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We have to hand it to Kobo; it came out of nowhere just under two years ago, and has clawed itself to a significant place in the market — 36 per cent in its mother country, Canada (although less everywhere else) — by releasing comparatively affordable, user-friendly devices.
As a result, we've come to expect a certain standard from its e-readers, and we'll say right off the bat: the Vox falls quite short of that mark.
In keeping with its minimalist design principle, the Vox is very simple and sleek. The black-bezelled face is pretty pared down, with what have come to be pretty standard touch buttons for Android just below the screen for Back, Menu and Home.
The device also sports Kobo's trademark quilted back, in black for those who like to keep things toned down, or a choice of several vivid colours: blue, lime green or bright pink. On the left edge, you'll find an SD-card slot and volume control; on the top, a power button and a speaker; and on the bottom, the microSD charging and connection port and a 3.5mm audio jack.
It's pretty heavy, coming in at just over 400g — more than twice the weight of the 185g— and, rather than glass, the 7-inch touchscreen is heavy-duty plastic, which gives the entire thing a cheap sort of feel compared to the glass-fronted devices we're used to. Plastic looks cloudier and gets smudgier than glass, too, and we were dismayed on a closer look to realise that we could actually see the LEDs through the Android navigation buttons.
The colour screen is the big draw here, and Kobo has thrown in a few features to make the Vox feel slightly more like a multimedia device than a dedicated e-reader.
Straight out of the box, it comes with Zinio (an app for subscribing to and reading magazines), the Merriam-Webster dictionary app, Press Reader for newspapers, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and a web browser. If you don't need any of these apps, tough bikkies; they're on there to stay. You also get an app store — Get Apps — so you can download games and other selected apps from the Android Market. You don't get the Android Market itself, because the device doesn't meet the hardware requirements for official certification.