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Kobo Aura H20 review

Reading in the bath is no longer a risky maneuver with Kobo's waterproof H20.

Kobo Aura H20
Kobo Aura H20
MSRP $179.00
“The Kobo Aura H2O offers one of the most authentic reading experiences of any ebook reader and it even has a cool design. The reader’s special features are what set it apart from Amazon’s offerings.”
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Bright screen
  • Comfortable to hold
Cons
  • Less browser-friendly store
  • Wide bezels

Most people read on tablets and phablets nowadays, but some people still love to read on a good old ebook reader. Most will probably gravitate towards the well-known lineup of Amazon Kindles, but Kobo is worth a look.

The Kobo Aura H2O is one of the brightest, most attractive readers around and, to top it all off, it’s waterproof. The Aura H2O may offer superior protection against the elements, but how does the overall reading experience compare to that of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite?

Comfy to hold

The Kobo Aura H2O has a very distinctive look and feel. The back features a cool angled pattern that adds pizazz to the sparse, minimalistic design. The angles also offer a comfortable place for your hands to rest and give good grip for one-handed use. The texture is slightly rubbery and doesn’t pick up fingerprints.

Although the bezels around the screen offer space to rest your thumbs, they are much bigger than we’d like and make using the device one-handed almost impossible. The bezels also make the device look squat and square from the front.

Since the Aura H2O is waterproof, the charging port and MicroSD card slot are covered by a flap, which seals the openings off from water and other elements. The result is a smooth, seamless device. Overall, we think the Kobo Aura H2O looks classy and feels good to hold, though you’ll have to grip it with both hands.

Bright display and crisp text

The Kobo Aura H2O has a 6.8-inch touchscreen with Carta E Ink technology. The screen’s resolution comes in at 1430 x 1080 pixels with 265ppi (pixels per inch) to make text clear and easy to read. The screen is front-lit and looks much whiter and brighter than the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. We really liked the larger screen for reading and found that we much preferred it to the smaller Kindle.

It was easy to flip pages with a simple swipe or tap and we didn’t notice any delays.

The Kobo features ComfortLight technology that makes it easier to read in the dark, much like the Paperwhite from Amazon. It doesn’t strain your eyes or blind you either, like some tablet or smartphone screens do in low light. The screen also looked great in full sunlight, which is something no tablet or smartphone can say.

The Aura is powered by a 1GHz processor and comes with 4GB of internal storage, which can be expanded via a MicroSD card slot up to 32GB. So you should be able to put 3,000 ebooks on the Kobo without a MicroSD card and an additional 30,000 ebooks with the card in. That should keep even the most voracious reader satisfied.

The Kobo Aura H2O supports all the usual ebook formats, including EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RFT, CBZ, and CBR. As a result, you can read many more types of files on the Aura H2O than you can on the Kindle. Those of you who are multilingual will be glad to know that ebooks are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Italian, and Portuguese on the Kobo store.

Epic battery life and fully waterproof

Perhaps the best thing about the Kobo Aura H2O is its incredibly long battery life. Kobo says the Aura H2O should last up to 2 months before needing a recharge, which works out to 30 minutes of reading each day, if you turn the page once every minute. We’ve read an entire book on the Aura H2O and let it sit around idle for a while and it still has enough battery to last a few more weeks. The Kobo is one of the only devices we don’t have to remember to charge every night and it certainly makes life easier.

Kobo Aura H20
Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of our other favorite things about the Aura H2O is that it’s waterproof. We took it to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn for a day on the beach and didn’t have to worry about it getting wet (though we did keep it out of the ocean to avoid losing it). The new Kobo also joined in on a bubble bath without incident. Even when the Aura H2O did get wet, it continued to function normally, as promised.

Reading experience

Reading on the Aura H2O is a breeze. It’s easy to flip pages with a simple swipe or tap and we didn’t notice any delays, even when we were reading Gone Girl at warp speed. As with any ebook reader from Kobo, you can adjust the font size, line spacing, margins, and justification. The Aura H2O also offers 12 different font styles for those of you who like typography.

We’ve read an entire book on the Aura H2O and it still has enough battery to last a few more weeks.

You can tap on words to get definitions, select sections of text to highlight, or add annotations. Kobo also gives you your reading stats, so you know how much you’ve read, when you’ll hit the next chapter, and how many more hours of reading you’ve got until you finish the book. This seems like the kind of feature that would help a speed-reading college kid cram in all the required reading before an exam.

If you don’t plan to take the Kobo with you everywhere you go, you can also download its companion apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows. The apps will sync your bookmarks, so you’ll be able to continue right where you left off.

Getting reading material

If you’ve used a Kobo before, you can access all your ebooks from the Kobo Cloud. Those of you who’ve never used one of the company’s ebook readers can choose from the 3 million plus ebooks, newspapers, and magazines on the Kobo Store. Kobo’s store isn’t as easy to navigate as the Kindle bookstore and its list of recommended content is less polished than Amazon’s.

However, if you plan to download various ebook files onto your ebook reader from other sources, the Kobo Aura H2O holds a distinct advantage over the Kindle, which only supports Amazon’s files.

Conclusion

Even though the ebook reader seems to be fading fast, Kobo and Amazon are still producing high-end devices for that market. If you prefer reading on an ebook reader to reading on a tablet, the Kindle Paperwhite and Aura H2O are really your best options. The Kobo Aura H2O offers one of the most authentic reading experiences of any ebook reader and it even has a cool design. The reader’s special features are what set it apart from Amazon’s offerings.

We really enjoyed the Aura’s larger screen and the ability to put almost any file we wanted onto the device. The impressive battery life and waterproofing also offer clear advantages to those who like to read outdoors.

However, if you prefer a smaller size and don’t really need the waterproof feature, Amazon’s Kindle bookstore still outshines that of the Kobo when it comes to ease of use.

Highs

  • Waterproof
  • Bright screen
  • Comfortable to hold

Lows

  • Less browser-friendly store
  • Wide bezels

Editors' Recommendations

Malarie Gokey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Mobile Editor, Malarie runs the Mobile and Wearables sections, which cover smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and…
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