My entire life, I’ve been an avid reader, devouring books, magazines, comic books, web content, newspapers and pretty much everything I could get my eyes on. But I’ve also had a preference for physical reading material, and as much as I love my gadgets, I’ve never really given e-readers a chance.
Even with that minor built-in bias, I have to say I was quite impressed not only with the Kobo Arc hardware, but with its simple and intuitive software. Everything about the e-book experience, from reading from your library, to browsing the store, to getting recommendations based on your reading history is easy and accessible, regardless of your level of technical expertise.
As a family device, the “best of both worlds” approach is definitely a real positive. I honestly don’t know how parenting worked pre-tablets and smartphones, but we don’t leave the house without our iPhones and typically the iPad so the kids always have access movies and apps to keep them happy on road trips or restaurant visits. But, since we didn’t buy those iOS devices intending to use them as e-readers, I’ve never really thought about using it as such. With the Kobo Arc putting that front and centre, it definitely opened my eyes.
The Kobo Arc’s hardware stacks up well with other current upper-end 7″ tablets, starting with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels, allowing for HD playback of movies and TV shows. It’s not Retina quality, but it is bright and colourful, with excellent contrast when reading black text on the white screen.
Certainly, the 7″ size feels closer to the size of a paperbook than a full-size tablet, and which is even better for smaller hands. The Arc also features a pair of decent front-facing speakers and a 720p HD camera on the front. Internal storage options are 16, 32 and 64 GB, with the price ranging from $200-$300 depending on your storage preference. If your main use is e-books, the 16 GB model would probably be more than enough, but I would definitely recommend at least the 32 GB if you plan on downloading a lot of apps and media files. Or more appropriately, if your family plans to be downloading.
Battery-wise, the Kobo arc claims to feature 10 hours of continuous reading (or two weeks on standby), but in our testing with a demo unit, that felt slightly exaggerated.
While the Kobo Arc is built on Android (Version 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich), the custom Tapestries interface is designed to put your e-reading preferences front and centre, while also organizing the other apps into sensible categories. It does a very good job of that, making for a very user friendly interface, especially for consumers who are less tech savvy.
Another nice feature is the Discover bar at the bottom of the homepage. As the Arc learns about your reading and usage preferences, it will offer up suggested matches for books, websites and other information that you might be interested in. That bar is just the most visible example of several different ways in which the Arc offers of content suggestions.
Then of course, there’s the Kobo store, with a huge library of books to preview and purchase. It’s extremely easy to look up specific titles or genres of interest, or check the best seller lists, and even easier to purchase and download, which is definitely to be appreciated. Purchased books can also be synched between multiple Kobo devices, or shared with Kobo apps on other iOS and Android devices.
Reading your books is as simple as pulling up the book you want to read and using simple touch screen gestures to swipe through the pages. For kids, picture books look great on the screen, and some titles will also include an audio track that reads the book to them. I can’t really say if it performs better or worse than other tablets, but it performs well and it’s easy to use, which is really all I need to be happy.
There’s also a use tracking and social sharing tool called Reading Life built in that lets you see how much time you’ve spent with your Kobo, as well as connecting with other fans of the same titles you enjoy.
The one potentially significant drawback to the Kobo Arc as an e-reader is that it has a standard typical LCD screen, rather than the more eye-friendly e-ink of other e-readers. That’s a trade-off you’ll have to be willing to make if you want the dual features of an e-reader and tablet, but it does have its own advantages. Being a proper LCD screen, it works well in low light conditions, and the crisp and colourful graphics make it quite practical for reading graphic novels and other illustrated works.
The GamerPops Recommendation
If you are looking for a 7″ Android tablet, I really have no idea how you’d pick the one that’s right for you. But if you’re looking for an e-reader first, with the added bonus of full tablet functionality, then the Kobo Arc makes a lot of sense. Especially for those customers in Canada who can’t yet purchase the Kindle Fire.
As an e-reader, an Android tablet, and an entertainment device for children, the Kobo Arc packs plenty features into a stylish package, and would be a great addition to any families gadget collection.
A review unit was provided to GamerPops.