The 2nd Gen Kobo Aura H2O is Disappointing

2nd gen Kobo Aura H2O

Kobo’s latest ebook reader, the 6.8-inch Kobo Aura H2O Edition 2, was released earlier this week on Monday the 22nd.

The one I ordered from Chapters.Indigo arrived a couple of days ago and I can’t help but be disappointed with the new Kobo Aura H2O.

Honestly I feel like the 1st gen model was better and I wouldn’t hesitate to choose it over this new one.

The first thing that jumped out about the 2nd gen H2O is the new design makes it look and feel cheap, especially compared to the much-nicer 7.8-inch Kobo Aura One with its flush glass screen and streamlined design.

The smooth plastic bezel on front of the H2O makes it seem like a budget device. It has that cheap plastic feel to it and it shows marks and smudges easily.

The original Kobo Aura H2O had a soft coating that covered the front and back that felt nice and gave it some personality.

Another disappointing aspect with the 2nd gen model is the screen isn’t as clear and sharp as the Kobo Aura One. Text has a fuzzy quality to it that makes it look like it’s behind a layer, whereas the text on the Aura One is clearer and more present like it’s on top of the screen instead of below it.

The Aura One has a 300 ppi E Ink Carta screen and the new H2O has a 265 ppi E Ink Carta screen, so some difference is to be expected, but it’s more than just a pixel density issue; everything about the H2O’s screen looks duller and fuzzier.

I think the reason for this is the fact the new H2O uses a capacitive screen instead of infrared like the original H2O and Kobo’s other earlier models. Somehow the glass layer on the Aura One isn’t as affected by it, since it has a capacitive screen as well.

I had assumed the new H2O would use an infrared touchscreen since it has an indented screen like the original model, but it’s only indented like 1 mm and there’s no sign of any infrared sensors.

To be clear there’s nothing wrong with the 2nd gen H2O’s screen—text is comfortably readable—but when you have it side-by-side with the Kobo Aura One the difference is more than I would’ve expected. Text on the Aura One just has a much clearer and cleaner look it. I had actually expected the results to be the opposite because ereaders with infrared screens typically look a little better than ereaders with capacitive screens because infrared doesn’t add a layer over the screen, but it turns out the H2O no longer uses an infrared touchscreen so there is no advantage there.

Another thing that surprises me is the new H2O feels heavier in the hand than the Aura One, despite weighing 23 grams less. The Aura One is quite a bit thinner and the larger area seems to disperse the weight more evenly or something. It’s weird.

I’ll post a comparison review tomorrow between the Aura One and new H2O for a closer look, but it’s pretty obvious at this point that the Aura One is the much nicer device and is definitely worth the extra $50.

23 Responses to “The 2nd Gen Kobo Aura H2O is Disappointing”

  1. I can’t wait to see your video comparison of the two 🙂

  2. The H20 MK1 doesn’t use infra red. It’s capacitive. I know this, as my old Nook used IR and the issues were annoying.
    I think I’ll wait for a more scientific review.

    • You’re wrong. The 1st gen did have an IR touchscreen. Just because the Nook gave you problems doesn’t mean they all have problems. I think I’ll wait for more scientific comments.

  3. I have both the Aura one and did have the old h20 which i returned. I still have an old kobo aura which i prefer over all of them as the curved rear is much more comfotable to hold. I hate and detest the latest kobo designs. The rears are horrid and scratchy to hold and with flush bezels there is nowhere to rest a thumb when reading for hrs on end if you get tired my thumb drops onto the page with the aUra one. Also page
    Turning on all the kobos is still very poor. On the aura one i have to sometimes touch rhe left side several times before the page turns. And yet when i am in my book sections and need to turn a page to check how many books i may have on a shelf, when you try and swipe left you end up touching somewhere which then opens a book you did not want opened. Without any doubt we want dedicated page turn buttons and i for one would much prefer to go back to the older gen rear on kobo which was nice to hold one handed either hand a million times better
    Than now i like the bezel on the new h20 2 as you can rest your thumb when reading so when your tired your thumb willnot drop on the screen.

    • I agree, I like the bezel rather than the flat screen.

      I wonder if this is a crossover between the Aura One and the Glo HD.

  4. Interesting review. I’ve read a couple of others and neither have commented on the lower ppi.

    Could you do a quick comparison between the Aura H20 2nd generation and the Kobo Glo HD.

    I am happy with my Glo HD, it has 300 ppi and I like the look and feel of it. But I do want a comfort light.

    Is the lower ppi a good trade off for the comfort light.

