£60 inc VAT • From www.whsmith.co.uk
Pretty much every eReader we’ve seen has had a 6in E Ink screen, but the Kobo Mini is different, as it has a smaller 5in screen. The idea is to make this eReader pocket-sized and that little bit easier to carry around.
Measuring 102x133x10mm and weighing just 134g, the diminutive Kobo Mini reader fits easily in the hand and is small enough to slip into an inside pocket. It feels well-built and is comfortable to hold thanks to Kobo’s quilted soft-touch back cover.
The Mini’s 5in E Ink touchscreen is a Vizplex V110 display. It has a 800×600 resolution, which is the same as that of most 6in devices. Unfortunately, its quality isn’t as good as we’re used to seeing, and although it looked sharp, its contrast wasn’t as good and text looked grey. Compared with the new Kindle’s, the Mini’s text just doesn’t have the same sharpness or darkness.
Kobo has set the default so that the screen performs a full refresh only after six pages, which is designed to speed up page turns and save battery life. It’s a common feature that most eReaders use, but we don’t think it works as well here. After three page turns, ghosting from previous text became very noticeable; by the fifth page turn, some text was actually quite hard to read and letters had lost their sharpness. Thankfully, the Kobo Mini lets you change the number of page turns before a full refresh (between one and six pages).
Like the Kobo Glo’s interface, the Mini’s is pleasant to use, as it has a very responsive touchscreen. You can quickly select the book you want from the device’s front page and tap it to open it. You can also buy books directly from your device, provided it’s connected to a Wi-Fi network.
A carousel of books that might interest you appears in the Discover tab, but as the screens of E Ink devices take a relatively long time to refresh, this isn’t particularly easy to navigate.
As with the Glo, the Mini provides access to Kobo’s store through a simple search box, which misses out on Amazon’s trick of letting you view lists of books and browse through everything. Again, it’s much easier to buy your eBooks from the Kobo website and have them delivered to your device. Almost every book on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list is also available from Kobo.
Once you’re reading a book, you can turn pages in two ways – as you can with other Kobo readers. Either tap (left-hand side of the screen to go back and right-hand side to go forwards) or swipe (right-to-left to go forwards and left-to-right to go back). Page turns are smooth and quick. Tapping the screen once reveals a menu of options, including navigation tools for searching the text, looking up words and bringing up a table of contents. You can adjust how each book looks, too, with a choice of nine fonts.
Kobo quotes a battery life of more than one month for the Mini with Wi-Fi turned off. This seems pretty standard for an eBook reader without a built-in light and means that you won’t need to charge it very often.
One of the key reasons to buy a Kobo is for its format support and the fact that you’re not locked into one store. While buying books from Kobo’s store is the most convenient option, you can buy them from anywhere else (except Amazon), as well as loading encrypted PDF and ePUB files on to your reader via a USB connection and Adobe Digital Editions. If you don’t want to be tied to Amazon, Kobo’s devices are a excellent alternative.
The Mini’s PDF support isn’t great, though. You can zoom into a page and use your finger to move round it, but it’s slow to update and fiddly on the Mini’s small screen. We struggled to get the device to display our PDF book properly, so you’re better off using ePUB files, which have text that can be reflowed.
The Kobo Mini has 2GB of storage built in. This model has no microSD card slot, but its built-in storage holds around 1,000 books, which is a huge amount. There’s no 3G version of the Kobo Mini, but it’s equipped with 802.11n wireless.
It’s always nice to see some innovation, and the Mini’s small size certainly gives you another option if portability is your main priority. The price is excellent for a touchscreen device, too, but the relatively poor quality of the screen is off-putting. We’d rather spend a little more to get the Amazon Kindle. If you don’t want to be locked into Amazon’s store, you can buy Kobo’s excellent 6in Touch, which is still available for around £80 including VAT. Otherwise, for better quality all round, Kobo’s Glo and Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite are both excellent choices.
DISPLAY: 5in mono touchscreen
MEMORY CARD SUPPORT: None
EBOOK FORMATS: ePub, PDF, HTML, RTF, MOBI, TXT
IMAGE FORMATS: BMP, TIFF, JPEG
DIMENSIONS: 102x133x10mm, 134g
WARRANTY: One-year RTB
PART CODE: Mini