I’m Not Sure I See the Value of the 5″ Screen on the Kobo Mini

When Kobo unveiled their new 5" ereader a couple months back, I was intrigued. It had been a while since I had seen a new ereader with the smaller E-ink screen and I was curious to see what Kobo had done with the more compact screen.

I have to hand it to the designers at Ideo; this is a pretty little ereader. But it is also more or less just a pint-sized Kobo Touch. It has much the same performance as the older ereader, same screen resolution, same IR touchscreen tech, but no card slot. Really the only difference is that it has a smaller screen and costs $20 less than the current price of the Kobo Touch.

Now that I have had it for just under a month (and I've gotten over the cuteness factor) I'm not sure that I see the value of the smaller screen.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the screen. It's the older Vizplex screen, not the Pearl E-ink screen found on virtually all new ereaders, but I cannot say that the screen quality is any different from the newer 6" screens. (It's marginally slower at page turns than my K4, but not noticeably so.)

What I don't understand is why anyone would choose the smaller device. It's not noticeably more pocketable than my K4 or my other compact ereaders, though it is smaller. When compared to the Kobo Touch, it has a virtually identical feature set including a web browser, format support, and extensive custom formatting options. Kobo even seems to have fixed the touchscreen responsiveness issue which plagues some Kobo Touch models. It's also $10 more than the ad-supported price for the K4, thus removing price as a selling point.

Again, this is an adequate little ereader, but it never did manage to wow me. Given that Kobo is experiencing distribution issues right now and is having to compete against a couple competent hardware developers (Amazon and B&N), that could be a problem in the long run.

Everyone knows about the Kindle, so much so that Amazon doesn't need to convince us to buy it. Kobo does not have that same luxury. They need to be amazing, and this ereader does not achieve anything more than being very nice.

Availability

You can find this ereader at Kobo's Dutch, UK, French, Italian, and Canadian retail partners. It's also available in the US from some indie booksellers and from Best Buy.

Specs

  • 5" Vizplex E-ink screen
  • 800x600 screen resolution
  • 800 MHz CPU
  • Neonode zForce touchscreen
  • 2GB Flash Storage (~1.3GB accessible)
  • Wifi
  • Size: 102 x 133 x 10 mm
  • Weight 134 grams

19 thoughts on “I’m Not Sure I See the Value of the 5″ Screen on the Kobo Mini

      1. Yes, but some of us want one to fit in any shirt pocket without it sticking out (or not much). If there are people unhappy with the idea of buying a 5 inch phone because it is too big versus a 4.3 inch for instance, then certainly the same argument can be made about a 5 inch reader over a 6 inch reader.

  1. The value is that the Amazon and B & N brands are not available widely outside the USA, and the Kobo is. This is the cheapest ebook reader for sale in Canada right now that has e-ink. That is the selling point. We don’t have ad-supported Kindles here.

    1. Good point, but the Kobo Mini isn’t exactly widely available either thanks to Kobo not selling it on their website. In fact, the K4 is probably available to a greater percentage of the world.

  2. Small hands? I’m personally built like an ape so I can read on the Touch or Glo with one hand, just flicking through page turns with a tap of my third finger. (I do the same with 7″ tablets, if they’re light enough.)

    But I imagine people with more human-sized appendages might also like to read with one hand.

    (No puns intended! I don’t read porn on my kobos. Gross!)

  3. I actually see the advantages, I’m on the subway every morning and this fits easily into my pocket. Also love the interchangeable backs, for some reason, they’re not useful in anyway just pretty. lol

  4. $80 and it’s not even Pearl? Meh. They should have cut costs on it (leaving out IR touch and instead just having buttons?) and tried selling it for less than the Special Offers Kindle 4.

    1. I’m not sure the different generations of screen tech really matter all that much. The screen on the Mini looked whiter and blacker than the one on my K4.

      Speaking of other hardware, do you know the thought I had when I compared the Mini to the K4? I regretted that Kobo didn’t try to match the K4 item for item. They could have re-released a slimmed down version of the Kobo Wifi in a new shell. That would have been an ereader quite similar in concept to the K4, and the development cost would have been minimal.

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