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A Week With the Kobo Aura HD Has Convinced Me That The Nook Glow HD Rumors Were True

Kobo Aura HD Just under a month ago I posted a rumor that speculated that Nook Media had passed on E-ink’s new 6.8″ screen, giving Kobo a chance to be the first to the market with this incredibly high resolution screen. I had little proof at the time, but the rumor was plausible enough that I posted it.

A month has passed and I don’t have any more solid evidence than before, so I can’t yet prove this rumor true. But I have had the new Kobo Aura HD on my desk for this past week and it has convinced me that I was correct.

This ereader was not the planned device that Kobo would claim. Instead the design and build quality suggests that timing was more important than quality.

I can point out many flaws about Kobo, but one thing they have always gotten correct is that Kobo has hired Ideo to design the Kobo hardware. This firm has been working with Kobo since the very beginning, and Ideo is the reason that all Kobo hardware (except for the Aura HD) has a quilted backside, a rubberized shell, and a generally aesthetically pleasing appearance.

The Aura HD, on the other hand, feels and looks like the shell was made from cheap plastic. Instead of the quilted backside, this ereader has a funky weird double ridged backside that I am still trying to understand. It is clearly inferior in design and materials, and I think that is a telling clue in support of the rumor.

Edit: And I am not the only one who thinks the shell of the Aura HD looks cheap:

Out of the box, the Aura HD is ugly to my eye: White (it also comes in black and brown) and plasticky-looking.

I think the Aura HD’s hardware design was originally intended to be a reference design from Netronix. This was going to be one of the designs displayed on the Netronix website which could be ordered by companies that wanted to put their own brand on it.

That is pretty much what Kobo ended up doing, but I don’t think it was what Kobo had planned to do.

I think the only reason Kobo used this hardware design for the Aura HD is that they were surprised by B&N passing on the early production run of the 6.8″ screen. I think Kobo was planning to release a new ereader this Fall, but the sudden opportunity to get ahead of the marker was too good to pass up.

Kobo needed something they could get on the market ASAP so they could take advantage of the early production run of the 6.8″ screen, and this design was the best they could do given the time constraints.

That ties in well with the rumor, doesn’t it? I honestly think the rumor is now more plausible than the claim that Kobo had always intended to release an ereader this Spring.

But the rumor could still be wrong, and I am keeping an eye on a couple events that could prove it wrong. If Nook Media releases a new ereader in the next month then that event will disprove the rumor. I am not expecting that to happen but it could.

But one event that I am expecting is for Kobo to launch new hardware this Fall. One of the new devices is probably going to have a 6.8″ screen. That device is going to the designed by Ideo, and it will largely have the same specs as the Aura HD.

After all, the Aura HD is supposed to be a limited edition, right? That means it could be replaced later this year by a new model.

It’s going to be an interesting year, no?

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Paul Durrant May 18, 2013 um 4:44 am

Someone who seems to work at Kobo has stated that this idea (that Kobo got the screens because B&N passed on them) is false, and that Kobo have been working on the Aura for more than a year.

Nate Hoffelder May 18, 2013 um 7:22 am

Two things:

He’s denying a different rumor, so the denial is not exactly relevant. Also the corollary to this denial is that Kobo planned in advance to release an inferior piece of hardware.

fjtorres May 18, 2013 um 9:16 am

Simple test: if Kobo keeps the Aura into the holiday season and their new readers look like the Aura, then they were planning to switch design language. But if they do release new readers that don’t look like the Aura…

Regardless of whether they were first (or second or third) in line for this batch of spring screens, the Aura does seem like rush job. Especially the software. One review I saw makes it clear they’re not even making the best use of the screen size or the resolution. They just transplanted the Kobo Glo software and scaled up the output so they ended up with larger margins and text rather than more text.

Time (and the next wave of Kobo readers) will tell.

Nate Hoffelder May 18, 2013 um 11:40 pm


Patrick May 18, 2013 um 9:51 am

I’m drawn to it each time I see it, cause the screen is so nice, but then when I pick it up, it feels so cheap that I put it back down. I’m hoping an 'actual' version of this is forthcoming in the fall.

Puzzled May 18, 2013 um 10:46 am

The Netronix link points to Ideo

Nate Hoffelder May 18, 2013 um 12:16 pm

Thanks! fixed it.

Jason May 18, 2013 um 7:14 pm

The shell design would be reasonable if not for it being so darn slippery, IMO.

You’re probably right about the whole thing being a rush-job and I`m sure I`ll be drawn in this coming holiday season for the Kobo `Aura 2.o not-s0-limited-edition.`

Puzzled May 18, 2013 um 7:41 pm

The much cheaper Kobo `Aura 2.0 not-so-limited-edition.`

Dave June 2, 2013 um 5:19 pm

Bought the black aura as an upgrade to the glo. It’s definitely a better/bigger screen and you can mess with the type settings same as the glo. But I sure miss the rubber back. The glo just kind of rests in your hands, the slippery aura you have to actually hang on to. As a quick fix I stuck about 4 inches of black gorilla tape on the back where my fingers rest. Works pretty good but all the same I’m going to return it and wait for a better glo. Too bad I already sold my glo !!

Jirnsum June 10, 2013 um 1:44 am

I actually ran into this reading through reviews for the Aura HD, as I am looking to upgrade my PRS-T1. Very thankful I did, as yours is one of the few non-raving reviews, while at the same time providing something on the horizon (probably). You just found yourself a new blog follower.

baramburum June 10, 2013 um 7:04 pm

It has a very low quality frame. It is so NOT solid, that it makes crack-sound then you press it. It will fall on parts if you put in your backpack.

parkher June 13, 2013 um 10:51 am

Jirnsum, upgrade to PRS-T2. The best reader in the world, if rooted.
Better buttons than T1, better screen white color (warmer, not bluish) and better unofficial software, having important improvements over T1.

Speaking about buttons – the absence of buttons on Aura HD drives me crazy.
It is a book reader, not a general purpose tablet, so it needs dedicated buttons.
Why copy the worst from that ridiculous PaperWhite?

I would buy Aura for its screen size (6.8″ – perfect size, 6″ – only in landscape orientation) but it has no buttons and it has that light distributing layer which is not 100% transparent and may crack with time.
And, of course, bad software, indexing takes forever, you cannot have many books on the card.

Shel F. June 30, 2013 um 4:58 pm

Hey, Nate. I just now saw this – while shopping for an Aura. Maybe I’ll hang on and wait til this fall, now, in hopes that you are right and they come out with a (hopefully cheaper) new improved Aura 2.0.

Paul July 17, 2013 um 10:43 pm

So do you recommend it? And if you’re looking for a ereader that you can read in bed and take to the beach without worrying too much that your iPad/Android tablet is going to croak, which one do you recommend?

JB October 6, 2013 um 6:59 am

I have used Sony’s Readers since they launched them. My latest was the PRS-T1. I have had the Aura HD now for almost a month. The only thing which could be better imo is the slippery backside. The built-in light, screen, software are all very good, so is the build quality. It is way lighter than my previous reader with the cover/light attached. You mentioned cheap plastic. Are there a lot of different plastics out there? (-; Very good buy.

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