Kobo Touch review: Kobo Touch

You can also look up words in the built-in dictionary by holding your finger on a word. Furthermore, the scheme for highlighting passages is arguably easier to use than the highlighting feature on the Nook.

So now that we've gone through the upsides, what are the downsides? Well, in a word: polish. The Kobo Touch Edition just doesn't have the slick interfaces and navigational cues found on the Nook Touch (or Nook Color) and the Kindle. The "home" screen looks a little blah, and though it's simply laid out, it just doesn't seem inviting.

In terms of the actual reading experience, there isn't a whole lot of difference between the Kobo Touch Edition and the Nook Touch, with Kobo, like Barnes & Noble, reducing the amount of "flashing" between page turns. As it stands, you get a flash or total screen refresh every five pages or so instead of every page. The Kobo has no hard buttons for turning pages; you simply tap the right or left side of the screen to page forward or back (you can also swipe to turn a page). There's some faint ghosting of words and images, but it's not too bothersome.

The Kobo interface is serviceable, but it lacks pizzazz.

Overall, the touch screen is responsive and works well. But right now the Nook just feels a little zippier, especially when it comes to doing things like accessing the e-readers' respective online e-book stores. We did see an earlier build of the software for this unit, and Kobo has already made some good advances, so we do expect to see some performance improvements over time. Of course, Barnes & Noble will also be tweaking the Nook's firmware going forward and making its own improvements.

As for battery life, Kobo says you can get more than a month's worth of use (without turning on wireless) before having to recharge. That's based on about 30 minutes of reading a day.

Both the Kindle and Nook are rated at up to two months of e-reading time with the wireless turned off (yes, the Wi-Fi is the biggest battery drain). We're still testing the battery life on the Kobo, but our impressions after a few days of use are that it does trickle very slowly rather than drain.

All in all, Kobo has come a long way from its original e-readers, which looked and felt pretty generic. There's still a little bit of that lingering, especially in the interface, but the Kobo Touch Edition is a substantial improvement over its predecessors, and Kobo has definitely refined the design to the point where it now has some character and is pleasing to the eye (the quilted back is also pleasing to the touch).

Some folks may not care all that much about snazzy interfaces, but that slickness factor is ultimately where this Kobo falls short of the competition. And that doesn't just include the UI, navigation, and overall smoothness when operating the device. Kobo's e-book store and shopping experience isn't as robust as what Amazon and Barnes & Noble have to offer (Amazon's Kindle Store remains the best, though Barnes & Noble has been working hard to catch up). And that shopping experience is fast becoming the most important feature--and biggest differentiator--for e-readers.

Despite its shortcomings, the Kobo is a good deal at $129.99. Sure, we'd like to see it at $99, but at least it's $10 cheaper than the Nook, and Kobo throws in a $10 gift card (as of this writing). In the end, this is a solid e-reader that has the potential to get better. We recommend it with a few reservations.

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