Kobo Vox eReader hands-ons and first impressions
If you’re in the market for an Android tablet on budget, you may want to consider an eReader. No - not a E Ink reader, an eReader. To be precise, we’re talking about the Kobo Vox eReader, a nifty slate from Kobo offering a lot of what makes Android tablets great, but at a lower than most price of £170.
Available to buy from WHSmiths right now, the Kobo Vox eReader, is being pitched as more of an e-reader than tablet, with access to over two million eBooks, one million of which are free, however it can double up as a tab with app support and video playback. It also features a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1024 x 600 as well as an anti-glare coating and a quilted back for a more comfortable grip.
InterfaceYou’ll find it runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread and gives you access the GetJar market and its 500,000 apps. While it doesn’t support Android Market which is a real shame, you can still download APKs and install them directly onto the slate. Another point worth mentioning is Google’s native apps aren’t accessible on the Kobo Vox, with the Gmail link simply acting as a shortcut to Google's webmail making offline mail support tricky. There is also no Google Maps, Gtalk etc.
Despite this pretty significant omission, the Kobo Vox does feature tight Facebook integration courtesy of INQ and can resemble an INQ Cloud Touch, with a fun, lively interface and a decent set of widgets available, meaning you should be able to make your experience as bespoke as possible.
With Kobo Pulse, you’ll be able to share opinions and badges with friends. Badges, for those of you not au fait with Kobo-speak are a FourSquare-esque series of awards that can be unlocked by completing specific tasks, such as sharing 10 items on Facebook. It may sound corny, but is actually a neat touch and well thought through and executed with attractive illustrations and charming titles.
HardwareThe 8GB of internal memory, which Kobo equates to 8000 ebooks, comes built in and the microSD support means you’ll be able to bulk this out by up to 40GB in total.
Specs-wise, the Kobo Vox isn’t exactly a powerhouse. The asking price of £170 gets you an 800MHz processor and Wi-Fi with no GPS or Bluetooth. It’s not the smoothest tablet either, with a fair bit of slowdown when pushing the Android functionality. That said, the 512MB of RAM and power under the hood seems to be enough to run the Kobo Vox’s primary function, reading, pretty well.
ReadingFinally, on the subject of reading, the eReader application and interface is definitely a highlight of the Vox. With elements such as reading status in the pull-down notifications tab and reading widgets that look great and are useful for quick access to your recent reads, it helps make this tablet well-suited for people who aren’t too fussed about Android and getting the full Market experience. The back-lit screen does strain the eyes and realistically, reading on the Kobo Vox is only comfortable for about 45 minutes at a time, even in night mode, so it's perfect for journeys. The back-light also means unlike E Ink readers, it can be read in the dark.
Wrapping upWhen compared to the Amazon Kindle Fire, its direct competition, with UK availibility, a charming UI and a price tag of £170, there are still a fair few reasons to go for the Kobo Vox eReader. It isn't without its flaws, but if you're after oodles of free books and a sub-£200 Android slate, the Kobo Vox eReader could be just the ticket.
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