The Kobo Aura H2O was released October 2014 and is the first EReader to focus on being waterproof to avoid those accidental splashes in the bath. I’ll be focusing on the features, easy of use and its price relative to its competitors
So if would be wrong of me to skim over the fact that this is the only device that I’m aware of that is actually waterproof! This opens the device up to a variety of use cases that normally would be high risk for your EReader. Firstly, your bath which is traditionally your oasis of leisure has just gotten an upgrade. Now you can ready your favourite book to the scent of lavender candles, combined with inherent relaxation a bath can bring. Even if you accidentally drop the device into the bath, no problem! The Kobo Aura H20 has been built to withstand be fully submerged for up to 30 minutes (providing you have made use of the rubber seal to prevent water from getting into any of the ports). This is a big plus if you like nothing more than relaxing in the bath with a good book.
For those of you who are a little more tech savvy, you have the ability to upload your own fonts to the Kobo so you can read exactly how you want to. This gives you an enormous amount of flexibility to adapt books and documents to a format that suits your eyes for the best reading experience. A comprehensive guide on how to do this can be found here
Not too comfortable uploading fonts? Not a problem as the device comes with 24 font sizes and 11 fonts built in. This is considerably more than any Amazon device. This aspect of functionality is controlled with sliders which allows a range of combinations to be used to improve your reading.
The device also has a couple of beta features when you need a break from reading. It includes a sketch pad application which converts the text your write on the screen with your finger into words. A nice feature if you need to store notes quickly. There are also a couple of games included when you need a suitable distraction.
The adjustable brightness feature is also pretty impressive; allowing you to read day or night, which some of the more basic readers don’t support. I’d recommend going onto YouTube and searching “Kobo Aura H2o in dark” just so see what level of brightness you can expect.
One feature that distinguishes the device from similar Amazon models such as the Kindle Oasis or the Kindle Paperwhite is its integration with Adobe Editions.This means that you can actually borrow EBooks from your local library and hold onto them for a certain period of time, for free! I would recommend checking with your local library first to ensure they support this as a service.
For those of you of wish to take a ton of reading material on holiday, the Kobo Aura H2o has a microSD slot to expand its internal storage. This can come in handy for those books which take up a little more space.
A nice touch on the UI is the visual representation of reading progress. The chapters are divided into bars to give you an indication how large a chapter is and roughly how long it will take you to complete it, based on your current reading speed. Something that I haven’t see on Amazon devices.
The device is certainly one of the larger ones in the market coming in at 7.04” X 5.07” X 0.38” (179 x 129 x 9.7 mm) giving the reader an impressive screen size to pour through their favourite books. This is a stark contrast to the Kindle Paperwhite which has gone with the fit in your palm approach 6.7″ x 4.6″ x 0.36″ (169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm). So it’ll come down to personal preference as to whether or not this device size is right for you.
Given the size of the device, it’s no real surprise that it’s certainly one of the heavier ones out there, weighing in at 233g. This can cause issues when reading for long periods of time so make sure you’ve been pumping iron at the gym to take on this beast! If weight is your biggest concern, then it might be worth looking at the Kindle Oasis which comes in at a tiny 131g
As the device has been around for a while, it does fall down a little short on the PPI. For those of you not in the know, PPI stands for Pixels Per Inch which means the more pixels you have, the better! The Kobo Aura H2o has a PPI of 265. Though, take this figure with a pinch of salt as this was taken from unverified sources due to not being on the Kobo website. This has the potential to impact your reading experience. So if you’re looking for something a little more modern in this area you could try the Nook Glowlight Plus which comes in at 300 PPI or the Kindle Paperwhite, which also comes in at 300PPI. The good news is that the Kobo Aura H2o is a touchscreen device, which makes navigation pretty easy.
Black only I’m afraid
Even though Amazon don’t make the Kobo Aura H2O, they’ve done a great job at providing a broad range of cases, sleeves and skins for the the device so you can make it your own. You can find the best of the best on my accessories page
Compared to the Amazon UI, the Kobo’s UI does take a little more getting used to. But if this is your first EReader, then you’re unlikely to notice the difference. There are some also subtle differences in how books a categorised in the online store compared to the Amazon, which can making searching for your next favourite read a little challenging.
Formats it can read
The Kobo Aura H2o certainly shines in this area, supporting a wide range of formats including: EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR. If you’re a little bamboozled by this extensions, the main ones to note are EPUB and EPUB3 which are the Kobo’s native format.
At the time of writing the Kobo Aura H2o was a little more expensive that the Kindle Paperwhite but still much cheaper than the Kindle Oasis. The main reason being is that you’re paying for it to be waterproof.
What I like
The waterproof functionality is pretty impressive and can I can envisage myself taking more baths just to use this feature. I’m I also like the fact you can borrow books on this devices so you can save a pretty penny on purchasing books. Finally the combinations of fonts, line spacing and sizes means it’s a pretty flexible device.
What I don’t like
Personally I’m not a big fan of the UI. This is down to my preference as I’ve grown up on the Amazon Kindle UI, so first time EReader purchasers are unlikely to notice this difference. The fact that the device is Wifi only and not Wifi + 3G which can limit where you can download books from is also a bit of a bugbear. Their experimental browser isn’t great too. However, like I mentioned in my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review, if you need to browse the web, use you phone!
What Amazon Customers Are Saying
There are some key things to highlight here. People love the size of the display and the fact that it’s bigger than most devices out there. There have been a few grumblings about the screen not working correctly after a period of time and issues with customer service when they have tried to get the issue resolved. Amazon customers also highlighted that books for the Kobo are generally more expensive compared to the Amazon store.
The device is great for those of you who want to make full use of the waterproof feature. Also for anyone who needs a high degree of customisation with their fonts sizes and types, then this device is for you. Something worth considering is the quantity of Amazon feedback this device has and whether or not you’re comfortable with that. If having a waterproof device with customised fonts is not your priority then I would recommend slightly cheaper devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite.
Own a Kobo H2o? I’d love to hear your feedback!
Links to full technical spec here
(Tech specs halfway down the page)