Kobo Aura One review

An ereader to rival the top-end Kindles

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Our Verdict

Kobo's latest ereader may lean toward the expensive end of the ebook market, but if you want a high-quality experience with a larger screen than the rest of the competition, the Aura One is the choice to go for.

For

  • Larger, beautiful screen
  • Interesting night time reading idea
  • Waterproof design

Against

  • Hard to hold
  • Expensive for some
  • Lacking Amazon's store

Kobo's latest premium device is the phablet of the ereader world. It feels huge in the hand, at least right now – it may be that in five years’ time a 7.8-inch screen ereader will be the norm.

Almost every ereader you can buy right now, including all four products in the ever-popular Amazon Kindle range, sport a 6-inch screen; Kobo apparently wants the Aura One to stand out as a big-screen alternative.

That 7.8-inch screen will look and feel huge if you've been used to a Kindle, or pretty much any other ereader – but has the Kobo Aura One got anything distinctive going for it other than its size?

Kobo Aura One price and release date

  • The Kobo Aura One is out now in the US, UK and Australia
  • It costs $229.99 (£189.99, AU$349.95)
  • The Aura One is more expensive than a Kindle Voyage

The Kobo Aura One is available now – you can buy it directly from Kobo's website, and from a number of other retailers.

The Aura One is the most premium and expensive product in the Kobo range at $229.99 (£189.99, AU$349.95). That's more than the $199.99 (£169.99, about AU$265) Kindle Voyage, but a good bit less than the top-of-the-range Kindle, the Kindle Oasis, which will set you back $289.99 (£269.99, about AU$380).

Kobo Aura One

Key features

  • New screen tech is designed to help you sleep better
  • Waterproof design makes this a great choice for holidays
  • The larger size may not be for everyone

The Kobo Aura One's headline feature is its size. This is different to any other ereader we've seen, and if you've always thought the current crop of devices were a bit small for your liking then this might be the ereader you’ve been waiting for.

While it may feel a little odd when you first pick up the Aura One, the large screen feels natural to use, and you should get used to it fairly quickly – and you’ll certainly appreciate it when you're reading.

The Kobo Aura One's screen  features Kobo’s new RGB front lighting technology, ComfortLight Pro, which works in a similar way to Night Shift on your iPhone or iPad (if you're running iOS 9.3), and is designed to help you get to sleep easier, and sleep better, after you’ve been looking at the screen.

The screen lighting starts the day as blue, and gradually switches to yellow and orange tones during the course of the day. Research has shown that such a shift in lighting makes it easier to sleep at night, which will be welcome if you tend to read in bed.

Kobo Aura One

It’s another feature that marks the Auro One out from the competition, and while we can't say for sure that it helped us sleep any better, it did make reading in bed a more relaxing experience.

Design

  • Large screen may make the Aura One difficult to use for some
  • It's thin and has an attractive design

Design-wise, the Aura One doesn't feel as premium as some Kindle products. The back panel is covered in dimpled plastic that makes gripping it easier, but it doesn't feel as nice as the Kindle Oasis.

Kobo Aura One

That doesn't mean it's a bad-looking device though – in fact there's a certain charm to the design of the Kobo. And there are no thick bezels that dip around the screen, like on some cheaper ereaders.

The Aura One is certainly large at 195.1 x 138.5 x 6.9mm, so you'll need both hands to use it comfortably – that’s fine if you’re sitting down, but it may a problem if you’re standing up on the train or bus, for example, and need to keep one hand free to brace yourself.

Kobo Aura One

It's also one of the thinnest ereaders you can buy at 6.9mm, as the internals have been spread across the larger body.

There's a power switch on the rear of the device which is easy to hit when you need to turn the Auro One on and off; apart from that the device is buttonless.

Kobo Aura One

Another big selling point of the Aura One is its waterproof design – you can happily use it to read beside the pool, and considering how popular ereaders are with holidaymakers it’s surprising more ereaders don’t have this feature.

That said, it’s worth noting that the Auro One isn’t dust-proof – the microUSB slot at the bottom of the device is open, which could cause issues if you're on a sandy beach.

Kobo Aura One

We regularly splashed the odd drop of water on the device while using it on holiday, though, and the waterproof design proved very welcome.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James is Phones, Wearables and Tablets writer for TechRadar and covers all the big announcements from the best manufacturers making gadgets for your palms, wrists and face. Based in London, James is often testing out the latest and greatest phones, smartwatches, VR headsets and - when he can be motivated to go outside - fitness bands. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest from the mobile world.