Kobo Mini Review

The Kobo Mini comes with a budget price tag yet doesn't come off as cheap.
The Kobo Mini comes with a budget price tag yet doesn't come off as cheap.
The Kobo Mini comes with a budget price tag yet doesn't come off as cheap.


  • Light and comfortable
  • Size is good for small hands
  • Lots of control over text inside eBooks
  • Touch-controlled and easy to use
  • Access to eBook sources beyond Kobo's store


  • E Ink screen doesn't offer as much contrast as the competition
  • Could use faster performance

DT Editors' Rating

The eReader category settled in to the 6-inch screen size several years ago, despite attempts from the likes of Amazon and Sony to go bigger and smaller. The larger displays were pretty niche to begin with, but the smaller ones actually made sense. Now that Sony is no longer selling their 5-incher, we’re happy to see Kobo picking up the size with the Mini.

A smaller size means a lower price, and $80 is pretty sweet. Going budget on an eReader isn’t always a good idea, even in an age where the two biggest players’ devices start at just $20 more. The Mini has more going for it than price, though.

Touch and Feel

The first question to ask when considering the Kobo Mini is: why does anyone need an eReader this small? Most of the competition isn’t that much bigger, and any eReader worth buying these days is light and most will fit in a big pocket. The Mini can fit in smaller pockets, though we doubt most people will carry them there. This size does have some advantages.

It’s easier to use one-handed than the 6-inch Kobo eReaders since it’s possible to reach across the 5-inch E Ink display with the left thumb and swipe to the next page. The Mini is also well suited for smaller hands, so even small kids can enjoy reading on it. Plus, a lighter eReader means more comfort for long reading sessions.

Other than the small size, the Kobo Mini is similar to other Kobo eReaders, both in look and feel. It comes in black or white, and the back cover is just slightly matte, so it won’t slide from your hands. The back is user replaceable if you want to change up the Mini’s look. This is also how you access the microSD slot if you need to add on to the 2GB of internal storage. The only button is the power slider up top. Otherwise, everything is controlled by touch on the screen.

Reading Experience

In the past couple of product generations, Kobo has greatly improved its overall interface. While still basic, it’s at least intuitive and easy to understand. The company finally figured out that what readers want is to get into their books as quickly as possible.

A smaller screen means fewer words on each page, particularly if you like your text big. If you want to minimize the amount of page turning, then the Mini probably isn’t right for you. We found that, once immersed in a book, we didn’t notice much more page turning than normal. Those used to reading eBooks on small phone screens will see this as a step up in more ways than just this.

Readers have plenty of options when it comes to how the text looks on the page. There is a choice of ten fonts plus sliders for text size, line spacing, margin width, and text orientation. We particularly like the advanced font settings where you can control font weight and sharpness, something we haven’t seen outside of Kobo’s offerings. These options mitigate some of the issues we had with the display.

Kobo Mini review topThe two issues that dog the Mini are speed and display quality. Compared to the Kindle PaperWhite and the Nook Simple Touch, the Mini’s Vizplex E Ink screen doesn’t have as much depth of contrast and isn’t as crisp. We noticed this even before placing the competition side-by-side. The contrast on the Mini is acceptable, especially at this price point. Though spend just a bit more and the quality goes up noticeably.

On the performance front, the Mini isn’t as quick to respond as the competition, either. Page turns happen fast enough, but the flashing characteristic of older eReaders hasn’t yet been solved completely for this device. The flash is much less pronounced than we were used to seeing just three years ago, however.

Outside of basic reading, Kobo’s software offers all the extras eBook lovers expect, such as notes/annotations, highlights, dictionary look up, translation, search, and social network sharing.

Outside the Book

From boot, the Kobo interface is simple to understand, and the Mini guided us through setup. We’re not fans of the fact that it needed to download an update right away, but otherwise setup didn’t take too long. Once hooked into our existing Kobo account the Mini synced our books and reading stats. The opening screen helpfully arranges the covers of books in progress and not yet read. With one tap, you’re in.

