Sunday, 27 November 2011

Kobo Vox Review

Sorry it's taken longer than expected for me to get my Kobo Vox review up.  I hit a run of physical books that needed reviewing and therefore couldn't read on the Vox for a bit.

I've now read a PDF file on the Aldiko app (since the Kobo app doesn't support PDF files) and here's what I found.

The weight isn't a problem.  The quilting on the back makes holding the Vox comfortable.  I typically held it with both hands, propped on my lap (on the subway and at home).  With the PDF the entire page showed in a readable font (as opposed to the original Kobo where you either have to read with a miniscule font, or scroll down and / or across once or more per page.

When it came to pictures, while the page render time was a bit slower than text only pages, the resolution is very good.  This goes for both colour and black and white images.

The page turns are fast, and having the black border, where the touchscreen doesn't extend, does make holding it without accidentally turning pages easier.  Having said that, touches at or outside the edge of the screen seem to be ignored even if afterwards you finger moves within the active area of the screen, which can result in missed swipes or missed touches near the edges of the screen.  I found myself tapping the screen a centimeter in in order to reliably achieve page turns.  A firmware update should be able to address this issue.

I keep the backlight low when reading at home, but you can raise it for easier reading in sunny areas.  Another way to prolong battery life is to turn off WiFi when not browsing the web.

On the negative side, while the Aldiko app has the means to search for words within books, the Kobo app does not.  The Kobo app also doesn't let you search for books in your collection, and you can only sort your collection by title, author or last read.  In other words, you can't make your own shelves to sort books by genre or another means.

As for video, you can play HTML5 videos no problem, but if you want to play flash videos you do need to download a player for that.  Video quality is good, and the only problems we've encountered have been with youtube, where if you log into your account, for some reason videos won't play (it stays stuck on the video loading screen until you force quit the browser).  If you're not logged in and your cookies have been cleared, you can watch videos.  Also, and this is a problem with YouTube, not the Vox, some of YouTube's videos have yet to be encoded for HTML5, so they won't play on the Vox without the previously mentioned flash player.

Surfing the web works fine on the device.  One thing to be aware of is that if you use the preloaded links to facebook, etc., the device opens a new tab in the default browser each time.  If you forget to close unneeded tabs, you'll quickly use up all of the device's memory, resulting in poor performance.

The onscreen keyboard works well, with the exception that the touch locations appear to have a small offset from where they should be, which is especially noticeable close to the edges of the screen.  I found the 'keys' a good size and like that the keyboard changes depending on the context, adding options (like numbers and punctuation) to the main screen rather than having to switch to a secondary page for these.  It is a capacitive touch screen (like the iPhone), which means you can't use your fingernails or other non-conductive surface (e.g. gloves) to trigger presses.

A fully charged battery can last several days in standby if WiFi is left off (I saw around 10% discharge per day), and reading with WiFi off and the backlight dimmed seemed to result in an entire day's worth of reading time.  But you'll likely find yourself recharging the device every night to be sure you have a full day's worth of reading charge.  Running the device with WiFi enabled, and surfing the web has a much greater battery drain, with the device going from fully charged to nearly empty in just 4 or 5 hours.

One thing my husband pointed out is that he has been unable to get a third party input manager (onscreen keyboard) to replace the built in one.  This is something that should be possible with Android, and there are several alternative input managers available in various application stores.  But though they seem to install fine, the originial Kobo keyboard is the one that still shows up when input is required.

If you're considering an e-reader or tablet, it's good to remember that Kobo has a history of openness with its devices, allowing hackers to do what they want with them, and for users to do whatever they want with their devices, something neither Apple nor Amazon allow.

In the end, the Vox is not meant to compete with the iPad or other premium tablets.  If you're expecting the performance and speed of a high end device, expect to pay high end prices.  For the lower price you're getting a very good e-reader that handles colour and gives you benefits a standard e-reader can't provide.  You can browse the web, play some simple games and watch videos, but on the whole, this is an e-reader first and foremost, and that is what you should be primarily buying it for.

[And if you want more information about the Kobo Vox, check out my preliminary review.]

1 comment:

Vox Review said...

Look it's really quite simple...Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet. For the most part (other then their own native UI) both of these devices are SOFTWARE INTERCHANGEABLE - and no you don't have to root either device or be some kind of super geek to get the benefits.