How I loved my Kobo Libra H2O and why I returned it

TLDR: I bought a Kobo Libra H2O, I loved it and returned it. This is the story.

First the Kobo Glo HD

I like reading. I like reading paper book: I like smell it, touching and keeping in my hands, I like seeing them on the bookshelf. This is why I thought I’d never bought or liked an e-reader.

Then the first kid arrived and reading with one hand and during night with a backlight display was a plus, so I gave it a chance and bought a Kobo Glo HD. It was 2015 and it turned out I liked to read on that device, must be said though the paper book will never die (and I still buy one every month on average).

The new e-reader

I know the Libra came out more than one year ago and maybe, and hopefully, Kobo will release a new e-reader soon (even if I didn’t find any gossip online), but I always liked it as soon as it came out: it has good features for an honest price, so after six years or so of using the Glo I decided to take advantage of an Halloween offer and do the upgrade.

So how is the Kobo Libra H2O?

Unboxing

The unboxing experience is... just normal! Inside the box you find the device, warranty, a quick guide and a white USB cable, like the color of the device. You can have in white or black, I went for the former.

Setup

Setup also is quite straightforward: switch on the device, connect to a WI-FI network, log in you Kobo and Pocket account, synch and upgrade software. It takes 10 minutes and you are all set and you can start reading.

Impressions (and comparisons)

All my comparisons and impressions are based on my previous device, the Kobo Glo HD, that must be said is the only e-reader I had.

In few words: I love it! Compared to the Glo the Libra is just better at everything. It is like an upgrade from an entry level class, you pay more and you get more. I liked the whole experience, compared to my previous device it’s the same good but boosted.

I especially liked the speed, handling and keeping in hand, the dedicated page-turn buttons, also weight seems to be more calibrated.

To be honest I wasn’t impressed by the design at first, as I didn’t like the asymmetry of having the physical buttons, I liked more the clean, sleek and symmetric design of the Kobo Glo. But after I used a bit I must admit that the case bigger on one side to contain the buttons is very useful when you hold the device in one hand, and also the two buttons are very handy to turn page: you can do everything with one hand.

Holding it is a very nice experience: the back is made of soft plastic and if you hold by the the side having the extra space for the buttons is much better as you avoid to accidentally touch the screen, triggering an unwanted page turn. It’s thinner than the Glo and, even if it’s slightly heavier, it lays in your hand perfectly and you can hold it for a long time, actually it seems lighter.

The size, 7" screen instead of 6", didn’t impress me at first about reading, but adds a lot to the whole experience. After using a bit you realize It’s just the right size. I always thought it’d be much better to read on a bigger screen, but I didn’t find it the best feature, as reading on the Kobo Glo is a quite the same. Must be said that the screen resolution is the same for both: 300ppi. Maybe reading a PDF or a comic is better on the Libra, but I didn’t try it out yet. Anyway the display is amazing and crystal clear and reading is a pleasure (apart of the problem a few rows below).

One of the biggest improvement is the backlight: in fact now there are white and amber LED, so if you read at night you can reduce blue light, which is bad for your sleep. Also the light direction doesn’t go directly into your eyes and it’s less ‘invasive’, so it should be more comfortable for long readings.

Speed is very good: switch on or off is almost instantaneous compared to older models, also turning page is very fast and the display change direction in a blink, while the touch screen interactions are more or less the same though. Not sure though whether performance will decrease in time.

The problem

So far so good. But there is a problem: when the backlight is on light is not uniform from one side to another. It’s brighter on one side (the one where are the buttons which I suppose is where LEDs are located) and it seems like you are holding a book were the page is so old that changed color and is worn out. The result is that in certain conditions there is a lot of light difference between the right and left side of the display, and this may disturb your reading.

I thought it was just a personal impression and that it’d be fixed while using it, or that I’d be gotten used to it, but after using for a while the problem is still there and is quite annoying. I looked up online and I’m not the only one to have this problem, which seems more of a design issue:

I’ve also tried to adjust the light, make some tests and using it in different conditions and illuminations, but the problem is still there. Depending on the brightness the problem is more visibile in certain cases, and some people say you forget about it after a while, but I’m deciding to return it and wait for a new model, hopefully they will fix it.

It’s a shame because other than this problem the Kobo Libra H2O is amazing. I really hope Kobo will address this issue in the next devices.

My view of the world. Never obvious.

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