Review unit provided by Kobo
Kobo Sage is an 8-inch E Ink eReader from released in October 2021 together with the 7-inch Kobo Libra 2 (review).
Some parts of this review are duplicated from the Kobo Libra 2 review due to the similarity between these two devices.
Below's the comparison table with other recent Kobo eReaders. Click for a larger picture.
Here's the main selling points for each eReader model:
If you just want to read, the budget Kobo Clara HD (review) is worth the money simply because of its affordable US $119 (SGD 199) pricing.
If you want to listen to audio books, I recommend Kobo Libra 2 over Kobo Sage unless you really want the larger display, pen support and battery charging case AKA PowerCover. Kobo Libra 2 is US $80 cheaper. Price difference is significant and even more so when you buy the pen and case.
If you want to read PDFs, the 10.3-inch Kobo Elipsa Pack is good since you can't control text size in PDFs, so having a larger display is highly recommended. You can zoom PDFs with the other Kobo eReaders but the experience is not smooth. It's better to have a bigger display where you don't have to zoom. This is more expensive at US$ 399 (SSGD 629) but pen and cover are included.
Kobo Sage is only available in black. The eReader is almost squarish in shape with a thick bezel for your thumb to grip on. Build quality is solid.
The weight is 240g which is comfortable for holding for long periods of time. However if you include the SleepCover or the PowerCover, the additional weight is quite noticeable.
You can hold the eReader any way you want and the pages will quickly orientate automatically.
The page buttons near the edge are easy to reach and have good feedback.
The display surface is flushed to the body which creates this illusion that the page is on the surface of the eReader.
However, there's still a small gap between the surface and the E Ink canvas and depending on the light source, you may see cast shadows from the edge of the display.
That's the seam from the front and the body on the side. The seam on the Kobo Libra 2 is on the back.
The surface is semi-glossy and can attract fingerprint smudges more easily compared to the matte textured surface of the Kobo Libra 2.
Power button's located on the back near the corner.
There's also this nice etched textured pattern on the back. Unfortunately the back's also quite susceptible to fingerprint smudges.
The matte texture on the Kobo Libra 2 is just better and resisting fingerprints.
This can lay quite flat on the table. The edge near the buttons is curved upwards slightly.
The resolution of the 8-inch E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen display is 1440 x 1920, 300DPI. Text is sharp with no noticeable pixelation. Black levels or contrast seems good enough.
There's also Dark Mode if you need it.
The black is not exactly black but dark enough.
The 4:3 aspect ratio works surprising well for reading letter or A4-sized PDFs. Kobo Sage is one inch larger than Kobo Libra 2 so the experience of reading PDFs is slightly better. But I still recommend a larger display because the only way to get larger text on PDFs is to use a larger display.
You can use the touchscreen to zoom and navigate the PDFs but the performance is not as responsive to tablets or computers. If you place your fingers long enough while navigating, a small navigator will appear to show you which part of the page you're looking at.
Speed of flipping through huge PDFs is no different from flipping through eBooks.
Selling point of a Kobo eReader
Having OverDrive integration is the main reason to consider a Kobo eReader. OverDrive allows you to connect to selected libraries around the world provided you are a library member of the library. And you can borrow eBooks or audiobooks from the libraries which can save you a lot of money.
At the time of this review, OverDrive is available in Canada, USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. eBook availability depends on your library.
If you can't find the book you want from OverDrive, you can always buy them from the Kobo store. Prices are quite competitive and reasonable.
You can also load your own eBooks onto the Kobo Libra 2 by transferring them from your computer using the USB cable. File formats supported are EPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR.
Transfer speed via the USB-C port is USB 3 which is fast. The high transfer speed is great for transferring huge audiobooks. Onboard storage of 32GB can hold plenty of eBooks or audiobooks.
Only Kobo AudioBooks work on the Kobo Libra 2. In other words, Kobo Libra 2 cannot play MP3 or other audiobook formats (e.g. Audible audiobooks). Only files from the supported file formats (listed above) will appear on the Kobo home screen.
