Kobo Arc review: The less discerning person's Nexus 7

At the bottom of the home screen is the Discover Ribbon, which is essentially an ever-present scroll of recommendations. And by "ever-present," I mean it never goes away and as far as I can tell there's no way to disable it. Which is guess is fine as long as you don't mind the bottom of your home screen being taken up by a scroll of products you may or may not be interested in.

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Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware features
The Kobo Arc houses a 1.5GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 CPU and a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. It comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB varieties with no built-in physical memory expansion options. The tablet has 1GB of RAM and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, but no Bluetooth, compass, gyroscope, or GPS. There is an accelerometer, though.

Performance
The Arc features a 7-inch IPS screen running at a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels. That's the same resolution as the screens on the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, while besting the iPad Mini's and coming up short against the Nook HD's with its 1,440x900-pixel resolution. While text is about as sharp as you'd expect on a 215-pixels-per-inch screen, the Arc's display is noticeably more reflective than the Nexus 7's, diminishing its perceived contrast. Also, when you swipe through app icons on the home screen, icon text produces a shimmering effect when passing the middle of the screen as the pixels get redrawn. This is not something you see on the Nexus 7's screen when performing the same task.

Tested spec Kobo Arc Google Nexus 7 Barnes and Noble Nook HD Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Maximum brightness 322 cd/m2 288 cd/m2 455 cd/m2 394 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.51 cd/m2 0.28 cd/m2 0.53 cd/m2 0.41 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 631:1 1,028:1 858:1 960:1

The Arc screen isn't quite as responsive as the Nexus 7's; however, apps open just as swiftly, with the first level in N.O.V.A. 3 taking an average of about 40 seconds to load, only a second more than it did on the Nexus 7.

Once in the game, however, the Arc begins to show its strength. Thanks to its powerful PowerVR SGX544 GPU, games run at a noticeably higher frame rate on the Arc. Not surprising, given the chip's tendency to outclass the Tegra 3 in raw polygon-pushing ability.

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The Arc's battery drains slightly faster than the Nexus 7's when performing strenuous tasks like running a game. After 30 minutes of Riptide GP, the Arc's battery level had fallen by 18 percent, compared with the Nexus 7's 15 percent. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Kobo Arc 8.9

Conclusion
The Kobo Arc's closest competitor happens to also be the best 7-inch tablet currently available, the Nexus 7. Given that, it's difficult to make a strong case for the Arc. The Arc's blocky design, older shipping OS, and lack of significant exclusive features make it feels like the poor man's Nexus 7. However, since Kobo charges the same $200, maybe "the less discerning man's Nexus 7" would be more appropriate. The Kobo Arc isn't a bad tablet by any stretch. It's good; however, in the last year the bar has been raised for 7-inch tablets, and now there are clearly better choices out there.

What you'll pay

    Visit manufacturer site for details.

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