Review Date: June 2017 – Review unit purchased from Chapters.Indigo
Kobo released the Kobo Aura H2O Edition 2 in May 2017. As the name implies, it’s the 2nd generation model—the original H2O was released back in 2014 and was one of the first waterproof ebook readers.
Overall not a lot has changed with the new model. It still has the same screen, the same software, and most of the same hardware as the original.
The main difference with the new H2O is the addition of the Comfortlight Pro to adjust the color temerpature of the frontlight. It and the Kobo Aura One are currently the only two ereaders to offer that feature.
The 2nd gen H2O sells for $179 in the Unites States and $199 in Canada, the same price as the original.
- The frontlight color can be adjusted from a cool hue to a warm orange color for night reading.
- Slightly larger 6.8-inch screen is a nice alternative to typical 6-inch ereaders.
- Bolder fonts than Kindles, and more font choices.
- It’s waterproof—IPX8 rated.
- Uninspired design—no page buttons, no memory card slot, plastic material feels kind of cheap.
- Screen not as sharp and clear as similar ereaders.
- Occasionally the touchscreen doesn’t recognizes presses so you have to tap things more than once to get it to respond.
The Kobo Aura H2O is unique with its 6.8-inch screen, the waterproof design, and the adjustable frontlight. No other ereader has that combination of features.
Personally I prefer the higher-quality design and the larger 7.8-inch screen on the Kobo Aura One, so the 2nd gen H2O never really clicked for me, but it’s still a nice device in its own right and provides a solid alternative to all the 6-inch ereaders available on the market—more choices is always a good thing, especilly when it comes to ebook readers.
Kobo Aura H2O Video Review
Hardware and Design
From a design perspective the new H2O is rather boring. It’s just a typical slap of cheap black plastic, with no page buttons, no memory card slot, and nothing interesting. It’s basically just an enlarged version of the Kobo Aura 2.
The InkBooks were the last ereaders that I reviewed and even the $79 Classic had a much nicer, higher-quality design than the 2nd gen Aura H2O, but that’s just the direction Kobo is going lately with their 2nd gen models—minimalist design with a few minor hardware changes.
Other than the design, the 2nd gen H2O is 90% the same as the original. It has the same screen, the same processor, the same amount of RAM.
The main changes with the newer model include the smaller and lighter design, the addition of a Comfortlight Pro to adjust the frontlight color, and the waterproofing went up a notch to an IPX8 rating. Kobo also did away with the memory card slot on the new H2O but they doubled the internal storage space to 8GB.
The frontlight is the most innovative feature the new H2O offers. You can control the color of the light from a brighter blue tone to a warmer orange hue. You can even set it to automatically adjust the color based on the time of day.
The slightly larger 6.8-inch E Ink screen makes the Aura H2O more unique than all the 6-inch ereaders out there, but the display is odd in that it still shows less text on the screen than a 6-inch Kindle unless you install a patch to remove the header and footer, so the added size is rather unnecessary if the goal is to show more text on the screen.
The capacitive touchscreen adds a very slight cloudy layer to the screen, making text appear less sharp and clear than ereaders like the Aura One. However, it’s hard to notice unless you have the two screens next to each other. The text still looks really good on the H2O, especially if you like bolder fonts, but the screen just isn’t quite as good as some other ereaders. The 1st gen H2O had an infrared touchscreen and I remember it having a super clear floating-off-the-screen quality to the text that’s lacking on this model.
Kobo’s ebook readers all basically run the same exact software so there isn’t much to add that I haven’t already said before in past reviews.
They did update the homescreen layout and menus with the release of the 2nd gen H2O. The new menus make it easier to navigate to different sections but the homescreen is less customizable and always seems to includes ads for Kobo’s ebookstore.
Highlighting is a lot smoother with the new software; that’s no longer an issue like it used to be with Kobo’s ereaders.
In general Kobo’s software isn’t quite as optimized and advanced as Kindle software, and it’s more prone to random bugs, but Kobo’s software is more customizable.
A number of custom patches and mods can be installed on Kobo ereaders, thanks to the development community at MobileRead, even alternate reading apps like 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.
Kobo’s software offers different sections for books, authors, collections, and articles from Pocket, a service that will send web articles to your Kobo. The library list offers cover view and list view. Sorting options include by recent, date added, title, author, series, file size, and file type. Additionally, you can break it down further with the option to sort by all, reading, unread, purchased, previews, and downloaded.
One of the main 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 over 50 font sizes.
Kobo Reading Features Explained
OverDrive Support:All Kobo ereaders support OverDrive for getting free ebooks from public libraries, but only the Kobo Aura One has onboard support to download the books directly from the Kobo store; all other Kobo’s require sideloading the ebooks using a computer.
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 H2O comes with 10 font choices 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 folder titled “fonts” 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, Kobo Tsukushi Mincho, Kobo UD Kakugo, 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: 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 Reviews
Kobo Aura H2O Specs
- 6.8-inch HD Carta E Ink display.
- 1430 x 1080 screen resolution (265 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: few weeks.
- Languages supported: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish.
- Weight: 207 grams.
- Dimensions: 172 x 129 x 8.8 mm.
- Price: $179 USD from Kobo.com.