Review: Kobo Glo HD

Kobo Glo HDEarlier today a reader showed up in the comment section and started pestering me about my promised review of Kobo's newest ereader, the Glo HD.

I was one of the first to get a Glo HD. I've had it for just over two and a half weeks, but for one reason or another I have been holding off from writing the review*.

Update: This review is based on the 3.14.7 firmware. Many of the complaints were addressed in the v3.15 firmware update.

I reached this opinion after less than a week, and I still feel this way:

  • Wait for Kobo to do something about the software. Kobo can't do anything to make the Glo HD prettier, but they can at least fix the software and performance issues.

The simple fact is, folks, I don't think much of the Kobo Glo HD. On its own it is an unremarkable ereader, and when compared to other ereaders on the market it comes up short.

I know that everyone (including me) framed the Glo HD as a competitor to the Kindle Voyage, but it's really not. Sure, the $129 Glo HD matches the $199 Voyage in all the important hardware specs, but once you put your hands on it the difference is obvious.

To start with, there's the aesthetics; the Voyage looks like a premium ereader and the Glo HD does not. One has a sleek and polished design while the other is basic and ordinary. (I don't actually care for the design of the Voyage, but it still looks better.)

The Glo HD's design is about as uninspired as that of the Kindle Paperwhite; both are basic black rectangles wrapped around a 6" screen.  And while there's nothing wrong with a boring design, if the Kobo Glo HD wants to be seen as a premium device then it needs to _be_ premium in every way.

And it certainly does not live up to that expectation in the software department. The Glo HD is disappointing both in terms of responsiveness and fonts.

I don't know what Kobo did wrong, but the Glo HD is the slowest of the 4 ereaders on my desk right now.

I tested the Kobo Glo HD with an Epub file bought from Kobo (kepub) and a sideloaded Epub. The Glo HD is slower to open ebooks and turn the page than the Voyage, and it is also slower than my Paperwhite (2013).

The Glo HD is even slower than my two-year-old Kobo Aura HD. Yes, Kobo's older, larger, and clunkier ereader is faster than its awesome new Kindle Voyage killer. The two devices should be running the same software, so I have no explanation for the difference, but it is there.

And that's not the kicker.

The Kobo Glo HD may have the same resolution screen as the Kindle Voyage but the text displayed on the screen is not as pretty. Yes, Kobo offers many customization options and even has their own font optimized for E-ink screens, but the text on the screen of the Voyage is still prettier.

And I hope you're sitting down for this next part, because this is where things get fun.

I'm going to have to work really hard to document this with photos for my review, but I can report based on what I see right now that the Glo HD is not significantly better at displaying text than the Kindle Paperwhite.

I can't honestly tell you which one is better, and that is a serious problem for the Kobo Glo HD.

All in all, the Kobo Glo HD is not a $129 premium ereader. The unit on my desk is a very solid mid-range ereader on which Kobo has wasted an expensive and high-res E-ink screen.

If and when Kobo fixes the performance, software, and other issues, this could be a wonderful ereader.

But it's not there yet.

P.S. In my defense, two weeks is just _barely_ enough time to understand an ereader enough to write a good review. I'd originally promised to write the review after having the Glo HD less than a week, which is rarely enough time. (I hadn't realized I had goofed on the time frame until after I committed to the review.)

About Nate Hoffelder (11468 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

34 Comments on Review: Kobo Glo HD

  1. To be fair, I think I never read a good review on your part of a Kobo device. While there are lots of review of the last Kobo, I’m not holding my breath to read your bias one.

  2. You might want to correct the price, you say the kobo glo HD is $139.99 but it is $129.99.

  3. That sounds fair. However, did you test it with an kepub? You say
    >> I tested the Kobo Glo HD with an Epub file bought from Kobo (kepub) and a sideloaded Epub.
    Sounds like you only tested it with epubs. Users are saying that it handles kepubs much quicker. If so, it would suggest the slowness is a software and not a hardware issue.
    But yeah, a disappointing device. I hope Kobo can fix it. I would also like to see how this device runs (epubs) with Coolreader installed on it. But straight out of the box, it needs some work. Clunky.

  4. That’s odd – I used a Glo HD in store, and it seemed very responsive both in menus and turning pages – easily a match for the Paperwhite at least.

