Kobo Glo Review

The Kobo Glo's lighted e-ink display is better quality than the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook with GlowLight, but the e-reader's other attributes may not be enticing enough to lure e-book lovers away from the big boys.
The Kobo Glo's lighted e-ink display is better quality than the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook with GlowLight, but the e-reader's other attributes may not be enticing enough to lure e-book lovers away from the big boys.
The Kobo Glo's lighted e-ink display is better quality than the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook with GlowLight, but the e-reader's other attributes may not be enticing enough to lure e-book lovers away from the big boys.

Highs

  • Light is evenly distributed on the screen
  • High quality E Ink display
  • Light and slim design
  • Plenty of font, size, and page design options

Lows

  • Text washes out when light is at full brightness
  • Light is somewhat harsh
  • On-device bookstore tough to navigate

DT Editors' Rating

Like David Hasselhoff, Kobo e-readers are “popular in Europe” though not always considered real contenders in the United States. That’s usually because the company’s e-readers are often almost great, but not quite, and are a bit more expensive. For instance, the Kobo Glo costs $130, $10 more than the Nook and Kindle with lighted screens. But is the Glo competitive with these more popular devices? In some ways, yes.

Design

The Kobo Glo is about the same size and weight as the Kobo Touch and has the same basic design as every other Kobo e-reader that’s come to the United States. The Glo’s back is less pillowy than some models and isn’t removable, so you can’t exchange backplates, though you’ll be tempted due to the neon coloring. And it does still have a soft-touch coating that makes it comfortable to hold and harder to let slip.

kobo glo ereader kobo touch size comparison

Like the Kobo Touch, the Glo is all touch-based. There are only a few buttons: the power slider up top and a button for turning the light on and off. Unlike the Kindle Paperwhite or the Nook with GlowLight, there’s no on-screen way to turn on the light. However, when the light is on, you can adjust the brightness on screen.

The only two ports are a microSD reader on the left edge that takes cards up to 32GB and a Micro USB port on the bottom for charging and connectimg to a computer.

It isn’t the most attractive or most elegant e-reader in the world, but it’s comfortable to hold in one hand and you can operate it without needing a manual. Win, win.

Reading Experience and ComfortLight

The Kobo Glo’s 6-inch Pearl E Ink touchscreen’s contrast ratio is very close to the Kindle Paperwhite, which is currently the best among this type of e-reader. Depending on the font, text is bold and dark, and even looks good when the font size is small. Though the resolution is a decent 1024 x 758 pixels, the edges of letters sometimes don’t render as crisply as we’d like – again, depending on the font. There are eight font faces and 24 sizes, so you’ll have a wide range to choose from. You also get control over line spacing, margins, and justification so you can tweak everything until you find the perfect balance. 

Turning on the light (Kobo dubs it the ComfortLight), the first thing we noticed is that it washes out text somewhat. It’s less evident on heavier fonts but gets more pronounced the higher the brightness. Luckily, you don’t need to turn the light all the way to 100 percent, even in dark rooms, as it’s very bright. It’s brighter than the Kindle Paperwhite’s brightest setting, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. The Glo’s light is harsher than the Kindle’s, even when you bring it down to a comparable setting. Even in very dark rooms, you’re better off keeping the slider set at the midpoint.

Still, the Glo’s light is even and consistent across the screen and doesn’t suffer from the weird lighting issues that plague the Kindle and, to a lesser extent, the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.

Flipping pages takes a light tap or swipe and the page changes quickly with no flashing (when the screen goes black for a second) except every six pages. You can adjust this to a different number in Reading Settings. You can also change the tapping/swiping zones. This is useful if you tend to hold your e-reader in one hand. If you want to just use your left hand, for instance, you can expand the area where it registers a tap or swipe for paging forward. That means even if you have small hands, you won’t have to stretch your thumbs.

The slate of reading extras on offer is pretty basic: dictionary lookup, notes, highlights, bookmarks, search in book, and sharing passages on Facebook. Kobo doesn’t offer anything as fancy as X-Ray on Kindle. We like the included translation dictionary. With it users can translate words to and from English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Very useful if you come across a word or phrase in a book that the author declines to translate for you.

Other than e-books, the Glo also reads PDF, RTF, and TXT files. Dealing with PDFs can be a pain if the text is small and you need to zoom in to read it. The Glo doesn’t do reflowable text, so you’re left with having to move the page on the screen if the zoom is high. It’s not the best experience. Text and Rich Text Files work like e-books, allowing users to change the font, text size, margins, etc., and flip pages normally. If you have the choice of converting a document into PDF or RTF, choose the latter.

Buying and Adding Books

The first time you turn on the Kobo Glo it will do two annoying things: run a software update before you can get to the interface and start downloading all of your Kobo books. It’s possible to halt the latter so that you don’t end up with every book you’ve ever bought (and probably finished) on your device. After the initial setup, adding a book you’ve bought online, on another Kobo device, or via the app is simple. All books sync to any device connected to your account.

