Thursday, August 01, 2013

Kobo Glo: Mini-Review

After much deliberation, and on the advice of @la and other appnetizens, I bought a Kobo Glo from, oddly enough, Common Good Books.

I ended up with the Kobo Glo largely because I can't quite persuade myself to buy the current generation of iPads, my experience with the original Nexus 7 was disappointing, and I assume the Nexus 7 Retina will have awful battery life. At the same time I wanted an ePUB reader for compatibility with and Google Play, and because Adobe's DRM can be removed. I also wanted simplicity of mounting/charging and transferring files via USB, and the expansion of a (micro) SD card option.

So I was left with buying either an eInk Nook or Kobo. I disliked the Nook because the one I tried was misconfigured to do an eInk full screen refresh every page; I was left with an unfair impression. It helped that while is US presence is slight the Kobo seems to have a good international market -- and Kobo's marketing angle is 'freedom' (though I think they use the same Adobe DRM as Google Play and Nook).

I paid $130 for the Glo plus tax. No bargains this time around; it seems to cost the same online. It comes in a compact box with a slender setup guide and a micro-USB cable (no charger) and no slip case or cover.

My initial experience was not good. I connected it to my Mac and ran the setup using Kobo Desktop, which seems to be a well behaved and digitally signed Mac app. After initialization an update started, but it behaved a bit oddly. I had to pull the USB cable to get the update to commence, but then I feared power loss and reinserted the cable. Although it seemed to behave and register normally, the Kobo didn't recognize any of the files I put on it via USB desktop mounting. It also, I later realized, was not showing the proper 'connect' dialog on USB cable connection.

So next I did a factory refresh, and this time instead of a desktop setup I did a WiFi connection setup. The device updated again, but this time it took far longer for the update to continue. It seemed to be stuck, cycling between progress indicators for minutes -- but I ignored it and, somewhat to my surprise, it eventually restarted. I completed my registration using the painful onscreen keyboard.

After the refresh and registration I was able to drag files to the Kobo and they were processed on device. I'd forgotten how compact ePubs are, and how big 2GB is. At 1MB or so per ePUB it will take a long time to use up my remaining 1.35 GB -- even if I don't use the micro-SD card slot.

My initial impressions are guarded; I think the iPad Mini Retina will be a better reading experience -- but it will cost far more and it's not yet available. My iPhone 5 has a better screen, but it's small for reading technical books. The mandatory eInk full page flicker, which occurs at least every 6 pages, is annoying.

On the other hand, the battery life is at least weeks long. It is a boring black and white device, so I don't have to worry about the kids fighting for a turn. When I buy my iPad Mini it will still be a useful device for someone else.

For the moment I carry it in a cloth pouch, I'll see how the plastic screen holds up.

See also:

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