Review Date: September 2016 – Review unit purchased from Chapters.Indigo
The Kobo Aura One is the first ebook reader to feature a 7.8-inch 300 ppi E Ink display. It’s also the first ereader to offer a frontlight with adjustable color temperature.
Additionally the Kobo Aura One is the first and only Kobo ereader to offer built-in OverDrive support to download library ebooks from public libraries for free.
The device sells for $229 in the Unites States and $249 in Canada.
Kobo also sells their ereaders in the UK, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Brazil.
- The large 7.8-inch screen size is a great alternative to all the 6-inch ereaders out there, and text looks crisp and clear with the high resolution 300 ppi E Ink screen.
- Built-in OverDrive support to download free ebooks from your public library directly without having to use a computer.
- The color tone of the frontlight can be adjusted to suit your taste from blue to yellow to orange, and it also has an auto adjusting sensor.
- Despite the larger size the Aura One is surprisingly lightweight and comfortable to hold.
- It’s waterproof, IPX8 rated.
- Touchscreen unresponsive at times, requires multiple taps.
- The auto-adjusting frontlight adjusts too much at times and can be distracting.
- Battery life (there’s a battery drain issue that needs to been fixed, but battery life seems below average for an E Ink ereader even when the drain issue isn’t occurring; I’ll post an update on overall battery life after they fix the problem).
- Software laggy at times, especially with certain PDF files, images, and comics.
The 7.8-inch screen and built-in OverDrive support make the Kobo Aura One one of the best ebook readers on the market, especially as an alternative to the 47 different Kindles with the same 6-inch screens.
However, Kobo’s software still lags behind the Kindle’s in terms of overall performance, and especially when it comes to advanced features and learning tools. Kobo has some advantages when it comes to fonts and layout options, but they just don’t seem to put much priority in software improvement and optimization, especially when it comes to sideloaded content (for instance, PDF performance is just as bad as it was 5 years ago), but for reading regular ebooks the Aura One is really solid. See this Kindle vs Kobo Aura One comparison for more details.
Kobo Aura One Video Review
Hardware and Design
By far the most impressive thing about the Kobo Aura One is the larger 7.8-inch E Ink screen. Most ereaders have 6-inch screens. Personally, I much prefer the 7.8-inch screen now that I’ve gotten used to it and I don’t think I can go back.
Even despite the larger screen, the Aura One feels very light for its size at 230 grams. That’s the second most impressive thing about it. You’d think that it would end up being a lot heavier with the larger display but it actually weighs less than the smaller Kobo Aura H2O. It also weighs less than the older Kindles like the Kindle Keyboard, so the weight really isn’t a negative factor at all. It’s much lighter than a comparable-sized tablet, like the new Fire HD 8 that weighs 341 grams, which is about 50% heavier than the Aura One.
Another cool thing about the Aura One is the premium design. It has a flush glass screen similar to the Kindle Voyage and original Kobo Aura. That makes it seem a little more tablet-like. The device is also very slim at 6.9mm. Most other Kobo ereaders are over 9mm so it’s quite a bit thinner.
The frontlight is another unique feature with the Kobo Aura One. It’s the first ereader to have a frontlight with adjustable color temperature. You can customize the screen tone however you want, from a brighter blue tone to a warmer yellow/orange tone.
Additionally, both the frontlight brightness and color tone can be set to auto so that the brightness and color will change depending on the amount of ambient lighting and the time of day. Personally I don’t care for the auto setting so I keep it turned off because it adjusts too much and it’s distracting while reading.
Overall the frontlight looks pretty good on the Kobo Aura One. No frontlight is perfect, however, and the Aura One is no exception. It has the usual shadowy cones at the bottom of the screen and you can see a color difference in terms of brightness when using the orange lights. Overall it’s not bad but I’ve seen better.
Another impressive detail about the Kobo Aura One is the fact that it’s waterproof. It’s IPX8 rated and can survive in up to 2 meters of water for 60 minutes.
On the negative side, Kobo has done away with memory card slots on all their newer ereaders. At least they doubled the storage space on the Aura One up to 8GB, with about 6.8GB usable.
It still has the same 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM as all the other ereaders so nothing has changed there.
Kobo’s ebook readers all basically run the same exact software, so there really isn’t much to add that I haven’t already said before in past reviews of Kobo’s devices.
The main new feature with the Aura One is the onboard support for library ebooks from OverDrive. All you have to do is enter your library card number and then you can download free ebooks from your library through the Kobo store. It’s a really cool feature and is a lot easier to use than the old method that required a computer to sideload library ebooks. See this separate review for more details: Here’s How OverDrive Works on Kobo Aura One for Free Library eBooks.
Kobo’s software isn’t quite as user-friendly and smooth to operate as Kindle software, and there are more bugs and random problems, but Kobo software is more capable, versatile, and open to more customizations.
Lots of patches and custom mods can be installed on Kobo ereaders, thanks to the development community at MobileRead, even alternate reading apps like Cool Reader and KOReader can be installed. One of the more popular options is to use the full screen mode patch to remove the header and footer to get more screen space. However, with the larger screen I don’t mind the header and footer on the Aura One.
