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Kobo Aura One Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Waterproof
  • Sharp, easy-to-read screen
  • Adaptive brightness

The Bad

  • Straightforward design
  • Lacks Kindle features

Kobo Aura One Review: We test out Kobo’s latest e-reader, the waterproof Aura One, which can access over five million ebooks via Kobo’s online store. But is the Kobo a Kindle killer? Here’s our full Aura One review.

The Aura One is actually Kobo’s second waterproof e-reader, following on from the rather good Aura H2O (which is already two years old, scarily enough). Water resistance is a feature we’ve always thought was pretty bloody obvious for an e-reader device. After all, how many people still enjoy slipping into a hot bath with a creased old paperback and escaping into a fantasy land filled with butch men, sharp-talking heroines and gun-toting space monkeys? That’s right, everyone. Everyone does.

Yet Amazon’s Kindles, including the super-expensive new Kindle Oasis, still aren’t waterproof. They’ll survive a bit of splashing, but an accidental slip and a tumble into the suds will be the death of them.

Step forward the Aura One, which can happily be dunked in up to two metres of water for a full hour, with no repercussions. Hell, you could get stuck into some Stephen King while snorkelling if you really want to.

The Aura One’s design, beyond that brilliant water resistance, is far from special. This is a straightforward device that’s completely devoid of sexy aesthetics, while the rather chunky frame isn’t particularly comfortable to grip for extended periods (unlike the compact Kindle Oasis and basic Kindle model). It’s not too hefty at just 226g, but it is a little awkward unless you rest it in your lap.

Around the back you have a bright blue power button (why bright blue? Well, why not?) and that’s it as far as controls go. Navigating the menus and your books is all done via the Aura One’s rather attractive 7.8-inch touchscreen, rather than side-mounted push buttons. It’s a setup that works just fine, accepting swipes or pokes at the edges of the screen to skip backwards and forwards.

Boasting a crisp 1872×1404 pixel resolution (300 pixels-per-inch), the Aura One’s display is ideal no matter how strong or poor your eyesight is. If you’ve got eyeballs like an owl, you can squash the font down to tiny proportions and the sharp resolution keeps everything nice and clear.

Likewise, if you struggle to read standard-sized text, you can bump up the font size until each word stretches right across the screen. And because it’s quite a spacious panel, you won’t find yourself turning the page every two seconds.

Like recent Kindles, the Kobo Aura One has built-in backlighting, so you can read your favourite books well into the wee hours without leaving a lamp on. Kobo has added an adaptive brightness feature too, so you don’t have to manually boost the lighting and remember to turn it down again later to preserve battery life. That’s something that Amazon confusingly omitted from the Kindle Oasis, despite its £270 asking price.

Kobo fans will recognise the Aura One’s pleasingly straightforward home page, which gives you fast access to your most recently-read books. You can also check out recommendations based on past purchases, plus the current Kobo book charts.

The Aura One connects via WiFi to the Kobo store so you can purchase new titles, and the good news is that the selection has really improved over past years. Popular and indie books are in plentiful supply and there are a lot of titles available for a quid or two, so you don’t have to break the bank to find something new to read. You can even ‘borrow’ books from your local library if it supports OverDrive and read them on the device.

Why not check out my own selection of award-winning and best-selling crime novels, which are available now on Kobo? Devil’s In A Different Dress is free to check out, hint hint.

You get some handy stats as you read, such as how long is left in the current chapter and the whole book. You can also search for specific words or names and get a dictionary definition at any time, just by long-presing on a word – you don’t need a WiFi connection, as the dictionary is built in. However, we prefer Amazon’s X-ray feature, which can give you information on each character (handy if there’s a massive cast) and even perform a Wikipedia search if needed.

Battery life is about comparable to backlit Kindles, offering five days of intensive use (roughly three hours of reading a day) per charge. As for performance, the Aura One is reasonably nippy, although typing with the on-screen keyboard can be laborious as you wait for the Kobo to catch up.

The Aura One might not be sexy in any way, but the sharp screen, waterproof design and well-stocked online store make it a solid purchase for book lovers. If you want an e-book reader you can enjoy in the bath, this is your Huckleberry.


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