Kobo’s waterproof e-reader is a big-screen beauty

The new Kobo H2O might be the best e-reader, like, ever. Photo Kobo.

The new Kobo H2O might be the best e-reader, like, ever. Photo courtesy Kobo

If you live in the Southern hemisphere, I have some great news for you – there’s a new waterproof e-reader coming out, the Kobo Aura H2O, that will ship in October, just in time for your summer.

For everyone else, this upscale reading gadget looks like a great Christmas gift.

Specs-wise, the Aura HD H2O is similar to the Aura HD, the large-screen, high-def reader at the top of Kobo’s range. Interestingly, that high-end reader with the 6.8-inch screen now accounts for 25 percent of Kobo’s sales – interesting because the Kobo HD was planned as a limited-run device, as everyone thought it’d be a niche product. It turned out that the best competition for the build-down-to-a-price Kindle was a high-quality device. Sounds just like Apple’s strategy.

The Aura HD H2O’s big feature is its IP67 waterproofing, which lets you read underwater for up to half an hour. This also keeps out dust, grit and sand, so you really don’t need a case.

But more important is the new screen, which uses the same Carta e-ink tech as the Kindle Paperwhite 2. This means the “paper” is a lot whiter than on previous models: Current Kobo Auras (regular and HD) use Pearl e-ink, which has a rather gray background, meaning low contrast compared to the latest Kindle. Carta also gives the Aura H2O a sharp, 265-dpi resolution and makes it faster to turn pages and update.

The H2O itself is thinner and lighter than the old HD, at 9.7 mm thick (versus 11.7 mm) and 233 grams (versus 240 grams). For comparison, the Kindle Paperwhite 2 weighs in at 206 grams with a much smaller 6-inch screen.

Otherwise, the specs remain mostly unchanged, with 4GB on-board memory, a screen light, a 1GHz processor and a two-month battery life, if you only read for half an hour a day.

Improvements

Brighter and whiter.

Brighter and whiter.

I’m all for a waterproof and dust-proof e-reader, but what really gets me excited about the Aura H20 is its screen. I have a few e-readers – gen 1 and 2 Paperwhites and a Kobo Aura, which is my favorite. My old Aura is glitchy, and crashed so hard I needed to reset it in the middle of a frikkin vacation, but the typography, the Pocket integration and the overall interface beat the Kindle every time.

But the Paperwhite 2 has a much better screen than those old Kobos. It’s contrastier, it has deeper blacks and whiter whites, and it is far more responsive. Now, with the Aura H2O, I can have all my favorite parts of the Kobo along with the best of Kindle, and with a larger, higher-def screen and waterproofing to boot.

Amazon has done a great job of hooking everyone on e-readers with its ever-cheaper and ever-better Kindles. These are the new paperback books. But – as we can see by the Aura HD’s surprise success – there are enough people like me willing to pay for the electronic equivalent of hardbacks, even if they cost and weigh a little more.

The new Kobo Aura H2O will go on sale October 1 for $180/€180. For comparison, the Paperwhite 2 is $140, the Aura is $150 and the Aura HD costs around $180.

  • haineux

    Not that a waterproof eReader is a bad thing, but I am happy to use my iPad in a zipper-lock bag: nearly free, very convenient, widely available.

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Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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