Kobo Arc 10 HD review: Android in the front, library in the back

Definitions are easily found by highlighting the word or term. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Hardware
The Kobo Arc HD 10 houses a 1.8GHz Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core CPU, Nvidia AP 72-core GPU, and 2GB RAM.

Other features include a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth 4.0, a gyroscope, and an accelerometer.

The swift swiping of a page on the touch screen will put your own abilities to shame. Josh Miller/CNET

Performance

The Kobo Arc HD 10 performs consistently smoothly for most tasks, even when many apps are running in the background. The 2GB of RAM is evident when trying to multitask or switching between apps quickly. I rarely experienced any lag or slow loading times.

On two occasions the tablet acted as if it were possessed; without any help from me, it opened and closed various apps and erratically navigated to the different home pages. A quick restart ended the problem and I couldn't replicate it, so it's probably just standard Android bugginess...or a ghost.

The comfy and smooth faceted back can't make up for the Arc 10 HD's extra weight. Josh Miller/CNET

The Arc 10 HD responds slowly to the power slider. There is a permanent lag when waking up the tablet and it usually takes a few seconds for the lock screen to appear after sliding and holding the power switch briefly. This was frustrating to consistently encounter, especially if I was just trying to quickly check the time or my notifications.

Touch-screen response is fast and accurate, but I occasionally had to repeat some gestures, like highlighting text, because they weren't recognized. Recognition also suffers dramatically if the screen is dirty or full of smudges. While reading, taps and swipes for flipping through pages in a book are impressively seamless, even when many apps are open.

HD videos are almost as sharp as the Arc 10 HD's corners. Josh Miller/CNET
Tested spec Kobo Arc 10 HD Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Google Nexus 10
Maximum brightness 371 cd/m2 472 cd/m2 368 cd/m2
Maximum black level .32 cd/m2 0.40 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1159:1 1180:1 836:1

One of the Kobo Arc 10 HD's most impressive features is its sharp and bright 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution screen. It boasts a Google Nexus 10-matching 300 ppi, but falls short of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9's super-sharp 323 ppi display.

No matter what's on the screen, the display looks bright and vibrantly saturated, comparable to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition), and the impressive range of colors begs to be used for something more than the simple black text of a book.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Kobo Arc 10 HD 1.8GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 Nvidia AP 72-core 2GB Android 4.2.2
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Adreno 330 2GB Amazon Android Mojito 3.0
Google Nexus 10 1.7GHz Dual-core Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (5250) Mali-T604 (quad-core) 2GB Android 4.4
3DMark (Unlimited)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Mobile games run without a hitch and larger games load impressively fast. N.O.V.A. 3 level one load times averaged around 35 seconds and gameplay was smooth sailing after that. Graphics looked great on the screen and they didn't lag or stutter while playing.

The tablet's speakers are tinny and weak no matter what type of audio is playing. The volume level is too low, but they suffice for movie watching and game playing. Since the speakers are located on the rear, if you lay the tablet flat on its back audio gets muffled and hard to hear. Considering how harsh some of the audio sounds, this might be a good thing.

The speakers look and sound small. Josh Miller/CNET

The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera performed decently for video conferencing and photos come out with a nice level of saturation, but focus is fuzzy.

Battery life lasted about a day with casual use. Check back for official battery testing results when we're done testing it in the CNET Labs.

Which one of these does not belong? Josh Miller/CNET

Conclusion
Comfort is integral to a pleasant reading experience and the Kobo Arc 10 HD's soft faceted back can't save it from the discomfort caused by its heaviness and pointed corners. With top tablets boasting thin and lightweight designs for the same price or less, the Kobo Arc 10 HD's flawed build is an inadmissible offense.

Passionate readers who want a tablet worthy of ditching their library card for may find the Kobo Arc 10 HD an attractive compromise between an e-reader and tablet, but the $329 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is a better value that offers useful reading resources and fast performance inside of an impressively light tablet.

For bookworms on a budget, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ starts at only $149 and offers heaps of features. It also includes a Google Play store -- something the Kindle Fires miss out on -- a pretty sharp screen, and good performance.

The Kobo Arc 10 HD provides a visually immersive tablet experience that puts reading at the forefront without ditching the perks of full Android capabilities. However, its objectionable design flaws sabotage its chances at being as good as its competition.

What you'll pay

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    Where to Buy

    Kobo Arc 10 HD

    Part Number: K110-KU-BK-K-NA16
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

    • Wireless Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
      Bluetooth 4.0
    • Weight 1.38 lbs
    • Type Android 4.2.2
    • Storage 16 GB
    • RAM 2 GB - DDR3L SDRAM
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