The "1-Minute" Review
- Plastic build
- Screen contrast not great
- Might be missing some books in its store
Amazon’s Kindle might be the most well-known e-reader, but it’s not the only one. Rakuten’s Kobo Libra H2O is a direct competitor for the Kindle Oasis at a much lower price. So how does it stack up against the e-reader giant?
The Libra H2O takes a lot of its design from the Forma but shrinks the overall size by one inch. If you’re used to Kindles, the Libra is wider due to a larger bezel on one side. This bezel contains the page turning buttons and also, according to reviewers, makes it much more comfortable to hold. This is good because the Libra H2O is a bit heavier than other e-readers at 192 grams. The design is also reversible making it perfect for righties or lefties.
Like the Oasis, it comes with IPX8 certification. This means you can drop it in about 6 feet of water for an hour without it taking damage, making this a great option for people who like to read while bathing or next to the pool.
With that said, if you’re looking for a premium device, you’ll be disappointed -- the Libra H2O is made entirely of plastic.
The 7-inch screen has the same resolution and e-Ink technology as other high-end e-readers, offering sharp and easy-to-read text. While the text rendering might be fine, reviewers noticed that contrast was below average, making some book covers difficult to read.
In terms of backlighting, it’s mostly uniform. However, experts noticed the screen was a bit dimmer around the bezel with the buttons. Still, it wasn’t enough to ruin their experience.
Speaking of backlighting, this e-reader comes with the option to change color temperatures to reduce the amount of blue light you’re viewing. This is great for people who like to read at night or who want to avoid eye strain. While it might not automatically adjust the brightness based on the environment you’re in, it will change the brightness and warmth based on the information you input such as your time zone and preferred bedtime.
One huge advantage of this ebook reader over others is that you can read in landscape mode, making it great for long reading sessions.
You get 8GB of internal storage, which is enough to hold up to 6,000 ebooks. There’s no option to expand the storage.
A 1,200mAh battery powers the Libra H2O running. Experts averaged a couple weeks on a single charge even after reading for a few hours every day.
Software & File Format Support
If you want an e-reader that supports multiple file formats, then the Libra H2O is definitely a great option. It supports EPUB, MOBI, PDF, HTML, RTF, CBR and CBZ. Unsurprisingly, you can’t read Kindle books.
Of course, Kobo has its own store which boasts over 6 million books - around the same as Amazon. While it might not have some of the books you want, it might have others that Amazon does not have.
If you’re looking for a lot of bells and whistles when reading your book or navigating your homepage, you won’t get that with the Libra H2O. The design and software are sparse. There’s no audio support so you can’t listen to podcasts or audiobooks. It also does not have any cellular options so you can only download books over WiFi or through USB.
Still, many reviewers enjoyed the overall experience as it focused on the actual book and didn’t distract you with author metadata, GoodReads integration, ads, and more. Tom’s Guide notes, “The Kobo… feels more relaxed and welcoming…”
Want to read an article you found online later on your Libra H2O? All you need to use is Pocket -- an app that allows you to save articles on your laptop or tablet and read them on your e-reader.
If you are a member of your local library and they use Overdrive, you can easily borrow books and check out digital titles. This can fill in any gaps you might have in books from not taking part in Amazon’s ecosystem. It also allows you to check out digital titles in other countries where the service is supported.
While you can get both features on a Kindle, experts found the integration much more seamless and intuitive on the Libra H2O.
Overall, reviewers highly recommend the Kobo Libra H2O as it offers an excellent package at a reasonable price. Still, it doesn’t matter how good an e-reader it is if you have all your books in the Amazon ecosystem. If you don’t, then the Libra H2O is a great option.
Gizmodo states, “... For most people, the Kobo LIbra H2O seems like a much better buy. You get the most crucial features… in a much more affordable package.”
Digital Trends adds, “The Kobo Libra H2O has compromised on design… but headline features are all intact.”
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