The "1-Minute" Review
- Smaller library selection than Apple or Amazon
- Not water-resistant
- Awkward Overdrive interface
Kindle might be the main e-book reader on the market, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. For 8 years, Kobo has quietly iterated and improved upon their own e-reader line up. The Kobo Clara HD offers a budget e-book reader to rival the Kindle Paperwhite.
You will not impress anyone with the design of the Clara HD, but it does its job. Measuring in at 6.3-by-4.3-by-0.3 inches, it’s slightly larger than your standard paperback, but the larger size is offset by the much smaller weight of 204 grams. It’s actually lighter than the Kindle Paperwhite and is even lighter than the iPhone 8 Plus.
The tapered back and textured pattern offers an excellent grip. The thick bezels, while somewhat dated, make it comfortable to hold while reading as you don’t need to worry about your fingers tapping the screen on accident.
Speaking of screens, the 6-inch display offers plenty of detail with at 300dpi. As reviewers expected, the text was crisp and images were sharper than the Paperwhite.
Though the 1GHz processor and 512GB of RAM might not sound impressive, the Kobo Clara HD offered seamless page transitions and quick book loading. It has 8GB of onboard storage -- double the Paperwhite and Kobo Aura. This means you can store up to 6,000 books in your digital library.
As with other current e-readers, the Clara HD also has front lighting. Its brightness and consistency impressed reviewers. The device even offers the ability to change the light from blue to yellow and anywhere in between. You can either set it manually or allow it to shift based on the time of day.
As the display and processor aren’t as demanding as the ones you find on your phones or tablets, the battery life on the Clara HD is fantastic and lasted reviewers a few weeks on a single charge.
While this might sound great, but there are a few issues with the Clara HD. The first one, for fans of other Kobo devices, is the lack of water-resistance. That means you must be very careful if you enjoy reading in the bath or by the pool.
The next is the omission of Overdrive Integration. This feature allows you to download library books directly to your e-reader. While you can plug in the e-reader to your computer to download the books, it’s an unnecessary step -- especially when this feature is included in the Kobo Aura One.
It’s also a no-frills reading experience. For some, that might be fine, but for others who enjoy Amazon’s X-Ray to keep track of the characters and plots or integration with Goodreads, it might be a letdown. With that said, it still has the main functions such as highlighting passages, changing font style, and size and marking pages.
And while the Kobo has their own bookstore, Amazon crushes them on e-book selection -- at least in the US. With that said, the Kobo store offers almost every book that Amazon doesn’t publish and is useful in countries outside the US. You can also read PDF and EPUB books as well.
Overall, the Kobo isn’t a bad device, but with Amazon’s stranglehold on the publishing market, it’s hard not to recommend a Kindle if you're already invested in the Amazon ecosystem. Still, for someone looking for something a little different, the Kobo Clara HD is a compelling choice.
PCWorld states, “If it were just about the hardware… the Kobo Clara HD is a superior e-reader in almost every way... If, however, you have an extensive Kindle e-book library, an Amazon Prime subscription, or an addiction to magazines, you’d be better served by a Kindle.” PC Mag adds, “The Kobo Clara HD is an easy, light and simple way to read e-books... That said, Amazon and Apple own 92 percent of the e-book market in the US... that makes Kobo more of a niche choice.”