Review: Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo eBook Readers

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Given both the Kobo Glo and the Kobo Mini are essentially the same thing, except for the obvious size difference – as you can see in the image above – we decided to combine them into one. Both are an attempt by Kobo to steal book lovers away from getting the popular Amazon Kindle – and with the Paperwhite still not available in Australia yet, the Kobo Glo pretty much emulates it by including a backlight. However, does it answer the most important question – is it worth it?

Terence Huynh reviews the Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo.

  • Score:

    7.0 / 10

  • The Good:

    User interface is simple to learn; good battery life; simple design; backlight (Glo); pocketable size (Mini)

  • The Bad:

    Touchscreen does not respond to touch sometimes; no mechanical buttons; web browser is poor

  • Bottom Line:

    A good Kindle alternative for those who don’t want to be tied to Amazon’s ecosystem

Design and Features

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The Kobo Glo and the Kobo Mini are essentially the same eBook reader – except, as you probably would have guessed, the Mini is the smaller of the two. Both are 1cm thick and have a plastic casing; however, the Mini features a 5-inch E-Ink touchscreen, whereas the Glo has a 6-inch touchscreen E-Ink touchscreen. They also include a microUSB port at the bottom, so you can easily recharge the device while on your PC (or, get a USB adaptor for your powerpoint).

Of course, the size difference does also mean there are some slight differences in the internal specs – the Glo has a 1GHz processor and 2GB of storage with an expandable microSD card. The Mini, on the other hand, has an 800MHz processor and also 2GB of storage, but does not offer a microSD card slot. If you want to read while in bed with the lights turned off, then the Glo includes a backlight.

Design-wise, the Kobo Glo and Kobo Mini are, well, too plain and generic. However, that said, it is functional. Both are very comfortable to hold given their relatively small sizes. I especially like the Mini’s smallness, because I can read and flip between pages with one hand. The Mini’s size – being only 102 x 133 x 10mm – makes it also very pocketable, easy to stash in your pocket while you’re on the train.

In terms of what it can read, the Kobo Glo and Mini support can read a wide variety of formats such as EPUB, PDF, MOBI, TXT, RTF and HTML files – so you can read all the free books available on Project Gutenberg. Comic Book fans would also be pleased to find that both also support the CBZ and CBR file formats, with image support for JPEG, GIF, PNG and TIFF.

Connection-wise, both only support Wi-Fi. There is no 3G mobile data support, so you can’t really books on the go. It isn’t a necessary feature – you’ll likely be reading if you aren’t near a Wi-Fi connection.

With Kobo readers comes its “social reading” platform called Reading Life. It is essentially FourSquare for reading, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – especially for children and young adult readers. You can track your stats on when do you read and how long, earn awards, and share ideas with other readers on what they thought that book was all about (especially handy if you are a Literature student who is struggling with a book). As well, like every other app, it connects with Facebook so you can share everything. Reading Life not only is available on the Kobo devices, but also their reading apps on iOS and Android.

Performance and Software

Both the Glo and Mini are pretty snappy when it comes with the touchscreen, though we did encounter a few slight delays in response but that is to be expected – I do have a Kindle touch and it also has the same delay issue with some figure gestures. That being said, for me, I prefer to have the mechanical keys when flipping pages so that my eyes are still focused on the text and not interrupted by my finger. That’s just my personal opinion, but I can also see why some people prefer touchscreens – it’s just feels natural now, given that we live in the era of tablets.

Text is clear and readable, and the operating system – like the design – is simple. You want to find a book to download or purchase, go to “Find Book”. If you want to read what is in your collection, tap “Library”. Hold on the screen and highlight the word or passage if you want to know more, make notes or even share it on Facebook.  If you are new to the eBook reader craze, or just a first-time Kobo user, then the user interface is pretty easy to learn.

Both include a bunch of extra stuff, hidden under the “Settings”. While the Glo only includes Chess, the Sketch Pad (which saves the drawing as an .png image), Sudoku and Web Browser extras are common on both devices. The web browser I would stay away from – both on the Kindle and on the Kobo devices – because it is ficky and problematic. Also, given the screen is black and white, and many sites include high-quality colour images, it is no point to use it. It is maybe a bit fine to use it on BBC News or the Age, but don’t expect it to be in the same calibre as your smartphone browser.

Other extras, such as Chess and Sudoku, are alright on the Kobo Glo and Mini, but feedback is obviously not instant given that it needs to refresh the screen. However, given that they are also available on your smartphone, you’re probably best just using that instead of the Kobo. Like I said, it’s a great extra – but it’s been done better on other devices.

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In terms of battery life, the battery life is really long. Kobo says both the Mini and Glo last a month when doing average reading (and if you’re not connected on Wi-Fi). The Glo has a battery life of 70 hours if you continuously read with the backlight.

The library does feature a lot of mainstream books, with some free books, so you’re not missing out on any books. However, Amazon does feature a larger library compared to Kobo’s, given its strong relationships with book dealers. Pricing for the books, however, is pretty much irrelevant – we’ve found cases where Kobo is cheaper than Amazon, while some books on Amazon were cheaper than Kobo. All of them, however, the price difference were miniscule.

Conclusions

Both the Kobo Glo and Kobo Mini are decent eBook readers and a strong competitor to the Amazon Kindle. The Mini is especially great for its small size, and being pocketable so you can read a book whenever you need it; while the backlight does make this a pretty good alternative for those sick of waiting for Amazon to release the Kindle Paperwhite to Australians (it is currently available in America only).

However, that said, many of the features are the same as the Kindle and they don’t really add anything new feature-wise or design-wise to the current (previous-generation) Kindles in Australia. The Kindle’s library still dominates the Kobo one, and that might be a determining factor.

The Kobo Mini costs $99.99, while the Glo is $159.99.

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