- Good value
- Limited storage space
In our Kobo Arc HD review, we discover a little-known 10-inch tablet designed for bookworms. Can it live up to the standards set by its more established rivals?
Want a book and magazine-oriented tablet but don’t fancy the idea of buying an Amazon Kindle? Well you’re in luck. The Kobo 10HD promises to quench your literature-based yearnings with a tablet that has one of the best screens on the market, access to a huge e-book and magazine store, all wrapped up in a package that promises very good value for money.
The Kobo Arc 10HD is slightly retro in its design. It’s predominantly black, with the only notable flourishes being an anglular rear panel, a gunmetal grey rim and a bright, reddish orange power button located on the top left edge. Edge is a key word with the Arc 10HD. Its four corners are rather too sharp for our liking, and we found the unit was prone to digging into our palms, which becomes uncomfortable after prolonged use.
This might not have been a problem if the Arc 10HD was light, but it’s fairly hefty. It’s 158g heavier than the iPad Air and is rather thick. If it falls out of your hand and onto your face while you’re laying on your back in bed, you’ll know all about it.
The rear of the Kobo Arc 10HD is finished in a matte black plastic, a pair of rear-facing speaker grilles and a Kobo logo. It’s not a particularly good place to put speakers, as all the sound flows away from your face – those sat in front of you will near your content more clearly than you do.
While there is a single front-facing camera, the device lacks a rear-facing snapper, so you’ll only be able to take selfies or Skype calls – using this as an ordinary camera is pretty much out of the question.
Around the edges, you’ll find the usual array of ports and buttons – a 3.5-inch headphone jack, a volume rocker switch and a mini HDMI output — but they’re all well disguised due to the black finish, so you may struggle to find them in the dark until you’re familiar with the device.
The Kobo Arc 10HD purports to offer the highest resolution screen on the market. The 10.1-inch panel packs 300 pixels per inch (ppi), equating to an impressive 2,560×1,600 pixels. It’s more impressive, on paper, than the 9.7-inch iPad Air’s 265 ppi panel, which pushes 2,048×1,536 pixels. In reality, that huge resolution provides high-quality images and impressively crisp text.
Kobo has designed the Arc 10HD primarily for use as a magazine and book reader, and it’s fantastic in this regard. It’s nowhere near as impressive to look at as the glossiest of print magazines, nor is its text as easy on the eye as that rendered on dedicated e-book readers, but it’s lovely to look at regardless.
The Kobo Arc 10HD runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, a relatively new version of the Google-made mobile operating system. Unlike its nearest rival, the book and magazine-focussed Amazon Kindle Fire, the OS has been left relatively unmolested. This means users will be able to enjoy the usual Android tablet fare, with access to everything on the Google Play Store.
It’s not completely virginal though. Whereas ‘plain’ Android tablets have five home screens, the Arc 10HD has just three. The first plays host to whatever icons and shortcuts the user prefers, the second is a library of all your downloaded magazines and books and the third is a full screen Kobo Collections widget that resembles a bookshelf.
This organises the content on the tablet by type. Each vertical bar in the virtual shelf represents a shortcut to all your books, magazines, a ‘what to read’ list, a ‘what to read later’ hub and any custom collection of apps you’d like to add manually.
The biggest ace up its sleeve, we think, is the fact it has access to the Kobo Store, which provides over 3 million books, magazines and children’s titles for download.
The Kobo Arc 10HD might be designed primarily for the ‘dull’ stuff — reading books isn’t particularly demanding on tablet hardware — but it’s fully equipped to handle demanding applications, too. The tablet uses an Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core 1.8GHz processor and 2GB of RAM, so it’ll happily turn its hand to to the ‘fun’ stuff – games, HD movies, the lot. The specs also Arc 10HD operate smoothly – everything feels alive and quick to respond.
The only real weak points on its spec list are its paltry 16GB of storage, only 12.9GB of which is actually available for use, and the fact it is Wi-Fi only, so you can’t download content over a cellular connection. You’ll need to download your books and mags before you set off otherwise you’ll be stuck.
The Kobo Arc 10HD’s battery life is fairly average. The device comes with a 6,550mAh power cell that, according to Kobo, provides up to 9.5 hours of use or up to 25 days of standby time. In practice, you’ll have to charge the thing at the end of every day if you plan to use it regularly, but you’ll be able to stretch that battery life by enabling either airplane mode or ‘reading mode’, which dims the screen backlight and enables various other power saving measures.
The Kobo Arc 10HD is a very good tablet. It’s certainly not the best — it’s a little heavy compared to the competition, its edges make it uncomfortable to hold for long periods and its relative lack of storage may prove an issue for some. That said, it has an amazing screen, is fast and responsive and is a good option for anyone looking for an affordable, content-oriented tablet.