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Kobo Glo HD review: A great option for your first e-reader

Dave Cheng/CNET

The search function used to be horribly broken. You'd search for an author or a book title, only to receive a page of unrelated results with the item you were actually searching for way down the bottom. This issue seems to have been resolved, which is a relief.

The algorithms used for the Related Reading and Recommended for You sections could still use some work, though. Firstly, these can only work on books you have purchased through Kobo, so if you like to buy from elsewhere -- which you can, as the e-reader proudly supports the open-standard .epub file format -- those books won't be taken into account when choosing recommended reads.

I suspect the kinks are still being ironed out. The bookstore could find no results for a related read on Robin Hobb's "Blood of Dragons," which seemed peculiar since the Kobo store has multiple Robin Hobb titles and titles that include the word "dragon." Nor could it suggest similar titles to Robert W Chambers' "The King in Yellow," "The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon" and several other titles that seemed to fit obvious genres.

Some related reads seemed entirely unrelated, too. For the classic "Don Quixote" the algorithm offered George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" and Kathryn Stockett's "The Help." The Recommended Reads, running on a similar algorithm, aren't much better, but you can at least help tailor it to find what you like by tapping an option on the screen to tell it when you're not interested.

The open standard approach means that the Kobo supports library borrowing, which is nice, and apps for iOS and Android allow syncing across multiple devices.The huge range of 48 font sizes is a nice touch, as is the easy-to-use slider for adjusting them. However, unlike the Kindle, it does not support book-lending, which would be a nice feature to have.


The Kobo Glo HD is a zippy little an e-reader, packing the standard 1GHz processor. Its boasting point is its crisp, high-resolution screen. That said, I couldn't pick out any significant difference in sharpness between the Glo HD and the Aura H2O, which was released in October of last year. So if you're keen on a resolution upgrade, it's not likely that there will be a large one for a while now. The good news is that with a screen this sharp, it's not really needed.

Night-time is as pleasant as we've come to expect from previous front-lit Kobo models. It lights the screen with a smooth, even glow, with a slider control that allows you to fine-tune how bright you need the screen. No more bothering sleeping partners when reading in bed at night. And I have been known to use the brighter setting as a flashlight. If the light is the deciding factor between Kobo and a competitor, you're going to be hard pressed to go for the challenger.

The screen is very responsive to taps and presses, which means text input is a relatively painless experience. E Ink ghosting is minimal and barely perceptible. If you do find it bothers you, you can enter the e-reader's Reading Settings menu to increase how often the display does a full refresh -- just bear in mind that doing so will cause the battery to run down more quickly.

Speaking of battery life, the Wi-Fi and backlight will also eat into the charge. Turned off, Kobo claims that the e-reader can run for two months on a full charge if used for half an hour every day, but, as I haven't had the e-reader for that long, I can't verify that claim. Other E Ink readers on the market can last that long on a single charge, though, so it's probably safe to believe it. I'll be updating this review with more battery information after a longer testing period.

Dave Cheng/CNET

Returning to the lack of a micro SD slot, it's not a deal-breaker for me. Neither the Kindle nor the Nook have expandable memory, and in years of using an e-reader, I've never reached a point where I've maxed out 4GB of memory.

What I'm not particularly sold on is the e-reader's ability to handle PDFs. Pan-and-scan is a terrible way to deal with PDFs, particularly on a six-inch E Ink screen with a low refresh rate. Nor can you highlight text. If you want to read and edit PDFs, we'd recommend going for a tablet instead, especially now that Sony's e-readers, which were the only ones to reflow PDFs, are off the market.


The Kobo e-reader definitely has its limitations. Its store will never be able to match up to Amazon's, but its ability to access multiple other stores and its broad file format support makes up for that. Its availability outside of the US makes it a clear winner over the Nook GlowLight for someone based in Australia, as does its price point, and the Kindle with Special Offers is US-only, which makes the Kobo Glo HD the most affordable option elsewhere.

Those in the US might have a little more thinking to do about which e-reader to buy. But we can confidently recommend the Glo HD as an upgrade to the Glo, or for someone looking for a first-time e-reader, given the user-friendliness of its interface. It's sleek, simple and does exactly what it says on the tin.

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