You shouldn’t judge an ebook reader by its cover, but first impressions of the Kobo Wi Fi eReader aren’t great. The black plastic shell initially feels cheap. But after a while it begins to grow on you.
Plasticky it may be, but the device weighs only 221g and is effortless to hold. The screen has poor contrast, but once you’ve got the font right it’s readable.
The interface is smartly designed. The “I’m Reading” section contains all the books you’re currently ploughing through, with an archive of Documents and Books including the 100 classic books that come preloaded on the device.
There are various ways to get your hands on books for the Kobo Wi Fi. There is an inbuilt store, accessible when connected to the net via wireless. As with the Kindle, books can be bought directly from the device. But the Kobo is also heavily promoted through the online portals of local book chains, which also sell ebooks directly. This leads to a truly stupefying situation where a lot of titles are actually cheaper via the inbuilt store than they are to purchase from the book chain that sold the device. The PC/Mac desktop software also allows you to manage books on the device and read them on your PC.
Performance is lacklustre. Page turns feel sluggish, leaving you hanging for a second or so as you wait for the page to redraw. Although it’s only a fifth of a second slower than the Kindle Keyboard, it makes a difference.
Panning through PDFs is even more tiresome. The D-pad is the Kobo Wi Fi’s Achilles heel, however. Pages can only be flipped by pressing right on the pad; accidentally press down or up, and the font size changes. After only ten minutes we were hankering after the Kindle’s large buttons on either side of the display.
That doesn’t make the Kobo Wi Fi a terrible product, and the price isn’t bad either. But it’s no match for the best in this month’s Labs.