Review: Kobo Clara HD e-Reader (with Kindle comparison)

The Kobo Clara HD is an e-Ink e-Reader, just like the Amazon Kindle which I will also compare to in this review.

The unit I have here is a review unit from Kobo.

Official retail price is SGD 199 and is available from Kobo.com, as well as at key retailers such as Challenger, Courts, and Sprint-cass

Let's get the basic specs out of the way first:

Screen 6-inch Carta E-Ink touchscreen, 300 ppi, print quality
Weight 166 g
Size 159.6 x 110 x 8.35 mm
Storage 8 GB of on-board memory, holds up to 6,000 eBooks
Front light ComfortLight PRO – Reduces blue-light exposure for more comfortable nighttime reading
Customisability TypeGenius: 11 different fonts and over 40 font styles. Exclusive font weight and sharpness setting
Supported formats 14 file formats supported natively (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR). Read eBooks borrowed from Public Library
Connectivity Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Micro USB
Battery life Weeks of battery life (depends on usage)
Languages English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish
Other No advertising, no interruptions

The main features to note, which I've highlighted in bold are:

1. The display size is 6-inch. It's about the size of typical novels or paperbacks which means the Kobo Clara HD is more suitable for reading those types of books rather than for reading PDFs, comics, artbooks, magazines even if you can do so.

2. The pixel density is 300PPI is print quality. The text has the same sharpness as text printed on paper.

3. The device can support many file formats but Amazon Kindle's azw format is not one of them.

4. The device supports Overdrive which allows you to borrow books from the public library. This is probably the #1 key selling feature.

5. The screen is touch-sensitive.

I'll go through these features further below.

Why get an e-reader

I like reading. I used to read a lot, but not as much now since I spent too much time on my blog and Youtube channel. I have an Amazon Kindle that I've left unused for a long time.

An e-Reader device like this is made for people who love to read. If you love to read, this is definitely something I would highly recommend. You may think that reading actual books, eg the ones made with paper, is more satisfying. All I can say is you won't look back after you use an e-Ink reader because of the convenience it offers, namely you don't need physical space to store your books and you can access a huge variety of books.

According to Rakuten Kobo’s data, there's a 270% increase in reading time for Singaporeans in 2020, probably due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The interesting bit is this:

"90% of the most popular authors of 2020 were classified under the romance category. Contemporary erotic romance is definitely a trend to watch, with three out of the top 10 most popular authors of the year (Charlie Richards, Lynn Hagen and Sam Crescent) penning novels of this genre."

Contemporary erotic romance... Hmm...

"At least 60% of the top selling e-Books in Singapore fall into the motivational, self-help genre."

I'm not surprised by the popularity of self-help books though. There are so many of these books in bookstores and in the library.


The Kobo Clara HD is lightweight, maybe as light as a paperback novel, but much thinner. This is something you can bring around easily.


One accessory that's available, but not included, is the SleepCover priced at S$49 which to me is kinda pricey. Anyway, there are many other cheaper compatible cases out there.


For the SleepCover, it has a nice leather-like texture to it.


It doesn't add much to the weight and thickness. Main selling feature of this cover case is it will put the e-Reader to sleep when cover is closed, and wakes it up when cover is lifted.


The e-Ink display has a colour that's just like newsprint paper colour. The contrast is good and is comfort for reading for long periods of time.

The sharpness of the text is crisp. It's as sharp as text on newspapers, novels and magazines. Pixelation is not noticeable.


The page marker is located at the bottom.


There's also access to useful info like how much time you need to complete the current chapter, the book.


Size for the text, font, margin, spacing between lines can be adjusted.


There's also backlight for reading at night and the brightness can be adjusted. The backlight is not totally even but it does a good job illuminating the text.

Reading at night on an e-Reader is definitely easier on the eyes compared to reading on tablets or phones with LCD or OLED displays.


You can also make the light warmer if you prefer.

The shortcut to changing the brightness is to swipe up or down on the left on the display.

OverDrive is the main selling point

Having OverDrive is main differentiating factor from the Amazon Kindle.

OverDrive is a service or platform that connects to libraries around the world. If you have a library card or membership, you may be able to connect to your library through OverDrive, and thereby have access to all the e-Books from your public library, FOR FREE.

Some publishers don't like OverDrive because it means people would be buying less books. That's how good OverDrive is for consumers – it helps you save money.

So even though the Kobo Clara HD is more expensive than the Amazon Kindle, with OverDrive it may still be worth the money.

Koba Clara HD is SGD 199 here in Singapore, and US $99 online from overseas. Electronics in Singapore always seem to be more expensive compared to overseas even after currency conversion. That kinda sucks.

The cheaper Amazon Kindle with front-light is US $79 but that's not sold officially here in Singapore. Anyway, the different Amazon Kindle models are available on Lazada and Shopee for prices lower than the Kobo Clara HD.

So why not buy the cheaper Amazon Kindle?

OverDrive. With OverDrive, you don't have to buy books anymore. *publisher screams!* Yup.

However, if you don't need OverDrive, then you actually go with any cheaper e-Reader.


You'll of course need an OverDrive account and membership with your library before you can use OverDrive to borrow books.


When you do a search, you can search the Kobo store for books to buy, or OverDrive for books to borrow.


The display is touch-sensitive so you can actually type on it.


I did a search for "Harry Potter" and all the books are available for loan.


You can choose to buy books for Kobo store but with OverDrive I'm not sure why you would want to do that.

By the way, libraries have to pay book publishers license fees for access to titles.

Downside to OverDrive is, just like physical books, there's a limit to the number of copies. So if the books for a title are all on loan, you will have to wait for people to return the books. Meanwhile you can borrow other books, just like in the real world.

Popular books or new books are more difficult to borrow so you have to join the waiting list.


If you want to read your own downloaded books, just transfer them using the micro-USD cable provided. There's 8GB of storage which for storing eBooks is a lot.


Here's a side by side comparison with the Amazon Kindle (left).


Text on the Amazon Kindle is not as sharp compared to the Kobo Clara HD. However, the lack of sharpness doesn't really affect my reading experience. Sharper text is of course nicer.

Conclusion

The Kobo Clara HD is well designed and has good build quality.

The main selling point really is the support for OverDrive which will give you access to all the books your library can offer. That's an invaluable feature.

If you're interested to get this, here in Singapore you can buy it from kobo.com, Challenger, Courts, and Sprint-cass.

It's also available on Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP

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