOT purchase a Kobo as you will be throwing your money away. Total lack of customer service. I recommend boycotting this product totally.

    1. I wish I had read your comment before I purchased the Kobo Aura.
      My e-mail address is not accepted and the “help” desk won’t help.
      Chapters/Indigo/Coles is one of the worst retailers I’ve ever had the
      misfortune to deal with. They will not exchange this useless ereader.

      I’ve contacted Kobo and told them of my problem. They won’t help.
      I’ve also told them I will warn anyone I talk with to AVOID their products.

    2. Tracey Cross Friday, May 24, 2013

      Just because you don’t like kobo and had a faulty device the world should boycott kobo. That’s the stupidest comment I’ve ever heard. I owned four paperwhites all faulty. But I don’t go around saying “lets all hate kindles” kobo are quite new in the uk and thanks to comments like yours people may be put off. I’ve only had great experiences with kobo. They didnt have a book I wanted and in two days after my request it was there to download. Not all kobos break. My sister has owned the touch nearly two years now. Not one problem.

      1. Tracey, the obvious point here is that while we KNOW all devices can develop a fault, the key thing is that the manufacturer provides you with good and reliable after-sales service.

        He is saying that Kobo support have refused to help him fix his issues… and as a customer who has purchased such as expensive device that is simply unacceptable behaviour from Kobo.

        Amazon in comparison, while it may have weaker hardware, has a world-class returns and customer service system that has never failed me in around 8 years of shopping regularly with them. if I have an issue it is dealt with quickly and professionally.

        Kobo, it seems, are failing in that department, and good hardware is no ouse if your support and after-sales service isn’t worth a damn.

        1. Tracey Cross Friday, June 14, 2013

          I understand what you’re saying. I just don’t understand why kobo products get so many bad reviews. I’ve owned every ereader and IMO the kobo is the most solid ereader I’ve used. I bought my 10 year old the nook st and within an hour of reading a popup appeared saying this device had stopped responding. We had to for e close it and and now it won’t read anything. My friends said this is common with their nooks but you don’t ever hear complaint about this. I use my aura and glo everyday for hours and no glitches.
          Yes devices do have problems but I get fed up of people slating kobo after owning an ereader for a day and as they haven’t researched it properly so they leave bad review. If you go on I think it’s the mobile forum there are lots of people who feel the same as me. As I’ve owned most ereaders I think I’m entitled to leave my opinion.

  10. I have been using the same Kobo for years and am very impressed with the latest models including the Aura. The larger screen size and capability of opening library books will be well worth the extra cost over the Kindle for many people.


Comments have been disabled for this post