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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.

Interface

You’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.

Hardware

The 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.

Reading

Finally, 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 up

When 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.

The reverse of the Kobo Vox eReader has a distorted pillow patterned soft touch grip. It feels very comfortable against your finger tips, but attracts finger-prints like nobody’s business.

On the left hand side is a microSD card and a volume rocker. With a 3.5mm headphone jack below, this makes the Kobo Vox well suited to MP3s or movies, though it won’t play anything too high resolution with its 800MHz processor.

Underneath sits the much loved microUSB port, charging the Kobo Vox up for roughly 7 hours of reading with Wi-Fi disabled.

When it comes to surface area, the Kobo Vox eReader can be likened to the Amazon Kindle Keyboard.

At 13.4mm, the Kobo Vox is far thicker than the Amazon Kindle Keyboard, instead comparable to the Kindle Fire (13.2mm).

Kobo have supplied some bespoke widgets to enhance the eReader’s functionality such as the one shown above displaying the books currently in your library.

iNQ are also backing the Kobo Vox eReader, with their social networking integration shipping with the device, this adds great functionality and some wonderful widgets out of the box.

Here are a list of some bespoke widgets available. Unfortunately however – Android Market is not functional on the Kobo, don’t be misled by the image above. APK files can be installed which is how we got the Market on our device, but sadly it didn’t work. Instead, you’re supplied with GetJar for your app needs.

Your bookshelf gives you access to content purchased on the Kobo market, with over 2 million titles and a million of those being free.

This pre-loaded cook book displays like a series of images. While it works and adds options for books not formatted for the eReader, this isn’t the smoothest type of navigation, especially given the Kobo’s limited processing power.

The Kobo interface offers a range of viewing options, including night mode as can be seen above. Text can be displayed in 7 font styles across 42 Sizes, so however you like to read your books, odds are the Kobo Vox can accommodate.

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