Kobo Clara HD Review

Kobo Clara HD

Pros

  • Sharp text
  • Easy to hold
  • Battery life
  • Adaptive front light
  • Integrated library borrowing
  • Great value

Cons

  • Some may find screen a little small
  • Fewer features than Kobo Forma and Libra H2O

Disclosure: Rakuten Kobo provided Blog of Dad with the Kobo Clara HD for the purpose of review and ongoing use. Any thoughts expressed about Kobo products in this article are based on my own experiences with the devices. For more information, visit my disclosure statement.

 

eReaders have been around for quite a while. Some people love them, some people don’t, and many people don’t quite understand why they exist… at least until they use one. Once upon a time I was one of those people, but my first experience with a Kobo product (many years ago) quickly changed my mind.

 

A Long Time Ago…

That Kobo product was the Glo, and it didn’t take me long to appreciate what eReaders have to offer.

To provide a bit of context, it was 2013 and iPads (and other tablets) were still in their infancy. They seemed to be a do-it-all product, and my thoughts went something along the lines of “why would I want a product with as narrow a focus as an eReader?” Books could be read on tablets, after all.

Except, reading books on tablets, laptops or other mobile devices is just not a great experience. It’s not just me who feels that way – I am yet to meet a person who sings the praises of eBooks on a multi-purpose device. The screen is not tailored to reading, the light is wrong and the weight of the device quickly becomes noticeable.

The Kobo Glo eReader had none of these problems. Designed for the sole purpose of enjoyable reading, it was a revelation and I haven’t looked back. The screen was easy to read for long periods of time, the weight was perfect and I found it easy to get lost in my books – just as I could with a physical book. I now firmly sit in the “eReaders are great!” camp.

Since the Glo entered our house, I have had six mobile phones, eight laptops, two desktop PCs and a couple of iPads. Some of these were upgraded because they were obsolete, some died horrible, premature deaths, some were changed because work changed systems and one mobile was bought because an absurd occurrence meant I was actually paid money to make the upgrade.

I haven’t needed to replace the Kobo because for eight years it has just worked. That is incredible longevity for a battery-powered mobile device! Sure, the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to, but at the same time I still don’t have to plug it in that regularly either. Like the physical books it has replaced, the simplicity of the Kobo means there isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong and the slow pace of innovation in the eReader domain means there isn’t the incentive to continually upgrade. Unlike most disposable technology these days, the purchase of a Kobo is a long-term investment.

 

Kobo Clara HD

The first thing I noticed about the Kobo Clara HD is how similar it looks to my old Kobo Glo. The screen is the same size, the bezels are slightly smaller and the Clara HD is noticeably thinner (and a little lighter). This is no bad thing – I was fond of the Glo’s form because it was lightweight and very comfortable to hold.

The main differences are on the inside and the key improvements in eReader technology were immediately evident. The first (and most important) difference is in the screen quality. While the Glo was always easy to read, the ComfortLightPRO front-lit 300 ppi E-Ink display is a thing of beauty. The text is crisp, and I mean print-like crisp.

 

Kobo Clara and Kobo Glo side-by-side
Kobo Clara (left) and Kobo Glo (right) screens side-by-side

 

At my preferred letter-size setting (text size is highly adjustable) it felt just like reading from a page in a book. Out of interest I adjusted the text to the smallest possible size and was very impressed by how sharp and readable it was. At the other end of the scale, large font sizes are bold and clear (great for those with impaired vision), although the small size of the screen does mean that longer words don’t fit on a single line.

The other main difference that I noticed almost immediately was how responsive the Kobo Clara HD is. The Glo was a little sluggish when turning pages and loading books. The Clara HD feels much faster with the screen responding immediately to my input. It makes for a smoother and more enjoyable reading experience.

I quite like the 6 inch screen size of both the Glo and the Clara HD, but others may find it a little small. This is especially true for those who feel most at home with a physical book in their hands. Those looking for greater screen real estate should consider the larger Libra H2O or the top-of-the-range Forma.

 

Kobo Clara HD – ComfortLightPro Front-light

Front lighting is one of the features that makes eReaders far more comfortable on the eye for extended periods than tablets and mobile devices. It is a more natural way of lighting the text, which better simulates the experience of reading from a printed book.

The ComfortLightPRO front-light is impressively uniform across the screen. The adjustable settings allow users to find the perfect level of light to suit their needs, with the 0% setting completely switching off the front-light. Unlike most screens, E-Ink displays are very much visible without screen lighting. That being said, I usually set the front light to around 35%.

In addition to brightness controls, the Kobo Clara HD also features a Natural Light adjustment. Similarly to many modern mobile phones, the Clara HD can reduce blue-light exposure at night for more comfortable reading. The effect is subtle throughout the day, but changing the slider manually produces a drastic change in the light colour from bright white to warm orange.

 

Kobo Clara HD

 

Borrowing and Purchasing Books

The Kobo Clara HD is easy to set up, with the whole process able to be done over Wi-Fi. You can also plug the device into your computer in order to set it up and transfer files, but it is 2020 after all and (beyond plugging into charge) there should be no reason to bother with cables.

One of my least favourite aspects of the Kobo Glo was the cumbersome task of getting borrowed books from my local library onto the device. Sure, it was still a whole lot easier than visiting a physical library and borrowing a book, but it always felt a little more complicated than it needed to be. Thankfully, the latest Kobo devices have greatly simplified the process.

Integrated Overdrive borrowing means Kobo Clara HD users can access their local library’s eBook collection right there on the device. Simply choose the Overdrive-supported library, enter your card number and away you go! In my testing, the borrowing and returning process has worked flawlessly. It really could not be easier!

Overdrive is accessed via the Kobo Store on the Clara HD eReader. You can browse suggested books from various categories, or search for specific titles.

If you prefer to own titles, books can be purchased directly through the comprehensive Kobo bookstore. With millions of titles available, from new release to classics, there is something for everyone.

With support for EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ and CBR file types, Kobo owners are not restricted to the Kobo bookstore. The Kobo Clara HD packs 8GB of onboard storage. There is no option for expandable storage, but 8GB is enough to store up to 6000 books. I have a lot of work to do expanding my ebook collection before I start troubling the Clara HD.

 

Battery Life

I had to laugh when I searched the specifications of the Kobo Clara HD and found Battery Life listed as “weeks of battery life”. This vague statement perfectly sums up Kobo ownership – it feels like you never have to charge the device.

My Kobo Clara HD arrived activated. It had approximately half the battery remaining and after a week of testing it still does not require a charge. Naturally, battery life will vary depending on usage, but even avid readers will notice that the Clara HD goes a long time between drinks.

If my Kobo Glo is anything to go by, battery degradation happens very slowly. After eight years of use I believe the battery in my Glo isn’t quite what it used to be, but it still lasts well over a week with moderate use.

 

Kobo Clara HD Value

With a list price of $179.95, to me the Kobo Clara HD represents extraordinary value. I say that for many reasons – the great reading experience created by the sharp screen, great backlight and responsive touch inputs is first and foremost.

Additionally, the ease and value of having Overdrive built in immediately puts extensive libraries of free content at the tip of your finger.

The proven longevity of Kobo devices is the icing on the value cake. This is not your typical disposable electronic device. Despite being the cheapest of my many, many devices over the past eight years, the Glo outlasted them all. In fact, I need to stress that the Glo is still very much alive and kicking. If my new Kobo Clara HD lasts as long, it equates to tens-of-thousands of books at my fingertips (through Overdrive), for less than the cost of one book per year.

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