Kobo Aura ONE Limited Edition: Is It Worth Buying One?
When I was a kid I used to dream of being able to take all of my comic books with me wherever I went. I even went so far as to stuff so many into my backpack that when I went to school I often didn’t have my textbooks. Luckily, part of being an adult means that I can do whatever I want, and Rakuten Kobo is on board with that. Kobo’s Aura lineup consists of a few devices, most of which can be beaten out by Amazon’s similarly priced e-reader lineup. But one stands out from the crowd, touting some pretty good hardware and some software tricks unique to Kobo.
The Aura ONE Limited Edition (and H2o) is Kobo's premium e-reader line, stacked with some impressive hardware and a hefty price tag. Still, there are bound to be some readers like me that are willing to pay a premium to live out their childhood dreams of carrying every book they own with them and more.
So what exactly is the limited edition all about, and should you bother with it when Amazon has its refreshed Kindle Oasis? Let's go over the breakdown.
There is a lot to look forward to with the Limited edition. From 32GB of storage to water resistance and the ability to check out library books straight from your e-reader, does Kobo have a device that can compete?
The display on the Limited Edition is pretty solid. I call its lighting backlit but the truth is that it is actually lit from the front, meaning that you won't have harsh light shining directly into your eyes at night or in dimly lit situations. This makes for a pretty comfortable reading experience all around, regardless of the conditions in which you are reading.
The display is also a 7.8" Carta E-ink screen with 300 ppi for sharpness that resembles a printed page. The words are clear and easy to read. The screen is large. Avid readers will enjoy the fact that there are more words on each page, this means less page turns and more enjoying the content that you are reading. Be it comics, manga or a plain old novel.
The Limited Edition comes with Kobo's unique ComfortLight PRO feature. This means that along with the standard white LEDs, Kobo has also included orange LEDs that allow the device to eliminate the blue light that normally emits from your device, causing eye strain after long reading sessions. This means that you can read for as long as you want without causing yourself unnecessary harm.
For those that have not experienced ComfortLight PRO, it's a feature that is similar to night mode on most smartphones. If you have a Galaxy smartphone or an iPhone, you can turn this feature on and it will make your screen appear orange. You will get used to this in a matter of hours and likely won't notice it at all in a few days, but it makes your screen easier to look at, especially at night.
Kobo has a feature called TypeGenius which provides "11 different fonts and over 50 font styles" and "Exclusive font weight and sharpness settings." This is a service that is provided in all Kobo devices and is Kobo's answer to Amazon's Bookerly font. Bookerly is nice but being able to change your font and sharpness allows for the reader to customize their reading experience to suit them.
OverDrive is a feature that allows readers access to an on-demand library of books from participating libraries, something that is unique to Kobo and not offered on Amazon's Kindle platform. If you frequent your public library, this is a cool feature that you will really enjoy.
OverDrive, along with Kobo's own bookstore that is expanding every year, make it a versatile device capable of suiting most readers.
Along with OverDrive, Kobo also allows you to load your own books. All Kobo devices support EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR formats. This means that you can load your own novels, graphic novels, comics, Manga and more. The storage of the device makes it essential if you have a lot of books with images.
Pocket, formerly known as Read It Later, is an app that allows you to save articles from the web to view at a later time. It's a really cool feature for research or when you just don't have the time to read something, but it looked interesting and you wanted to catch up with it later.
The Limited Edition comes with this feature and allows you to save something for later and read it on you E-ink device for a more pleasurable reading experience. This is one of those times that having an LTE feature like in most Kindle devices would come in handy.
The Limited Edition is IPX8 water resistant. This means that you can submerge it over 6 feet for over an hour. If you are someone that likes to read at the pool, in the tub, or just lives in a really wet climate, owners of the Limited edition can rest easy knowing that their investment is safe from any potential liquid damage.
The storage on the Limited Edition is both a gift and a curse. On the one hand, it has 32GB of storage. Kobo says that you will be able to hold over 20,000 ebooks. This is crazy considering that the average person is going to have much fewer books.
On the other hand, e-readers tend to have lower specs in order to extend battery life. This means that if you actually do have thousands of books, the Limited Edition, or any e-reader for that matter, will struggle to load everything, causing the device to slow significantly.