There's no 3.5mm audio jack so you'll need Bluetooth headphones or speakers to listen to audiobooks. Bluetooth connection is good.
Kobo Sage's battery life drains 16-18 percent for each hour of audiobook playback. Total audiobook playtime is around 6-7 hours. This is much shorter battery life compared to Kobo Libra 2. If you're just reading eBooks, Kobo Sage battery life can last for weeks.
Bluetooth will turn off automatically after a few minutes if there's no audiobook playback.
At the time of this review, Kobo Audiobooks are only available through their website. You can choose to buy Kobo Audiobooks individually or subscribe to the $9.99/month plan where you'll get a free audiobook each month. You can then download the Kobo Audiobooks to your eReader.
Hopefully Kobo will add the functionality to search for audiobooks from the Kobo store on the eReader.
SleepCover and PowerCover
There are two covers for the Kobo Sage, namely SGD $69 SleepCover and SGD $119 PowerCover.
The SleepCover protects only the front and the back but not the sides of the eReader.
Colours available are light green and black. The material looks like PU leather to me.
Kobo Sage attaches to the SleepCover with magnets. The magnetic attraction is quite strong so there's minimal chance of the eReader dislodging.
The foldable SleepCover is quite versatile. You can deploy the eReader with the buttons on the top, bottom, left or right. And the stand is quite stable.
I don't have the PowerCover to test so I can't say much except it's meant to charge the eReader on the go. The PowerCover attaches to the Kobo Sage using magnets as well.
Note that both covers will add more weight to the eReader. I can hold the eReader without the SleepCover comfortably with one hand but with the cover I prefer to use two hands instead.
Reading in the dark
In a completely dark room, I would go with 3-4% brightness. If there's some dim lighting in the room, I'll probably use 10 - 20% brightness.
The lighting is even with no waving light pattern near the edge of the display.
Brightness adjustment is sensitive. The change is brightness for each % point change is very small. You can adjust the brightness easily to your preference.
Brightness and colour temperature can be adjusted using the two side buttons.
To adjust colour temperature, you have to tap on the appropriate slider on the display first and the buttons will switch to adjusting colour temperature. There are 10 steps to the colour temperature slider. Shown above is the mid value, step 5 out of 10.
This is the maximum colour temperature where the display looks very orange.
This is how Dark Mode looks in (almost) complete darkness. The black is not completely black but contrast is good.
Lighting quality is similar to Kobo Sage. In this case, the colour temperature at default looks slightly warmer on the Kobo Libra 2 with a side by side comparison.
Kobo Stylus is priced at SGD 59. This is the same stylus used by the Kobo Elipsa.
The stylus has two side buttons and is powered by a single AAAA battery.
I don't have the pen so I can't say much about the performance at this time. I'll update this review when I get the pen.
The Kobo Sage is a good looking eReader that provides an enjoyable reading experience with its large 8-inch display.
The main selling points over the Kobo Libra 2 is the flushed display and support for the Kobo Stylus and battery charging PowerCover. If you don't need those features, you can save at least US $80 (SGD 110) by going with the Kobo Libra 2 instead.
I don't really see the audiobook playback feature as a strong selling point personally for me since you can always listen to audiobooks from your phone, tablet or computer. But if you want to play audiobooks on the same device you use for reading ebooks, Kobo Sage and Kobo Libra 2 are good options to consider.
The main reason to buy a Kobo eReader is really for OverDrive so that you can borrow eBooks from the connected libraries. OverDrive integration works great. You can find books easily and there's always info telling you when you should return the book.
The pricing of US $259 (SGD 399) is quite competitive compared to the US $299 Kindle Oasis but Kobo has OverDrive. Kobo Sage is $40 cheaper than Amazon Kindle Oasis and has OverDrive so it's a pretty easy choice to make between these two eReaders.
Here in Singapore you can buy it from kobo.com, Challenger, Courts, Lazada, Shopee and Sprint-cass.