Saturday, 5 November 2011

Kobo Vox - Preliminary Review

We had to return our first Vox due to a small manufacturing defect, so I haven't has as much time to play with it as anticipated.  Here are some things to be aware of - with a proper review coming after I've had the chance to read a book off the device.  The technical language was proofed by my husband (who's a computer engineer) but any mistakes in typing this are my own.

If you have questions, write them in comments.  I'll run them by my husband if I don't know the answer myself, so it may take a day or so for answers.

1) Here are the official Vox tech specs.  The screen has a resolution of 1024 x 600, and measures 7" on the diagonal.  It has a significantly higher dpi than the iPad making text appear crisp and clean.  The device weighs a little under a pound.  It's fairly heavy considering its size, weighing more than an average hardcover novel but less than the iPad 2.  While the Kobo website mentions the device has 8 GB storage space, the usable portion of that is about 6 GB.  It does have a micro SD slot that can be used to expand the storage space.

2) The screen upon starting feels a little squished, especially for reading on the Kobo app.  If you reduce the preset font size, that feeling goes away.  The quilted back is comfortable to hold though the device is thicker and heavier than the original kobos.  As someone pointed out on a forum (sorry, no link), having the wide border means you don't have to worry about hitting the touch screen portions by mistake while reading.

3) The Kobo app loaded onto the device DOES NOT read pdf files.  This was a surprise as the original Kobo does read pdf files.  We loaded adobe pdf reader on the device without difficulty, though it scrolls pages vertically.  I also added another e-reader app, Aldiko, which reads both epub and pdf (with side scrolling).  This app also has more options than the kobo app for background and text colours as well as adding bookshelves to help sort your books.

4) In terms of the Kobo app for reading, page turn speed is good but it takes a few seconds for pictures to load.  You can add notes and highlights to epub files provided it's in portrait mode (not landscape mode - due to a positioning bug) but anything with a fixed page layout, such as cookbooks or childrens' books, you can't add notes or highlights to with the current software.  You also can't add bookmarks beyond the automatic one that pops up when you stop reading.

5) The Vox doesn't charge when connected via USB to a computer, only when using the included power adaptor.  Also note that the Kobo Vox uses a micro USB connection (the original Kobo used a mini USB connector).  When you connect via USB it treats information as downloads on an internal memory card, from which you then must import your books to your reader apps.  If you delete them from this (the Kobo app will ask if you wish to do this) it's not possible to take them from the Kobo app to put them elsewhere, so if you are curious about other readers, don't delete them or, like us, you'll find yourself reinstalling your books. 

6) The device doesn't come with flash player preloaded, so you need to download it (which is easy but see point 10 below). 

7) Hitting the power button simply suspends the device (as per other devices).  To turn it off you have to hold the power button for several seconds.  It then takes about 1 minute to boot from an off state.  In suspend the device wakes itself up periodically to check things - THE SCREEN WILL TURN ON, as will videos, if you leave the device running in flash player.  The screen turns off automatically after the check and it returns to sleep mode.  Expect to charge the battery every night if you want to use it during the day for reading/web surfing.

8) When you first turn the device on you must set it up via wi-fi.  There is no way to skip this step.  Make sure you broadcast your SSID as it was unable to connect to our access point when our SSID was not being broadcast and you're not given the option to manually configure a connection during the set up phase.

9) The onscreen keyboard is large and easy to use.  The only problem we've found so far with it is that in a few cases it won't go away once we've finished typing and hit enter, and it covers whatever button we needed to press next.  There's no button for hiding the onscreen keyboard. Turning the device on its side (landscape mode) revealed a different text entry area with a 'done' button that could be used to complete the text entry and hide the keyboard.

10) This is an open android device, so you can install apps from any open android store (that includes and the Amazon appstore*).  You cannot download apps from Google Marketplace as the Kobo is not a supported form factor for android 2.3, hence Google will not authorize the device for use with its marketplace.  In order to download from non market sources you need to enable it on the device (hit the 'all apps' button, go to 'settings', 'applications' and then check the box for 'unknown sources').
[* One of my co-workers** mentioned that she was unable to buy things from the Amazon appstore on her Vox, so I've removed the link.  **My husband pointed out that the Amazon appstore is only open to US customers, hence why Canadians can't access it.  You can download the Kindle app from, if you want to read Kindle titles on the Vox.]

11) Due to its relatively slow processor it's not optimal for video games, though it's capable of handling simpler casual gaming needs.

This probably sounds like a negative list, but my point here is to help people make an informed decision as to whether or not this is the correct device for them.  I'm certainly looking forward to using this for reading on the subway and on vacation.  For me the internet connection's simply a bonus on my otherwise dedicated e-reader.  My husband thinks it works well as a portable media player, though you'll want to use headphones as opposed to relying on the internal speaker.

Consider the Kobo Vox an e-reader with benefits.

[If you want more information about apps and problems associated with the Vox (including how to solve them), check out this website.  You can also go to the MobileRead Forums for the Vox, which has a lot of Q&A help.]

Here's my review of the Kobo Vox, after reading a book on it.

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