We suggest you search for and buy new books via the website since shopping on the Glo can be a trying experience. If you simply want to browse recommendations or reading lists, the interface won’t hinder you. However, searching for books is less than ideal, especially if there’s more than one edition of the book in question. The list of results only contains the cover, title, and author, but not the price. The Kobo library contains free or low-cost versions of classic books, but good luck finding them via the Glo. There’s no way to sort searches at all.

kobo glo ereader reading bookstore

Kobo boasts that it has one of the largest e-book stores in the world and that over 1 million of its titles are available for free (this usually includes books in the public domain). The selection may not rival Amazon’s when searching for modern titles that are more than five years old. Most new books, including bestsellers, that come out in electronic format will come to Kobo’s store and at the same price as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other big players. But very few books are exclusive.

The Kobo Glo is compatible with EPUB files (the current e-book standard) plus PDF, RTF, TXT, and HTML files. It can handle e-books with no DRM or Adobe’s DRM scheme. This means that users can load books from other stores (using the Adobe Digital Editions program for Mac/PC) such as Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Google, and from libraries that offer e-book lending.

Battery Life

Kobo promises over 70 hours of continuous usage with the ComfortLight on and the Wi-Fi turned off. We used the Glo for over a week with the Wi-Fi on and near continuous usage of the light and the battery only got down to about half. Depending on your reading habits, the Glo will last anywhere from a few weeks to a month. Heavy readers will get at least a week, likely more. Though that’s not a record for an E Ink device, it’s definitely good for an e-reader with a built-in light and Internet connectivity.

Conclusion

At $130, the Kobo Glo costs $10 more than the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, $10 more than the Kindle Paperwhite with ads, and $10 less than the Paperwhite without ads. Its biggest win is that the Glo’s light is evenly distributed across the screen, something neither the Nook nor Kindle can claim. Text washes out somewhat with the light on, though not so much that it completely ruins the reading experience. The Glo doesn’t offer as many extras as B&N or Amazon do inside of books, but is solid on the basic features that e-book readers want. Plus, owners aren’t limited to one major bookstore (plus a handful of smaller ones) like they are on the Kindle.

Overall, the Kobo Glo is a decent e-reader with good features and an average design. It doesn’t score a definitive win over the Nook or Kindle, but it is competitive in a way previous efforts from the company weren’t.

Highs

  • Light is evenly distributed on the screen
  • High quality E Ink display
  • Light and slim design
  • Plenty of font, size, and page design options

Lows

  • Text washes out when light is at full brightness
  • Light is somewhat harsh
  • On-device bookstore tough to navigate
Product Review

The Asus ZenBook 14 is a tiny notebook that gets lost in the crowd

The ZenBook 14 aims to be the smallest 14-inch notebook around, and it succeeds thanks to some tiny bezels. Performance and battery life are good, but the notebook lacks a standout feature other than size.
Computing

Microsoft could split up search and Cortana in the next Windows 10 release

In the latest Insider preview build, Microsoft is exploring ways to split up Cortana and search on Windows 10. If Microsoft moves ahead with this change, we could see separate search and Cortana options in the Spring 2019 Update.
Computing

Go hands-free in Windows 10 with speech-to-text support

Looking for the dictation, speech-to-text, and voice control options in Windows 10? Here's how to set up Speech Recognition in Windows 10 and use it to go hands-free in a variety of different tasks and applications within Windows.
Home Theater

Step aside set-top boxes, the best streaming sticks are tiny and just as powerful

Which streaming stick reigns supreme? We pit the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra against the Roku Premiere, Roku Streaming Stick+, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K to help you decide which one will be the best fit in your living room.
Mobile

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.
Smart Home

This device detects when your pet is at the door and opens it for them

Tired of waiting for your dog to come inside, or running home in the middle of the day to let your four-legged friend out? Wayzn automatically opens sliding doors for your dog and gives you remote control.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Apple pushing update to iPhone in China in response to legal troubles

Apple has been facing legal issues in China due to alleged infringements of patents from Qualcomm Inc. On Friday, Apple announced it will push a software update in China in hopes of resolving any potential legal issues around the iPhone.
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Mobile

iOS jailbreak app store Cydia shuts down purchasing

For years, iOS users have been jailbreaking their devices to install software not approved by Apple. But now the popular app store alternative Cydia will no longer be accepting purchases.
News

Lawsuit alleges Apple falsely advertised the screen size of the iPhone X

A lawsuit alleges that Apple was dishonest in the way that it marketed the iPhone X. The lawsuit alleges that despite Apple's marketing campaign, the new iPhone is not in fact all screen because of the notch.
Mobile

Is somebody watching you? How to stop apps from tracking your location

If you don't like the idea of your every movement being tracked by apps on the phone in your pocket, then you may want to turn location tracking off. We take a look at how to do it on an iPhone or Android phone in this easy guide.
Mobile

Report: Samsung's upcoming foldable phone will cost a hefty $1,800

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy F, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Business

Apple is still selling iPhones in China despite being ordered not to

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.