Kobo Libra H2O review: The Best Mid-Tier E-reader On The Market?

Since my lockdown resolution to read more started, the thing about carrying a book with me everything that was annoying me was that traditional books are chunky and they are not designed to be particularly friendly with water. So I was digging around with some kind of solution that can make reading a habit easier to stay. That’s when I started looking into the world of e-readers. If you have missed my last blog about Kindle vs Kobo and how I chose to go with Kobo, it might be worth checking it out especially if you are still undecided which company to go with. But if you are here to find out whether you have really made the right conclusion, here is my 1-month review of my Kobo Libra H2O.

Design

The flagship e-readers on the market, namely Kindle Oasis and the Kobo Forma, claim the ergonomic design, physical page-turning buttons, bigger and higher resolution screen, option for landscape and portrait mode and the adjustable colour temperature and brightness front light will provide the most comfortable reading experience to date. So the fact that Kobo Libra H2O adapt a lot of their design and put it into a package half the price caught my attention instantly. 

The handgrip

It houses the two page-turning buttons and is the distinctive feature that separates itself from the lower-priced models. It is slightly raised at an angle, designed to be more ergonomic and slot into your palm while holding. One thing I would say though, despite the fact that I have rather dainty hands, I do sometimes wish the side grip is slightly deeper to give it a bit more secure hold. But balancing the fact that it needs to be thin (that’s the whole point of having an e-reader in the first place), perhaps a slightly gripper finish might well do the trick in the future model. I know some might argue about putting on a case will help with the handling, but I just don’t like the extra bulk it gives.

Kobo Libra H2O e-reader

Page button

Call me what you like but I love a good ol’ physical button. Touch screen technology has indeed come a long way and it has opened up a whole new dimension on how we interact with our devices with the intuitive gesture controls. But able to keep my finger on a button and get to the next page with minimal movement, in my opinion, is much neater in this scenario. Although one thing I would say is, I do wish the buttons have a tiny bit more travel but not complaining at this price point. And don’t worry if you are a diehard touch screen fanatic, they do support touch screen. 

Power button

It is well placed at the back, on the opposite side of the handgrip which means you are very unlikely to bump it accidentally while reading one-handed unless you are some sort of monster to purposefully hold the device on the thin edge. It does, however, mean you need your second hand to turn it off once your finish.

Screen

The evil blue light

The harmful nature of blue light has been well covered over the years. From affecting sleep quality to damaging retina cells, many tech companies have since adapted their screen to reduce the impact of it, such as the Night Shift function with the iPhones and Samsung with their built-in “Blue Light Filter”. Same as Kobo, the front light’s adjustable colour temperature and brightness in the Libra H2O make reading in low light very comfortable in my experience. 

Auto-rotation and landscape mode

The landscape and portrait options certainly add to the fluidity of the user experience. To be honest, I don’t ever use it in the landscape orientation because it just feels weird to me to hold a “book” that way. So I just locked it in the portrait orientation, but with the auto-rotation, I can easily switch between hands by flipping the reader upside down and the text will always be the right way up. It is a feature you don’t think much of it but you will miss it when it is gone (cue the Passenger…).

High resolution

The screen is 1680×1264 which come in as 300ppi (pixel per inch). It is the same as the flagships. Not only does it show crispy texts, but it is also extremely capable of displaying images with great details, well suited for my inner manga nerd.

Lock-screen 

One detail I appreciate is the lock screen. By utilising the bistable property (image stays even with the power being cut off) of the E ink technology, Kobo uses it to display the cover of the book you are reading when you turn it off instead of a blank screen. It gives the impression of an always-on display.

The rest of the features

Battery life

Battery life is one of the strongest selling points of an e-reader. So it may not be surprising to find out that I have only charged it once out of the box and I am yet to charge it again despite having used it every day. Still, with the increasing number of items I need to plug in the wall every night, it is refreshing to find that the Kobo is not one of them.

Waterproofing

This is the must-have feature on my list. Now, although I trust it will survive if I drop it in the bath, the deep-seated fear of “electronic not meant to be mixing with water” is holding me back from dunking it in. I guess knowing it can is enough for me, it certainly survived me splashing water on it going in and out of the bath. That’s the extend I am willing to find out at this presenting time…until the accident strikes. 

Dropbox and Pocket app integration

It is more convenient than I initially thought. I downloaded all my Open University courses through Dropbox without having to find a micro USB cable and a dongle to plug into my laptop. And Pocket encourages me to go through those long web-article archives that I have saved a while back as well. (psst, you can Pocket my blog posts to read them later too!)

Verdict

If you are looking for an e-reader that can do more than just text but at the same time not ready to splash out £200+ on the “luxury experience”, Kobo Libra H2O, in my opinion, is hands down one of the best if not the best mid-tier e-reader on the market. Yes, it only has a 7” screen rather than 8”, 8GB storage instead of 32GB, no flush display and no audiobook support. But for me, a 7” is as good as 8”, I listen to my audiobooks on my phone like I would be listening to my music which means I don’t need huge storage either. But instead of a £130 extra to upgrade to the flagship models, a mere £40 (or less if you are quick, as Kobo is doing a discount means it only costs £119.99 as I am typing) gets you almost all the handy features upgrade you would want from a flagship with only some insignificant compromises. That’s why I bought it!

Which e-reader do you have and what is your thought about Kobo Libra H2O? Or maybe you have an even better alternatives? Leave a comment down below to let me know! 🙂

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