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Kobo Aura H2O Now up for Pre-order – My Review Unit Has Arrived

aurah2o_blk_angledleft_single_home_caAs promised by Kobo, their latest and greatest ebook reader the Aura H2O went up for pre-order on Monday. And much to my surprise my loaner review unit arrived today from Kobo, meaning that I should have time to post a review before Kobo starts shipping orders at the end of the month.

The Kobo Aura H2O is a premium ebook reader with a 6.8″ Carta E-ink screen, frontlight, and touchscreen. It’s the first ereader to use this screen, and it is also the first premium ereader to ship with IP67 certification.

Like its predecessor, the Aura H2O runs kobo’s proprietary reading software on a 1GHz CPU with 4GB internal storage, a microSD card slot, and Wifi. It ships with much the same features and the same bonus apps like a web browser.

The new Aura H2O is currently sitting on my desk, and while I have just started playing with it I can conform that it feels much nicer in my hands. It’s slightly thinner than the Aura HD, and it also has a rubberized layer on the rear shell which is both easier for me to hold and offers a more pleasant texture than the cheap plastic shell of its predecessor.

kobo aura h2o

My Aura HD is still charging, so I can’t do a long comparison, but I can tell you right now that I can really see the difference in the screens. The newer Aura H2O has a Carta E-ink screen, while the Aura HD has a Pearl E-ink screen, and it is easy to see which one is using the older screen tech.

The screen on the Aura H2O has a whiter and brighter frontlight. The colors stronger. I know that it is strange to say that one grayscale screen is better than another, but in this case it is true.

I can also see that the software is slightly different, but since my Aura HD just went into an update cycle I don’t think that difference will last long. I’ll let you know if it is different when I post my review in a couple weeks.

The Aura H2O is up for pre-order from Kobo, with a retail price of $180. It is scheduled to ship at the end of the month.

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Jason September 3, 2014 um 8:45 pm

I think you may be the first to mention that there is a textured/rubberized back on the H2O. I’m really glad that this is the case as it was sorely missing for the Aura HD.

Nate Hoffelder September 3, 2014 um 9:04 pm

Yes. It’s one of those small details which make me feel that the H2O is the finished design that the HD should have been.

Robert September 4, 2014 um 9:04 am

I wish one of these manufacturers would allow you to adjust the color of the front-light. I’m not a fan of the harsh white/blue-ish light that most LEDs in these devices generate and I’d love it if one would let me skew the color to a warmer tone. I much prefer E-ink screens but this competition to make whiter and brighter screens seems so misguided and certainly unlike paper books that they all like to claim to emulate.

I ended up modifying the light on my old Sony reader case by taping small pieces of yellow and orange plastic from file folders over the LED to give it a warmer tone and I think it made the reader far more pleasant to use. It seems like it would be fairly easy to give the user some control over this; you see it in automobile interiors and such. Why not on these devices?

Nate Hoffelder September 4, 2014 um 2:40 pm

I for one like the white and harsh frontlight. I’ve used apps like f.lux before to show a warmer backlight on my laptop but it doesn’t take me long to disable the app. I prefer a stronger, colder light. It’s easier for me to see, IMO.

Michael September 4, 2014 um 9:55 am

I like Kobos and would consider this product except for my experience with their customer service. When my Kobo Arc’s micro USB port detached inside the device I called Kobo for out of warranty repair they informed me they don’t repair devices even if the customer is willing to pay. I’m now looking for a third party to repair it. I would consider this device because the waterproof aspect of it is quite attractive but am very wary now.

Patrick September 4, 2014 um 6:22 pm

I’m tempted, I was always tempted by the Aura HD but couldn’t get over the smooth plastic back.

Nate Hoffelder September 4, 2014 um 6:40 pm

I posted a set of photos which compares the two screens:

I’m not sure I caught the difference in the photos, so I also clipped a section of white screen from each device in one of the photos. I don’t think the shades match but the relative difference is about right:

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jacob September 8, 2014 um 8:10 am

And how about the colouration of the front light? My kobo aura hd is yellowish at the top and blue at the bottom 🙁

Nate Hoffelder September 8, 2014 um 8:14 am

It’s consistently white.

its-me September 9, 2014 um 6:02 pm

hi nate!
do you know if the h2o uses PWM for lighting?

Nate Hoffelder September 14, 2014 um 3:58 pm

Sorry to get back to this late, but what’s PWM?

its-me September 15, 2014 um 6:33 am

Thanks for your answer!
PWM = pulse-width modulation. It means the light is dimmed by turning it on- and off very quick. It can be a reason for headache and some medical words I don’t know in english 😉
Aura glo e.g. is dicussed to use it, some people say, they can even see they flicker in the lowest light setting.
Some screen-brands like BenQ, Viewsonic and more and more LG advertise their products as pwm-free or at least with 'anti-pwm'-feature.
But as PWM uses high frequenzes it’s hard to find out. When you have an older LCD-screen you can see it be setting it to low brightness and watch the screen through a camera. Then you can see the flicker. But with newer modells it’s not that easy…

Nate Hoffelder September 17, 2014 um 12:01 am

I can’t tell.

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