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Kobo Vox review: Kobo Vox

Kobo Vox

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks and Nook e-books, as well as audiobooks.

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You can look at the Kobo Vox tablet in a couple of different ways.

kobo-vox-black.jpg
5.7

Kobo Vox

The Good

The $199 <b>Kobo Vox</b> is a relatively affordable Android-based tablet, with a reasonably attractive design, and an expansion slot for more memory beyond its internal 8GB. Kobo's e-reading app and e-book store are integrated into the device and you also get access to GetJar for downloading free apps.

The Bad

Books don't load as quickly as they should, the screen isn't incredibly responsive, the battery life is only OK, and the device ships with what appears to be a proprietary cable for charging and transferring files. There's no access to the full Android Market.

The Bottom Line

While it's relatively affordable, the Kobo Vox is a truly unexceptional Android tablet, with nothing to recommend it over the identically priced Kindle Fire.

The objective, unemotional response to it is that it's a middle-of-the-road 7-inch Android tablet that doesn't cost too much got, has OK specs, and a touch of Kobo panache thrown into the interface and the "quilted" back cover that comes in a few different color options.

If you want to be mean about it, you could just say, what's the point? Why bother, Kobo?

I'll go with the objective view and say the Vox is just sort of a meh product. In terms of specs, it's more in line with 2010's Nook Color than the current Nook Tablet ($249) and the Kindle Fire, which retails for the same $199 price.

Weighing in at 14.2 ounces, the Vox has 8GB of internal memory, plus a microSD card slot for adding cards up to 32GB. As with those aforementioned budget tablets, the Vox is a Wi-Fi-only device with no Bluetooth.

The multitouch screen seems decent enough with 1,024x600-pixel resolution and an antiglare coating. But what puts the Vox behind the identically priced Fire is its single-core 800Mhz processor. Both the Fire and Nook Tablet offer 1GHz dual-core processors and the Tablet's the winner for built-in RAM with 1GB to the Fire's 512MB (the Vox also has half a gigabyte of RAM).

As far as the flavor of Android goes, the Vox runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and offers access to 15,000 free Android apps--but that's through the free GetJar app store, not the full Android Market.

Except for some bugs that Kobo's doing its best to exterminate through a series of firmware updates, there's nothing terribly wrong with the Vox, but by the same token, there's nothing great to say about it, either.

As far as gripes go, books don't load as quickly as they should, the screen isn't incredibly responsive (I had to hold my finger down on the screen with a little more pressure than I was used to), the battery life is only OK (Kobo says up to 7 hours with Wi-Fi off, but the battery drained much faster when I had Wi-Fi on). The device has a standard Micro-USB port for charging (with the included AC adapter) and for file transfers to PC (with a USB cable you provide). Annoyingly, though, like many of these bargain tablets, it only charges with the included AC adapter--a cellphone adapter won't provide juice even if the connector fits.


The Kobo works well enough as an e-reader, but don't expect the smoothness of an iPad--or even a Kindle Fire.

All the feature that you'd expect from an entry-level Android tablet are here: a Web browser, e-mail and calendar apps, links to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and easy access to streaming media apps like YouTube and Rdio. Oh, and because there's an integrated app store, you have the option to add plenty more apps, albeit not that many that are worthwhile.

Of course, part of the allure of getting a Vox is the tight integration with the Kobo app and Store, which features hundreds of thousands of titles, as well as magazine and newspaper subscriptions through the pre-loaded Zinio and PressReader apps.

We like Kobo, and we like its reading app and all statistics and social media features it includes. But what you get here is the Kobo for Android app, which is also available on other generic tablets with similar specs that cost even less (closer to $150). So, as I said, there's nothing terribly special here.

Conclusion
I actually think the Vox will get a bit better over time. Kobo clearly rushed it out to have something to counter the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet and it's taken some hard knocks from reviewers (that's what usually happens when you put out a device with beta software on it).


Just another Android tablet.

It's gradually making the device more stable and smoother operating, though its processor remains a limiting factor. The other issue is that it simply has a pretty generic look and feel to it. And while Amazon's Kindle Fire isn't all that sexy looking either (it has a bit smaller footprint), its snazzy user interface makes it look a lot more inviting. The Nook Tablet is also a clear step up both in terms of performance (I think it runs better than the Fire) and design.

So there you have it. The Vox's biggest fault is that it's not exceptional in any way. In fact, it's rather mundane. And in today's highly competitive market, that's not going to cut it. I'm not saying that in a mean way. I'm just being honest.

kobo-vox-black.jpg
5.7

Kobo Vox

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 5