Kobo Aura One review: A big-screen waterproof e-reader with access to your local library

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MSRP: $229.99

The Good The Kobo Aura One sports a 7.8-inch e-ink display that's significantly larger than the 6-inch e-ink displays found on all of Amazon's Kindle e-readers, it's waterproof, has an integrated light and built-in support for Overdrive library book loans.

The Bad Fairly pricey, may be a little too large for some people's hands and Kobo's content ecosystem can't match Amazon's.

The Bottom Line The Kobo Aura One may not make you want to ditch your Kindle, but it does have some differentiating features that make it worth considering if you are in search of a non-Amazon e-reader.

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7.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Ecosystem 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Instead of going small with its new top-of-the-line e-reader, Kobo, now owned by online retailer Rakuten, has gone big. The Aura One ($230 in the US, £190 in the UK and AU$350 in Australia) sports a 7.8-inch e-ink display that's significantly larger than the 6-inch e-ink displays found on all of Amazon's Kindle e-readers.

Even with that bigger screen, at 230 grams or 8.1 ounces, this Aura is thinner and a touch lighter than the earlier Aura H20, which has a 6.8-inch screen. Bottom line: You're getting more screen without adding any weight.

The Aura One compared to the Kindle Paperwhite.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I personally prefer the smaller form factor of the current Kindle line, and the svelte (but pricey) Kindle Oasis in particular. Some people like to bump up the font size, however, and a larger screen allows you to display more lines of text. While it's a little hard to get your whole hand around this newer Kobo e-reader, it's designed to be held in one hand. Plus, the back of the device has a rubberized, textured finish that makes it a little easier to grip.

Like the Aura H20, this e-reader is waterproof, though it doesn't float. Its got a higher IPX8 rating, which means it can be submerged in up to two meters of water for up to 60 minutes (the Aura H20 is rated to be submerged in up one meter for 30 minutes). Currently, no Kindle is water-resistant, although Barnes & Noble's Nook GlowLight Plus is.

Other upgrades include an ultra-high 1,872x1,404 resolution, 300-pixels per inch display, 8GB of onboard storage instead of the typical 4GB and an improved integrated lighting system that allows you to adjust not only brightness but color temperature (basically, a "day" and "night" mode).

The slim Aura only weighs 230 grams or 8.1 ounces.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As you'd expect from a Kobo e-reader, you can shop for e-books in the integrated Kobo store (Kobo also has apps for iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry 10 devices, Mac and Windows PCs). But in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, you can also check out library e-books via the OverDrive app, which Kobo's parent company scooped up last year, directly from the Aura One's screen. (Yes, you can also get these free library books on Kindle and Nook devices, but it's a bit more of a convoluted process that involves using a second device.)

Adding your free Overdrive account (and local participating library card number) to the device is simple, and it's great to have access to a giant list of free (or, at least, taxpayer-supported) books. But for reasons unknown, a handful of books we tried (such as "The Whites" by Richard Price and "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke) didn't show up in the Kobo's search results, even though both were available as Overdrive loans from our local library when viewed through a standard web browser.

Other supported formats include EPUB, PDF and MOBI, as well as various image file formats, HTML and comic book file formats. Using a Micro-USB cable, I connected the Aura One up to a Windows PC and dragged and dropped a few DRM-free (no copy protection) EPUB and PDF files to the e-reader without a problem. They then appeared in my books section on the e-reader after I disconnected the device from the computer (you can do this with a Mac as well).