The "1-Minute" Review
- Squishy buttons
- Software sometimes sluggish
While Kobo has pioneered several e-reader features in the Western market, most people see them as an alternative to Amazon -- not a direct competitor. With their latest release, they’ve aimed their sights at the top of Amazon’s lineup. But do the extra features justify the price of the device -- and is it enough to pull people away from Amazon’s massive e-book library? Let’s look at what reviewers across the Internet think.
While most e-readers are simple, rectangular plastic devices, the Forma features an interesting asymmetrical design. The body gets thinner as you go across the body, with the thicker portion housing the physical page flip buttons.
The thicker portion and rear cover also include a grippy, rubberized treatment to provide a solid grip during long one-handed reading sessions. At just 197g, reviewers had no trouble holding the Forma for long periods of time either.
The e-reader is also IPX 8 rated for waterproofing so feel free to read beside the pool or in the bathtub.
Overall, reviews were mixed. Some found the buttons squishy and questioned the use of plastic and rubber in a device of this price. However, no one noted major issues that impacted usability or raised durability questions. Trusted Reviews was one critic of the design, saying, “The overall design is a little on the ugly side, with the perforated plastic picking up everything from dust to smudges in an instant.”
Around front, you’re greeted with a roomy 8-inch e-Ink Carta display running at 1440-by-1920 pixels. This keeps the Forma on par with competing e-readers at a PPI of 300 while allowing it to offer one of the largest screens in the mainstream e-reader market.
Reviewers loved the extra room with many noting that an inch or two of extra space makes all the difference -- especially when reading visual novels, comics, or heavily formatted PDFs.
There we no issues of ghosting and refresh rates were nice and snappy. And, as an e-Ink display, there are no worries about glare when reading outdoors or near bright lights.
There’s also a front light on the display composed of 15 LEDs. Both cool and warm LEDs allow you to adjust the temperature of the display from cool blue to warm orange to suit your preferences.
Matching the Kindle Oasis, the Forma offers 8GB or 32GB of internal storage. While you won’t find microSD support on the reader, this is more than enough space for a nice collection of comics or other larger e-book files if you’re planning to be away from Wi-Fi for a while.
Kobo estimates that the 1200mAh battery is good for weeks of use on a single charge if you read an hour or two a day without Wi-Fi and keep the screen brightness at reasonable levels. Reviewers didn’t list exact run times, but many found they’d used only 15% to 20% of the battery after 6 to 10 hours of use.
Software & File Format Support
Kobo’s Forma features some of the most comprehensive file support around. You’ll find 14 e-book formats compatible with the e-reader, including EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, and CBR.
However, if you’re a fan of Amazon, note that the Forma cannot read books from the Amazon store. Fortunately, there’s both the Kobo and Walmart e-book stores to keep your reading list full. You can also sideload books from any other store with supported file types.
The software on the Forma is minimalist with no ads and a clean look that puts your files at the forefront. Unfortunately, some reviewers found navigating the interface slow.
Trusted Review says, “The basic UI is great: easy to navigate, visually interesting and heavy on the imagery. It doesn’t try to push new and suggested reads on you quite as frequently as the Kindle, instead focusing on books you already have… It’s a shame then that, in use, the Forma feels a bit sluggish.”
While responsiveness annoyed a few reviewers, the extra features available pleased everyone. If you like to clip articles from the web, Pocket integration makes it easy to send your favorite blogs, news stories, and other web content to your e-Reader.
Overdrive integration also allows you to access your local library’s e-book collection. And unlike Amazon, you can do everything directly from the Forma. No web browser or PC required.
The Natural Light automatic screen adjustment feature also received plenty of praise. Once you tell the Forma what time you would like to go to bed it will adjust the temperature of the screen’s light to reduce blue light exposure near bedtime.
Also, if you’re worried about the physical buttons being on one side of the display, you’ll be pleased to hear that the screen rotates and the buttons flip based on how you’re holding the e-reader.
The biggest questions about the Forma center on its software and plastic design. If you’re looking for a more upscale experience -- or you’re heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem -- the Oasis might be a better buy.
But if you’re looking for a premium e-reader experience with better file support and more customization options than the Oasis, the Forma is an interesting offering.
ZDNet says “The on-device controls are intuitive, and the slightly angled bar for holding the device is cleverly designed. If you're considering a Kindle Oasis this Christmas, check out this worthy rival too.”
Ars Technica sums up opinions well, saying, “Kobo made a premium e-reader that will capture the attention of those who lust after the Kindle Oasis. It's a well-built e-reader with a large, crisp display, comfortable Natural Light, a convenient way for users to borrow library books on-device, and an ad-free experience.”
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