  5. I received my pre-ordered Kobo Glo HD this week. It’s my first Kobo. I’ve previously owned Nooks and a Kindle. I’m quite happy with the display. IMHO the software interface in the device is really well thought out. I like the higher resolution display and the fact that I can download my purchased books from Kobo (unlike Barnes and Noble). I use Calibre and the DeDRM plugins to archive my purchased eBooks. Quite happy with it.


  6. How much more expensive (and/or difficult for OEMs to source) is the Glo HD screen? Kobo’s treatment of it with the Glo HD, and pricing, seems to indicate that they’re simply treating it as the next incremental improvement of the ‘regular’ eReader, rather than as a “premium” product.

    Admittedly, I’d already dismissed the Glo HD, as its lack of page-turn-buttons (and to a lesser extent microSD slot for ease of rooting) make it unsuitable for my needs.

    I’m hoping that *somebody* will eventually come along, take this screen, and turn it into a product that is both polished *and* flexible.

    • Carta is the next incremental improvement, yes, but the Carta HD is a step beyond that. that is why the several new ereaders this year have a Carta E-ink screen, and but not Carta HD.

  7. I haven’t seen the Glo HD yet but I do have a recently acquired Kobo Glo and a Kobo Aura that I’ve had a few years. I also have a Paperwhite 1 and Paperwhite 2 and a Voyage.

    I have to agree with you when I compare the devices overall. The Kindles are better made and, to me at least, it seems like a lot more effort went into them. The software is better although the Kobos have more features. The Kindles have the important features and manage to make them easier to use and more reliable and they don’t really need the details. For example, the much finer control of text on the Kobo doesn’t make up for the fact that the text on the Kindles (all of them) is better.

    That said, I recently did a comparison where I read a book on both, a chapter on each device, to decide which was better for reading. No other consideration: just how do I like reading on it. I expected the Voyage to be the clear winner but I surprised myself by finally deciding that it really doesn’t matter much. I never really cared which one I was reading on.

    And that, to me, is the overriding issue. The best ereader is the one that’s best for reading and I finally had to decide they’re all about equally good. The comparison points simply don’t matter. Only the reading experience matters.


    • Exactly.
      Specmanship is just marketing. What goes into the device isn’t all that important.
      What pays off is what you get out of the gadget.

  8. Here’s a quirk which should interest those who dispute my complaints about the software.

    I took screenshots of a couple books. One was kepub, the other a sideloaded Epub. Both used the same settings, but they looked very different:

    The kepub was displayed properly, while the sideloaded Epub was shown with the wrong justification and wrong line spacing.

    For those who are confused, let me explain. Kobo has two ebook apps running on its ereaders. One us used for the ebooks sold by Kobo, while the other is used for sideloaded ebooks.

    That sounds weird, I know, but it’s true and it explains why a Kobo-bought ebook (kepub) turns the page faster than a sideloaded ebook. It also explains the formatting issues, and probably my complaints about the font quality.

    I think they got their ebook engine working great in time for launch, and are still working on the one for sideloaded ebooks.

    As I said, Kobo needs to work on the software.

    • Just use Calibre and convert Epub to Kepub on the fly. Simple as that.

      The Kindle software is good. Good for dummies. In a good sense. 😉

      • Thanks for pointing out how I can repair Kobo’s shortcomings, but I don’t feel it’s worth my time or energy.

        • It takes the same amount of time and energy.

          Draging an Epub over the device or sending an Epub from Calibre to the device.

          Like I said, your opinion is bias.

          • Calibre is not running all the time, I don’t have all of my ebooks in calibre, and yes there is a measurable increase in effort due to converting before sending files to an ereader.

            So no, it doesn’t take the same amount of energy to copy an Epub from my download folder as it would be to have calibre convert and send it.

          • He does seem biased towards devices that work smoothly out of the box without workarounds or hacks.

            Then again, so does the vast majority of consumers.

        • Name (required) // 23 May, 2015 at 3:25 am // Reply

          So, how is it goin’ wo weeks later? Any chance of us – impatient blog visitors – getting another approximation of the final review?

    • Have you even thought about the fact that epubs do not have the hability to be shown as you expect? While .mobi and .kepub do?

      You talk much, and compare to kindles, but doesn’t kinde use .mobi where you can embeed and force those formats you talk about?

      Why don’t you compare .mobi files in both? or since kindle overwrittes all defaults on the ebook, compare .mobi on kinde against .kepub on kobo

  9. So the software on the Kobo H2O was good enough for a good rating but the same software on the go HD isn’t. Mind you I have no inclination to buy a glo HD I have the H2O right now. But still…. Try an epub on the Voyage and tell us how that works.