Again, an overall slowness mars the experience somewhat. We often had to wait a second after tapping an element to see if the Mini would respond. We got frustrated when looking through our library or the bookstore since each time we changed the page we had to wait for both the processor and the screen refresh rate. It’s not so slow as to be unusable, and E Ink devices will never be as fast as LCD. The Mini takes a hair longer than it should, and that adds up.

Battery Life

With the Wi-Fi off, the Kobo Mini is rated to last up to a month. We kept the Wi-Fi on and used the eReader for a week, reading about 4 hours a day. The battery meter didn’t get down to half in that time, so we’re confident the longevity here is pretty good.

Buying and Adding Books

The Kobo Mini is equipped with Wi-Fi, and you can buy new books from the Kobo bookstore right from the device. The library boasts over 3 million books, magazines, and newspapers, including many new titles and bestsellers.

Since the Mini reads EPUB files, it is possible to load eBooks from other stores such as Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Google Books. You’ll need a third-party app to do so (Adobe Digital Editions, free). That same program also makes it possible to read eBooks from public libraries, if your local branch supports it. This gives the mini more versatility when compared to Amazon’s Kindles, which can do the library thing but are mostly limited to the books in Amazon’s catalog.

Like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kobo stores the purchases you make through their system in the cloud. No matter what Kobo device or app you use to buy the book, it will show up on the Mini or any other Kobo eReader once synced.

Hardware Specs

If you’re hardcore enough to want the numbers, here they are. The Kobo Mini’s 5-inch E Ink touchscreen has 16 levels of grayscale and an 800 x 600 resolution. Not super high, but this is a budget item. Inside it runs on a 800 MHz processor and has 2GB of internal storage. It has a micro USB port for charging and data connection and a microSD card slot for expansion. A 802.11 b/g/n radio provides wireless connectivity.

Aside from EPUB, the Mini also supports PDF, TXT, HTML, RTF, and MOBI files. Comics fans can read CBZ and CBR files as well.


The $80 Kobo Mini comes with a budget price tag yet doesn’t come off as cheap. Yes, to get to that price point there are sacrifices in quality — you won’t get the crispest screen or the fastest performance. But this is not a crappy dollar store eReader, it’s a good option for consumers whose primary concern is price or who don’t want to spend too much on something for a child who may not treat it as well as they should.


  • Light and comfortable
  • Size is good for small hands
  • Lots of control over text inside eBooks
  • Touch-controlled and easy to use
  • Access to eBook sources beyond Kobo’s store


  • E Ink screen doesn’t offer as much contrast as the competition
  • Could use faster performance
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?

Amazon knocks $30 off its Paperwhite ebook reader in limited-time deal

Amazon is running a couple of limited-time deals for its Paperwhite ebook reader. One offers a $30 discount, while the other throws in a pair of headphones and a free, extended Audible trial.

The Kobo Clara HD, one of the best Kindle alternatives, is now on sale

One of the more popular Kindle alternatives (and one that stands tall as one of our favorite ereaders) is Kobo. Among the best of Kobo's offerings is the awesome Kobo Clara HD, and it's now on sale for the holidays for just $100 from…
Smart Home

Stock a little and save a lot with these great mini fridges

Whether you're looking for a dorm room fridge or an addition to your basement bar, you'll find the perfect compact fridge on this list, and your brews will be chilling in no time.

New Moment photo cases and lenses are a big plus for the OnePlus 6

Moment has announced that it is now releasing photo cases and lenses for the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T, giving owners of those phones the ability to add on some high-quality photographic accessories.

Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition: Everything you need to know

The Vivo Nex Dual Edition is the gorgeous flagship we need to close out 2018. In addition to dual screens, the Nex Dual Edition has some other awesome features. Here's everything you need to know about the new Vivo Nex Dual Edition.

REI clearance sale extends discounts on Garmin, Fitbit, and GoPro devices

Beyond the things you typically expect to find at REI — like tents, skis, and jackets — there are tons of great deals on quality tech foryour outdoor adventures. From smartwatches to action cameras, here are the best tech deals.

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.

Protect your new iPhone with one of our favorite iPhone XR cases

Apple's new iPhone range is the toast of 2018, with beautiful style and more power than you can shake a stick at. But beauty can often be fragile -- keep the damage to a minimum with the best iPhone XR cases.

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.