The Kobo Aura HD is the newest ebook reader to hit the market, and it comes with a unique screen that is larger than typical E Ink ereaders, plus the resolution is higher. But is the screen good enough to win over would be Kindle Paperwhite buyers? Is the bigger screen size and better resolution really worth it?
Those are some of the questions I set out to answer in this Kindle Paperwhite versus Kobo Aura HD comparison review.
I already posted an in-depth comparison between the Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite awhile ago, and this review is very much the same. Both devices are very close competitors and share many of the same features. Each has its negatives and positives, depending on where you stand.
Comparing the E Ink Screens
The Kobo Aura HD is the first and only ebook reader to feature a 6.8-inch 1440 x 1080 resolution E Ink screen. The Kindle Paperwhite uses a 6-inch 1024 x 758 resolution screen.
When you have the two devices side-by-side, the screen size difference does not seem overly significant. The Aura HD’s screen is about half an inch wider and three quarters of an inch taller.
The crazy thing about the size difference is that it doesn’t necessarily mean the Kobo fits more text on the screen at one time than the Kindle. In fact, comparing the same exact ebook with the same exact font type, I was able to get the Paperwhite to display more text on the screen than the Aura HD. In the video below I demonstrated a situation where the Kobo had 1-3 more lines per page when comparing the same book, but I later found a more comparable font size that shows the Paperwhite displaying more lines per page, as the picture at the top of this post illustrates (click it to see a bigger image).
The amount of text you can fit on the screen is the opposite of what you’d expect simply because the Kobo ereaders waste so much screen space with spaces between paragraphs and a huge bar at the bottom to display the page numbers and one at the top of the screen to display the book’s title. Personally, I much prefer the Kindle’s way of formatting, but it all comes down to personal preference.
One thing I noticed about the Kindle Paperwhite, and you can see it in the video review below toward the end when I’m comparing the homescreens, is that images appear darker on the Kindle than on the Kobo. Text looks about the same, but things like cover images look a little inkier black on the Kindle.
The Kobo Aura HD wins in the resolution category, though. With the higher resolution screen smaller text is clearer and more readable on the Kobo’s screen with the extra 53 pixels per inch.
When comparing the frontlights between the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD, it’s readily apparent that the Kobo Aura HD is the winner. The lighting is much more even and uniform across the screen, and it’s also a little whiter in tone. This is most evident when ambient lighting is low with the light turned up; under bright light both devices’ screens appear similar.
The frontlighting on the Kindle’s screen tends to have more discolorations and shadows, whereas the Kobo’s screen is more uniform with very little variation in tone. There is a little bit of yellowing toward the top of the Kobo Aura’s screen, but it’s subtle.
The lighting is a tad brighter on the Kobo Aura HD with the brightness turned all the way up, and the same holds true all the way down at the lowest setting.
Mostly this is the same as the comparison with the Kobo Glo, but I’ve updated a few things:
Kobo Aura HD Advantages
- Larger screen with higher resolution.
- Clearer text at smaller settings.
- Better frontlight.
- Kobo ereaders support ebooks with Adobe DRM sold from a wide selection of ebook stores, not just Kobo.
- Kobo ereaders support sideloading ebooks in ePub format.
- There are more formatting options for line spacing, margins, justification.
- Customize font weight and sharpness.
- The Kobo Aura HD has a microSD card slot.
- The frontlight can be turned off (the light always stays on with the Kindle Paperwhite even at the lowest setting).
- More options on the homescreen.
- Option to set screen refresh from 1 to 6 pages.
- Reading Life feature keeps track of reading stats, with awards for reading.
Kindle Paperwhite Advantages
- The Kindle Paperwhite supports multitouch for pinch-zooming, which comes in handy for increasing font size, and zooming in on PDF files and when using the web browser.
- The Kindle Paperwhite is smaller and lighter than the Kobo Aura HD. The weight difference isn’t very noticeable but the Kobo feels a lot thicker and beefier than the Kindle because of the contoured back.
- More consistent formatting of ebooks, both sideloaded and from Amazon.
- Support for Kindle Games and Kindle Apps.
- The Kindle software runs smoother and is less prone to bugs and formatting inconsistencies.
- X-Ray feature analyzes a book’s contents with references from Wikipedia and Shelfari.
- Landscape mode for ebooks (Kobo only offers that for PDFs and comics).
- Better PDF support, with more features and contrast darken.
- Optional free global 3G wireless access for Amazon ebooks, Wikipedia, and Shelfari.
- Can easily take screenshots.
- Borrow 1 free ebook per month for Prime Members.
- Send to Kindle apps and email address makes emailing ebooks and documents to the Kindle Paperwhite easy; don’t have to use USB cable.
- Can have ebooks from public libraries wirelessly delivered (Kobo has to transfer via USB).
When comparing the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD, all I can say is that I wish I could merge both devices together to create a super ebook reader with the best of both worlds.
The Paperwhite’s uneven frontlighting has always bothered me, but I tend to prefer Amazon’s software and ebook formatting. The Kobo Aura HD has a better frontlight, a microSD card slot, and it supports ePub (which seems to matter to a lot of people but I don’t care because I just convert my ePubs to Mobi with Calibre).
What annoys me the most about the Kobo Aura HD is how much wasted space there is when reading ebooks, and the inconsistencies with formatting. The Kindle is much more efficient in displaying text. Of course that’s largely a personal preference, so don’t let my opinions sway you too much. At the end of the day (and this review) both are among the top ebook readers available now. The Kobo is more unique with its unusual screen size, but the difference in usability really isn’t significant. It will be interesting to see if Amazon decides to come out with a 6.8" model as well.
Video: Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD
P.S. I uploaded three other video reviews today showing the Kobo Aura HD in action. It will take a few days to write reviews for them. In the meantime you can watch them over on The eBook Reader’s YouTube Channel.