Is it time to upgrade your e-reader?
This week, Kobo has officially released its latest device — the Libra H20 . And while technically it’s a mid-tier e-reader, the waterproof Kobo Libra H20 basically offers everything you need in an e-reader and is even comparable to competitor Kindle’s top-end Oasis e-reader.
For one thing, they both sport 7-inch displays, whereas Kobo’s flagship Forma has an 8-inch screen and Amazon’s other Kindles, including the popular Paperwhite, are 6-inch devices. And while, at first glance, the Libra H20 might look a little bulky, in reality, it is roughly the same size as the Kindle Oasis.
Both e-readers are 159 mm tall and the Libra H20 is only 3 mm wider (144 mm) and 4 g heavier (192 g) than the Oasis. Both devices vary in thickness and Libra H20 is actually 0.6 mm thinner than the latest Kindle Oasis at its thickest point, though 1.6 mm thicker at its thinnest.
The thicker side on both devices features configurable page forward/back buttons. But the back of the Libra H20 is more uniform. While it has a slight curve, it is mostly flat. And the difference in girth (5-7.8 mm) is mainly due to the fact, the frame around the buttons is angled upwards. As a result, you can easily grasp the Libra H20 between your thumb and forefinger and read one-handed. (What you do with your other hand is really not my business.)
And while most people will use the device in portrait orientation, the weight is evenly distributed so it works well in landscape as well. (It works better with the page buttons on the bottom as opposed to the top.)
The screen is also quite impressive. The Kobo Libra H20 uses a 300 PPI E Ink Carta display with a 1,680×1,264-pixel resolution. It offers a great monochrome image, with slightly deeper blacks than the Kindle Oasis – granted the screen can’t get as bright.
Still, the device’s ComfortLight PRO front light is bright enough for most situations. You can also adjust the colour temperature to make it easier on your eyes. A natural light slide lets you adjust the tint of the screen between blue and orange, much like other high-end e-readers.
The biggest development is not so much with the e-reader itself but the software. The Kobo Libra H20 comes with an updated OS, designed to improve the reading experience. The update, which will eventually be rolled out to other Kobos, adds an enhanced reading feature that changes how you can navigate e-books.
Sometimes you need to jump while reading around in a book but it’s often a lot easier to do so with a physical copy than an electronic one. So Kobo has decided to create a way to easily create bookmarks throughout an e-book. And it does this through two main ways: breadcrumbs and annotations.
If you tap the bottom of the screen while in an e-book, a progression bar will appear and you can slide to the page you want. At the same time, a dot (or breadcrumb) appears on the slide bar on the page you were on so you can easily jump back there when you’re done. Breadcrumbs are automatic and keep track of the last two places you’ve jumped to in the e-book.
I liked that breadcrumbs kept my place but I found it a little cumbersome at times as it’s hard to guess where the page you want to jump to is, simply by looking at a slide bar. Granted, when you slide to a page, a preview of it pops up first — and you can scroll through previews of the nearby pages until you find the right one. But it can be a little time-consuming.
Alternatively, the annotations feature was much more useful.
The annotations feature lets you bookmark a page by simply clicking the top left corner of the screen and a virtual dog-ear will appear on the screen. You can also add a note to the annotation.
Now placing a bookmark in an e-book isn’t, in itself, novel. Some Kindles allow some similar navigation. The Oasis, for instance, lets you bookmark a page or go to a specific page (or location) of an e-book.
But it’s the sheer breadth of the Kobo’s feature that’s impressive. The number of annotations you can create is infinite (or at least until you run out of storage). So you could conceivably create an annotation for every page of the e-book. I mean, it wouldn’t really be useful but it’s possible.
In addition to this, you can highlight and add notes to passages and look up words in a built-in dictionary. Though, once again, this is not unique to the Kobo Libra H20.
The Kobo Libra H20 supports 12 different fonts, 14 different file formats and has 8 GB of storage. Available in black or white, it can be purchased through the Rakuten Kobo Store and Indigo for $199.99.
Dimensions and weight
144 mm x 159 mm x 5-7.8 mm; 192 g
7-inch 300 PPI E Ink Carta display (1,680 × 1,264)
ComfortLight PRO – Adjustable colour temperature
14 file formats supported natively (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR)
TypeGenius: 12 different fonts, more than 50 font styles
Exclusive font weight and sharpness settings
1,200 mAh, weeks of battery life
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, 1T1R and Micro USB
Page turn buttons
Waterproof IPX8 (up to 60 minutes in 2 metres of water)
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019