    Thanks, and looking forward to the next review.

    • Sorry but I don’t​ have a Glo HD anymore to do a direct comparison. To me it’s not an issue with ppi. The last time I compared 300 with 265 the difference was virtually imperceptible, but that was with infrared touch on the 265 so there was no added layer.

  5. Thanks Nathan!

    I am more interested in a comparison of the old H2O and the new one. I love the sharp screen of my old H2O (which seems even sharper than the screen of my Aura One) so I am very curious if the screen of the new one is less sharp.

    • I would like to see a screen comparison as well but I no longer have an original H2O. These days I only keep ereaders that I use regularly, that being an Aura One and a Kindle Paperwhite. Everything else goes on eBay after I review it. But if you’re old H2O looks better than the Aura One that would confirm it, because it’s not even close with the new one. With the lights off the screen background is way darker and grayer than the background on the Aura One.

      • That is very strange and too bad. The screen of my old H2O is a lot whiter with the light off than the screen of my Aura One. So I was hoping that the new H2O has also a white colour + the comfort Light with night mode. I don’t understand why the screen of the new Kobo’s is pretty grey with the light off.
        Anyway, I’m looking forward to your video comparison.

        • Dear Mo, could you please tell me which of the two devices is faster and more precise in turning page, and most importantly which one is more responsive and precise in underlining, and in taking notes?
          The old H2O, or the Aura One?
          And how long lasts the battery in each?

  6. Thanks for the review. I had to choose between the H2O and Aura One. Now I will get the Aura One for sure.

  7. I had the original Kobo aura. I just got the Aura One a couple of months ago. I love the size and the way the screen looks. Changing the font and size of the text is much easier as well. The only thing I enjoyed on the original compared to this one more was having a micro SD slot.

  8. I am in the lucky position of having Kobo H2O Mk1 and Kobo Aura One. Love the One screen size is the main thing for me.
    Old H2O I think uses the sleep cover feature better as the cover does not touch the screen itself so you don’t get sleep and page turn problems. a flush screen the cover touch’s the screen and sometimes seems to cause problems.

    • I’d like to read your opinion about what I’ve just asked to Mo: between the old H2O and the Aura One, which one is faster and more responsive and precise in underlining, taking notes, and turning pages?

  9. You know whats funny is that I also jumped at the new H2O which arrived today. I have the original H2O, the Aura One and now the H20 Edition 2 and without a doubt, let me repeat that….with out a doubt the original H2O destroys both of them hands down. I don’t know what it is but the original H2O has a sharper screen even at 265ppi and bolder text which translates to easier reading. I’d like to say its the IR screen but the edition 2 also has IR/ The screen on my original H2O has a nice evenly lit warm glow that is perfect under any lighting condition and the text just pops out whereas the Aura ONE feels as if though its underneath a couple of layers….maybe this has to do with the comfort light.
    But yes, you are right the new edition 2 while is nice and lightweight is nowhere near as nice as the Aura ONE which is nowhere near as nice as the original H2O, go figure.
    I’ve also added the mobile read patches on all 3 and still the original H2O is the king hands down! The Aura One suffers from the flush bezel lighting thats uneven just like the Voyage and Oasis, seriously stay away from flush bezels, it’s an absolute gimmick that not only offers uneven lighting but significant glare as opposed to non flush bezels.

    • You must have bad luck because the frontlight on my Aura One looks great. The orange color is a bit off in the lower right corner but I use the blue natural light anyway and it’s very even with no weird colors or shadows. The InkBook Prime that I just reviewed had a flush screen with a perfectly even frontlight too. The Voyage was the only one I really had problems with.

    • Hi Rick, and sorry if you’ve received notifications already, for the question I asked to other users. I don’t know how notifications work here.
      Anyway, I ask you too: between the old H2O and the Aura One, which one is faster and more responsive and precise in underlining, taking notes, and turning pages?

  10. I have two Aura Ones – both have very even front lights using the regular light and very minor shadings when I use the comfort light. I think this is an awesome device and one that makes it hard to go back to smaller screens. My Oasis does not get much use anymore. If I go to read a Kindle book I move to the iPad mini instead. But that is not often since I have switched to buying all my recent books from Kobo. Amazon lost a very avid reader by refusing to bring out a larger e-ink device.

  11. I am wondering, is this ereader an HD model?
    What qualifies an ereader to be an HD, is it the 300ppi?

  12. Did anybody here try the new Oasis and could compare its responsiveness to touch with the 2 H2O and the One?