Kobo Arc review

Good value, fast working 7-inch Android tablet with Google Play apps

Kobo Arc tablet e-reader
Kobo Arc tablet e-reader

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Forget the ereader market – the 7-inch Kobo Arc might have a literary bent, but this open Android 4.1 experience is at least the equal of the Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini in terms of core performance and value.

However, it lacks a few features that restrict it to battling with the other ebook readers, such as the Nook HD and Kindle Fire HD.

We liked

A fast processor, a nicely open Android experience and a clever layer of the Tapestries interface make using the Kobo Arc a pleasant experience and, app-wise, incredibly versatile.

The web concierge-style Discover feature won't be everyone's taste, but works well if trained using the Taste app.

Reading is smooth, comfortable and highly customisable, with an auto-sensor keeping brightness just about right, while the Kobo Arc even makes a play as an excellent tablet for games.

The Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update is welcome, too, since it brings Siri-like instant voice interaction and the impressive Google Now suite of easy-access information cards.

We disliked

The native Android browser is poor, which is a shame, since jumping ship to Chrome means losing the option to 'pin' content to Tapestries, and the touchscreen isn't always as sensitive as it should be.

Our biggest criticism of the Kobo Arc is that it lacks the kind of hardware that would make it a truly serious contender in the tablet market. The no-show of Bluetooth, HDMI-out and a microSD expansion slot takes away the kind of versatility all tablets need.

Final verdict

If you accept that Android tablets are more or less the same, it seems almost illogical to buy into a 'locked' ecosystem such as the Kindle Fire or Nook when open platform tablets like the Kobo Arc exist.

Add to that a fast, fluid operation and some innovative Tapestry tweaks to the Android GUI and we've got a great value 7-inch tablet, though the lack of Bluetooth, storage expansion and an HDMI output do limit its appeal as a do-it-all tablet.

The iPad mini doesn't have much to worry about, since it's a more encompassing tablet with more top-end features, but the Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD should take note, given that they both come from ereader backgrounds.

Overall, if those 'missing' hardware options are irrelevant to you, we'd recommend the Kobo Arc as an impressive 'my first tablet'. However, overall the Kobo Arc is probably happiest being the ereader-based tablet that offers by far the most freedom.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),