Kobo’s ereaders use a different kind of homescreen layout than other devices. Instead of listing just books, the homescreen shows tiles for all recent activity, including things like categories from the Kobo ebookstore, the web browser, and recommended titles in addition to recently-opened books. It also shows things like how many notes and highlights have been added to a book, along with estimated reading times and percentages.
There’s also the more typical library view that displays a list of ebooks. There are different sections for books, collections, and articles from Pocket. The library list offers cover view and list view, the latter shows more information, including percentage read, size and format. Sorting options include by recent, title, author, file size, and file type. Additionally, you can break it down further with the option to sort by all, reading, unread, purchased, previews, imported, and OverDrive.
One of the advantages with Kobo’s ereaders is they offer more font and layout settings than most ereaders. You can adjust the boldness of the text with Kobo’s preloaded fonts, plus you can sideload your own fonts. There are several margin and line-spacing settings, with a ton of font sizes.
Kobo Aura One Reading Features
OverDrive Support: Just enter a library card number and you can start downloading ebooks for free from your public library. The features is dependent on library participation, of course, but there are a number of libraries in the US that you can signup for even without being a resident of the state. This feature is supported by libraries in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Notes and Highlights: Hold down on a word and drag to bring up the option to highlight and add text notes using the onscreen keyboard. There’s an annotations list to view them. There’s no option for export, but they can be shared on Facebook.
Bookmarks: When reading an ebook, tapping the upper right hand corner adds and removes bookmarks. They can be viewed, shared, and edited from the annotations list.
Font Choices: The Kobo Aura One includes 10 fonts and over 50 font sizes. Font weight can be adjusted to embolden text. You can also sideload your own TTF and OFT fonts by placing them in a "fonts" folder on the Kobo drive, but you can’t adjust weight with sideloaded fonts. Pre-installed font choices include: Amasis, Avenir Next, Caecilia, Georgia, Gill Sans, Kobo Nickel, Malabar, Gothic, Ryumin, and OpenDyslexic.
Text Adjustment: All Kobo ereaders offer line spacing and margin adjustment for ebooks. There’s also the option to choose full justification, left justification, and you can turn justification off. These don’t always work with sideloaded books, however.
Dictionary: Holding down on a word opens a dictionary window. From there you can choose different dictionaries and translation dictionaries. 22 different dictionaries are available in the settings menu.
Search: From the library and homescreen you can search Kobo’s bookstore and your Library by title, author or keyword. You can run searches within ebooks for specific terms and easily navigate around the book using search, which is limited to 100 results. You can also highlight a word or phrase while reading and then choose to search Wikipedia or Google and a window will popup to open the browser.
Navigation: There’s a table of contents for navigating through an ebook, along with a page dial to jump by pages and chapters.
Reading Stats: Kobo ereaders offer reading stats that provide information about how long it will take to finish an ebook and chapter based on your reading speed. It shows book progress, chapter progress, average minutes per reading session, average pages per minute, total hours reading, and the percentage of total library read. There’s an indicator while reading that shows upcoming chapter length too. Works only with Kobo ePubs.
Reading Awards: There’s a section for reading awards. You can earn various badges for accomplishing certain tasks and goals. Works only with Kobo ePubs.
Beyond the Book: This used to show additional information about the author and key terms in Kobo books, with references from Wikipedia, but now it only displays related titles.
Pocket Integration: Kobo ereaders work with Pocket, a service that can send web articles that you’ve tagged online to your Kobo device. Plus the articles get reformatted to display better on mobile devices.
Sharing: You can share highlighted sections and notes on Facebook.
Landscape Mode: Kobo ereaders offer landscape mode for PDFs and comics but not for ebooks.
Language Support: The following languages are available in the settings menu: English, French, Canadian French, Japanese, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Turkish.
Partial Page Refresh: In the settings menu you can set E Ink page refresh from 1 to 6 pages.
Page Turns: In the settings menu there are different tap zones that you can set to page forward, back, and open settings.
Beta Features: From the settings menu there’s a beta features section, but it only includes a basic web browser these days. There used to be a sketch pad and some games but Kobo removed them.
Additional Kobo Aura One Reviews
- Kobo Aura One PDF Review (Video)
- OverDrive Library eBooks on Aura One
- Kindle vs Kobo Aura One Comparison Review (Video)
- Kobo Aura One Comics and Manga Review (Video)
- Tips for Buying Kobo eReaders in the United States
Kobo Aura One Specs
- 7.8-inch HD Carta E Ink display.
- 1872 x 1404 screen resolution (300 dpi).
- Waterproof for up to 60 minutes in up to 2 meters of water; IPX8 certified.
- Frontlight with ComfortLight PRO to reduce blue light.
- Capacitive touchscreen with 2-point touch.
- 1GHz processor with 512MB of RAM.
- 8GB internal memory.
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
- Supported formats: Adobe DRM, EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR.
- Battery Life: up to 1 month, according to Kobo, but 1-2 weeks is a lot more realistic.
- Languages supported: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish.
- Weight: 230 grams.
- Dimensions: 195.1 x 138.5 x 6.9 mm.
- Price: $229 USD from Kobo.com.