Kobo Glo review: A worthy Kindle alternative

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The Good The Kobo Glo is a lightweight, Wi-Fi-enabled e-reader that has an impressive front-lit, high-res e-ink display with a touch-screen interface. It also features an expansion slot for additional memory, supports EPUB files, and is compatible with any e-book store that uses the Adobe DRM format.

The Bad Kobo's selection of e-books lags behind Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's. Loading library loaners and third-party e-book purchases requires tethering to a PC.

The Bottom Line The Kobo Glo is an excellent Kindle alternative, especially for readers seeking EPUB compatibility and international options.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Barnes & Noble calls the integrated light in its Nook Simple Touch e-reader a GlowLight. Amazon dubbed its self-illuminated Kindle reader the Paperwhite because it aimed to approximate the look and feel of real paper. Now Kobo has introduced a new e-reader, the Kobo Glo, which also has an integrated light. Kobo calls it the ComfortLight.

The Glo, which lists for $129.99, also features a 1,024x768-pixel-resolution, 6-inch e-ink display (yes, it's a touch screen) that Kobo says makes text and images appear crisper.

Like the Nook and the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kobo Glo uses front-lighting technology and has a thin layer film on its screen that aids in dispersing the light uniformly. Like the Paperwhite's, the Glo's screen is illuminated from the bottom rather than the top of the unit (as the Nook's is), projecting the array of tiny LED lights upward instead of downward.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When Kobo first announced the product, I was a little skeptical that the hardware and lighting scheme could match up with the Kindle and Nook devices, but after using the Glo for a few weeks I have to say that its built-in light is basically on par with the Paperwhite's and offers slightly more uniformity than the Nook's built-in light. In all, this is a very solid e-ink e-reader that has a few unique features not found in other e-readers. Just don't expect the Kobo Store -- and the breadth of Kobo's offerings -- to be on par with Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's offerings.

The Wi-Fi-enabled Glo is a touch smaller than the Paperwhite, both in terms of dimensions and weight, coming in at 6.52 ounces. Overall, its design is pretty straightforward, even slightly generic (at least from the front), though its textured back panel, which has a sort of argyle pattern and comes in various colors, gives it a bit of flair. My review unit was white with a blue back, but you can also get the Glo in black.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the Paperwhite, the unit has no physical page-turn buttons (a lot of people like the fact that the Nook has them). You turn pages and navigate the device fully by touch. The Glo uses the same IR-based touch technology that's found in the Nook Simple Touch and Sony PRS-T2. It works well; the screen was generally responsive to my touches.

A the top of the device you'll find a power button, as well a dedicated button for turning the ComfortLight on and off. I like that there's a dedicated button for the light -- the Nook GlowLight has a dedicated button while the Kindle Paperwhite does not -- but I also don't mind that the Paperwhite doesn't have one.

The Glo has a couple of ports: a Micro-USB connection at the bottom of the device for charging (you get a cable in the box but no AC adapter) and transferring files, and a microSD expansion slot on the left side of the device for adding more memory beyond the 2GB of internal memory (1GB usable for storage). The Glo accepts cards of up to 32GB.

There's no headphone jack, however, since the Glo, like all of the latest e-readers, leaves out any sort of audio option.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As part of the launch, Kobo has redesigned the user interface, and it's now more inviting and straightforward. I had no problem accessing settings or navigating the device in general. You can quibble over how Kobo uses the space on the home screen (there's some unused space), but that's a minor gripe.

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