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Hands-on: Kobo's new e-reader hardware

updated 01:35 am EDT, Thu March 25, 2010

Reader aims to maintain entry-level pricing

Kobo at CTIA introduced an e-book reader, the eReader, which provides access to the company's own e-book store. Electronista took a quick look at the new device, an affordable offering at $149, and talked to the company about their changing strategy in the growing market.

With its entry-level pricing, the eReader is not designed to compete with the range of high-end devices. Users cannot add content via Wi-Fi or 3G, leaving USB as the only means of transfer. The company chose ePub as the primary format, with 1GB of onboard storage preloaded with 100 public domain titles.

Despite the limited feature set, Kobo's hardware maintains a simple design and compact form. A six-inch E Ink display fills most of the facade, providing the same viewing area as the Kindle but in a much smaller housing. Build quality seems decent, with the back surface covered in textured rubber for comfortable handling and grip on slippery surfaces.

While the Kindle is covered in a multitude of buttons, the Kobo integrates a directional pad and four buttons along the side of the housing. Placement seems to be natural, as the pad sits at the bottom right corner, and the relatively large size made it easy to browse through pages.

Kobo representatives suggested that the eReader is a logical extension of the company's e-book platform. The software will also be available for use by other third-party manufacturers, allowing smaller companies to enter the hardware market without worrying about establishing relationships with content providers to fill a store.

The eReader continues to expand Kobo's reach, which already includes a variety of devices. The company offers similar functionality on Macs and PCs, along with smartphones such as iPhones, BlackBerries, and Android-based handsets. An iPad app is also on the way.

Although the e-reader market has seen a flood of new devices announced in the past year, the eReader is an attractive option in the single-purpose category. Users looking for more advanced features above basic reading functionality might want to look elsewhere, however.

Customers in Canada can expect the eReader to arrive at Indigo sometime in May, while US buyers will have to wait for Borders to stock the device later in the summer.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. midtoad

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2007

    -1

    Bluetooth

    "Users cannot add content via Wi-Fi or 3G, leaving USB as the only means of transfer."

    Wrong! The Kobo reader has bluetooth for transferring content to/from your laptop or phone. I think this is a good choice, since bluetooth has far lower power consumption that WiFi, and you're hardly transferring content to the device every minute of the day. Bluetooth simply allows you to not have to remember where you put the USB cable.

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