That being said, where 32GB of storage really shines is in graphic novels and comics, which tend to take up much more space. You will only be able to hold hundreds of graphic novels on 32GB of storage, so if this is you, this device or even the Kindle Oasis is a great option. If you have a library of image-heavy books stored on your computer, the Limited Edition is a no-brainer.
Even though the Limited Edition gets a lot right, its comparable price to Kindle's Oasis makes it fair game to some harsh criticism. Things like build quality and lack of LTE make one really have to consider which device would truly be the best fit.
One of the best features in my opinion that is offered by Amazon is LTE connectivity. It allows you to access the Kindle store, it allows you to sync your books between devices without the need to connect to WiFi, and the best part is all of this is free over Amazon's partnerships with carriers.
Granted all of this is over 3G, but when it's free, I can wait the extra 10 seconds. Kobo, on the other hand, while still allowing you to do the same things, requires that you connect to WiFi in order to accomplish those functions. Even if it were a separate version from the WiFi version fo the device, it would be nice at this price point to see this feature.
For ~$249.99 the Kindle Oasis has a well constructed, metal body, so its strange to me that the Aura ONE Limited Edition is a full $30 more than the introductory version of the Oasis and is still constructed from plastic like the rest of Kobo's lineup. Don't get me wrong. it's not a huge deal that Kobo did this, but it is a little odd considering the competition in this price range.
I would have liked to see some aluminum in a device that's the cost of a budget smartphone.
I've said it before. It's an odd choice that Kobo doesn't include an audiobook format or even MP3 in their long list of supported file formats for the Kobo lineup. I would understand if the lower storage models maybe didn't have it, but for a 32GB device to have nothing at all that supports audiobooks, or even Bluetooth or a headphone jack seems like a bad choice on their part.
If audiobooks are your thing the 32GB version of the Kindle Oasis is the exact same cost as the Aura ONE Limited Edition and it not only gives you access to the entire Amazon Kindle library, but you also get access to Audible as well. Keep in mind though that if you are exclusively into audiobooks, you won't be able to store nearly as many books because of the difference in file size.
No USB Type C
This sucks but as of now there is no e-reader worth buying that has USB Type C for charging. At the very least it would e a good feature to see in a future iteration of anything from Amazon or Kobo.
Most devices now days include Type C for charging, including smartphones, headphones, laptops, and tablets, so it only makes sense as a natural progression that e-reader manufacturers will get the hint at some point and starting including the Type C port standard.
Considering that e-readers have such great battery life, it would be interesting to see what manufacturers could do with the port, considering that it has the ability to reverse charge, meaning that you could potentially charge another device in a pinch if needed. Only time will tell.
Light distortion at high backlight levels
The backlighting on the Aura ONE Limited Edition, while a nice feature, and certainly not bothersome 99% of the time, can cause the screen to become slightly hazy when the light is turned all the way up. This can make it difficult to read in some lighting. While it's definitely not a deal breaker, it's worth mentioning if you are the kind of person that needs your brightness at 100%.
As an e-reader, the Aura ONE Limited Edition is a decent device. 32GB of onboard storage is great, ComfortLight PRO and the ability to load your own ebooks is a nice touch, and for some, essential. The ability to customize your font to your liking and water resistance are also really great features. The thing is that almost all of these features can be found in less expensive devices like the Clara HD or the Aura H2O.
If you don't need to load your own books, there's also the svelt Kindle Oasis, which offers water resistance, a better-crafted design and access to the world’s largest online bookstore.
All in all, the Aura ONE Limited Edition feels dated. Amazon has done a lot to catch the Oasis up to most features that people would look for in a high-end e-reader. At this point in time, I find it difficult to recommend the Aura ONE Limited Edition to almost anyone. If this ticks all the boxes for you I say go for it, but if not, the Oasis or the Clara HD would be my choice over this. Hopefully, with time, Kobo comes out with a device to take the top spot in their lineup, but for now, it's not the best choice for most readers.
Now it's your turn. What do you think about the Aura ONE Limited Edition? Do you have one? If so what do you think about it? If you don't have one, is there another e-reader that you prefer instead? Let us know all about it in the comments!