Kobo Aura H2O (2017) review

The waterproof wannabe Kindle-killer

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

The Kobo Aura H2O is a genuine pleasure to read. It is difficult for any product to stand out in a market so completely dominated by Kindle, but Kobo does a good job with both the Kobo Aura One and the H2O.

The H2O doesn’t quite have the same amount of unique features as the One, so the strengths it does have it shouts loudly, going so far as to actually call the product H2O. 

As the one thing that Amazon hasn’t managed to deliver yet, it makes sense to really sell the H2O on its waterproofing.

The waterproofing isn’t a light ‘spill your drink on it’ kind of waterproofing either, it delivers waterproofing in spades. As previously mentioned, we tried to drown the H2O for 55 minutes and it was literally like water off a duck’s back. The device showed absolutely no sign that anything was out of the norm the second we took it out of the water. 

The screen is crisp and easy to read, with a glut of options for customising your reader experience, from font type and size to refresh rate and backlighting, meaning if you can’t calibrate it to a setting you’re happy with we’d be very surprised.

The backlighting has the clever ComfortLight PRO, that changes the hue of light illuminating the screen to remove blue tones so that readers that enjoy a book before bed won’t have their sleep disturbed by looking at a screen before nodding off.

One of the major drawbacks with any Kobo reader is the bookstore in comparison with the Kindle store. As discussed on the previous page, the Kobo store is more limited in its selection of books and also the discounts it offers.

If you think this may be a deciding factor for you, the best thing we can recommend is to look at the Kobo and Kindle stores and check if they have the type of books you usually read and how much they are on each store.

Who's this for?

This is a device for someone who is new to the ereader market, who wants a device that they can throw in a beach bag, read by the pool, drop in the bath, and not worry about too much. 

If you already have the original Kobo Aura H2O or Aura One and are thinking about upgrading we’d say don’t bother. There isn’t enough of an improvement to make it worth the investment.

Should you buy it?

The Kobo Aura H2O poses an interesting question about priorities. It doesn’t have the best battery on the market, it doesn’t have the best screen on the market, it doesn’t have the best bookstore on the market, but it does have a feature that none of its competitors can match, its waterproofing. 

We know that we have talked a lot about the waterproofing on the H2O but if you are the type of reader who wants to read in the bath, or by the pool, or on the beach and not have to worry, this really is a game-changer. Does it make it worth the compromises? We think it does. 

There are, as we've said, several competitors to the new Aura H20, so make sure you check out its rivals below.

Kindle Paperwhite

The Paperwhite is Amazon's most popular ereader and for good reason. It's arguably the best value ereader on the market. What's more, with the 2015 upgrade, the Paperwhite now has the same resolution screen as the more flagship Amazon devices.

At $119 (£109.99, AU$190) it's a quality ereader for significantly less than the Kobo Aura H2O, while benefitting from Amazon's superior bookstore. It's also worth noting that Kindles are often included in Black Friday deals so if you can wait until then you can get one for even less.

Read the full review here. 

Kobo Aura One

The Aura One is different from the other ereaders on the market because of one significant thing, its size. Its screen dwarfs all the others on the market, so if little screens annoy you, this is the ereader for you. 

What's more it has the same waterproofing as the H2O, so if you like the sound of the H2O but are looking for a more luxe version, then you need to check out the One. The premium product does come at a premium price though, the One is $229.99 (£189.99, AU$349.95)

Read the full review here. 

Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.