    • Did he test 3.14-3.15 on the H2O? Have you used a Glo HD?

      • I have actually, but the smaller screen is a turn off for me, don’t see myself going back from the H2O size. My other issue with the glo HD was that it just felt cheap. I found the screen beautiful and the operation comparable to the H2O. The issue with side loaded epubs isn’t new it’s been around for the past three generations of Kobo

  10. Too many biased fanboys commenting. You’re as bad as the amazon fanboys. I owned a Glo HD but took it back. It needs work.

    • The Kobo community is starting to sound a whole lot like the AMIGA evangelists of the 80’s. And the OS/2 gang of the 90’s. And the desktop UNIX/Linux fans of forever.

      It might be worth reviving the tired old matra “people don’t buy specs, they buy results”. They buy usability. They buy applications (or, in this context, content).

      Most People buy ereaders to read ebooks with a minimum of fuss or muss; they don’t care about formats or hacks or workarounds. All that is just plumbing. But they do care when the plumbing gets clogged up, but not in a good way.

      • Outside US and UK, Kobo is the a good choice.

        Where I live, my library does not support Amazon format. So, Kobo becomes the better choice.

        Also, I can buy an Epub anywhere, from local and independant bookshops, not only from Kobo.

        Amazon is great if you can live with the fact that you will be stuck in their ecosystem. Then again, someone more tech savy could use Calibre to rip DRM and convert his Epubs to Mobi. But I guess it defeats the point of working out of the box point of view.

        So, in most parts of the world, Amazon is not the obvious choice, for many reasons. That’s all.

        • Nobody here said Amazon was the obvious choice.
          That is irrelevant to the standalone merits of a specific Kobo device.
          Not automatically bowing before the glory of Kobo does not make one an Amazon fanboy, just an educated consumer.

          • Nobody ?

            You have read the article, right ? All those comparaisons with the Kindle Voyage? Before, tech reviewers where all in on Amazon because it was cheaper. Now that they don’t have that argument, they look for anything else.

            Almost all of the reviews on the web make those comparaisons with Amazon. Why ? Because Amazon has the best ereaders and ecosystem? Really? I think it’s more because it just sells the most in the US. So much that Kobo is now out of the US market. The web is US centric.

            I consider myself as an educated costumer, and in my part of the world, Kobo is a better choice. Reading some guy complaining that one Kobo device is not this and that, compare to Amazon flagship, when you can read tons of great reviews elsewhere on the web, when you know that Kobo has more ebooks to offer and that you can buy Epub anywhere, what can I say… And the same guy complained he could not hold the Kobo Aura HD in one hand. I mean… Is that an educated costumer? Look, I’m holding it with only one hand, I must be a magician.

            By the way, which device do you read on and why ?

          • I compared the Glo HD to the Voyage because there’s nothing else I can use as a yardstick. They’re the only two devices with that screen.

            And besides, the Paperwhite is probably the best known and most commonly owned ereader model currently on the market. It just makes sense to use Kindles for this.

          • I read on a Pocketbook 360, a Sony t1, a Samsung phone, and on FBreader on an android tablet.
            I’ve bought Nooks as gifts and Kindles for my mother.
            Which is to say, I fit the hardware to the task.

            My next readers are probably going to be a Boyue T62+ and a Surface 3.

            I don’t need library ebooks and I rarely read bestsellers. And I don’t care about the cult of epub because pretty much everything I read is DRM free from Baen and indies. I keep track if Kobo is case they ever fit my price/performance profiles but so far they haven’t matched my needs.

            It doesn’t help any that they make it harder to get their devices than any other mainstream player.

            See here:

          • It can’t be that hard to get in the US; he just posted a review of the screen.

  11. Thanks Nate,

    You seem to be the only reviewer around who takes serious notice of things like the two-toned Aura HD lighting, the scratches and terrible frontlight of the flatscreen Aura (I mean, HELLO??? Is everybody else living in some fantasy world?) and my trust in you has pretty much guaranteed I will not be getting this.
    LOVE Kobo though, ive spent about a month getting the perfect fonts and book conversion options etc, and my Aura H2O is the best thing that’s ever happened to me since Methadone.


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  1. Kobo Glo HD: First Impressions - TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics
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