First Look: Kobo WiFi ereader takes on Kindle, Sony

By David Flynn, December 6 2010
First Look: Kobo WiFi ereader takes on Kindle, Sony

Borders’ new Kobo WiFi ereader raises the stakes against Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader as ebook readers becoming increasingly popular with business travellers and frequent flyers.

Selling for the same $179 as the original Kobo, the Kobo WiFi boasts four key improvements over that first edition (which is now available in limited run-out numbers for $129).

  • Wi-Fi: pretty obvious by the Kobo WiFi name, the new ereader’s inbuilt wireless networking makes it easier to buy and download books online. The original Kobo required that you download the books onto your PC or Mac using Kobo’s clunky software and then transfer them to the device over a USB cable.
  • Sharper screen: the six-inch screen has been upgraded to twice the resolution and newer e-ink technology which is also more readable in bright light and sunlight. It’s not the same ‘Pearl’ e-ink as used by the Kindle and Sony readers, but unless you’re doing a side-by-side comparison it’ll be more than enough of a win over the Kobo Mark I.
  • Faster page-turning: a pepped-up processor inside the skinny and lightweight (200g) ereader flips pages at over twice the speed. That’s a welcome pick-up compared to the sluggish first-gen Kobo, but we’ll let you know how it compares against Amazon’s Kindle 3 and the Sony Reader when we pack them all into carry-on for our next trip!
  • Longer battery life: Borders says the Kobo WiFi will now run for “up to 10,000 page turns” (or 10 days) on a single charge, although they admit that’s with the wireless radio turned off. We’ve previously managed several days at many hours per day on the Kobo, but no-one ever complained about a device having extra battery life.

One of the things that hasn’t changed, and this is to the Kobo’s disadvantage, is that it still won’t read ebooks in any other formats than the standard ePub and PDF.

That’s one-up on the Kindle, which clings to Amazon’s own AZW format and can’t open ePub books, but it falls short against the Sony Reader’s willingness to open books and other documents in Word DOC format along with RTF and even plain text (TXT).

However, at $179 the Kobo WiFi is a massive $120 cheaper than the similarly-sized six-inch Sony Reader 650. To order a Kindle 3 from will cost A$148 plus another A$22 in shipping and handling, so you’re up for $170.

If you just want a cheap and handy ereader to while away the hours in flight, in transit or in any other situation – and provided you’re not too fussed over formats – the Kobo WiFi looks an easy winner in terms of maximum bang for your ebook buck.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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