Hot on the heels of the Kobo Wireless and the Kobo Touch comes the Kobo Vox – the latest addition to the Canadian brand’s ereader arsenal and another UK exclusive for WH Smith.
Clearly designed to rival the Amazon Kindle Fire, which has yet to make it to UK shores, the touchscreen-toting Kobo Vox runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), putting it a step behind top spec Honeycomb-flavoured tablets.
But has it got what it takes for those who want to combine their ereaders with a budget Android slate? We put it through its paces to find out.
Kobo Vox – build
While the Kobo Vox includes a similarly comfy, textured finish to that of the Kobo Touch, the overall build quality bears the hallmarks of a cheap tablet.
The Vox is also far weightier than most cheaper ebook readers although it’s very slightly lighter than a Kindle Fire, albeit not quite as svelte. As a tablet, it’s relatively compact but as an ereader, it’s pretty chunky.
Kobo Vox – screen
The 7in screen offers plenty of space for viewing books and browsing the web while the 1024x600-pixel resolution puts it neck-and-neck with the Kindle Fire, offering a sharp viewing experience which is great for picture books and web pages.
However, the downside of using a backlit screen is that reading for long periods of time isn’t very easy on the eyes, especially compared to the E Ink display found on the cheaper Kindle and Kobo models.
Kobo Vox – controls
While the Kobo Touch relies on a solitary button along with touchscreen control, the Vox uses a set of Android tablet-style touch buttons under the screen. Along with the familiar back, menu and home controls, the Vox also supports multi-touch so that you can pinch-zoom or double-tap to zero in on small details.
While the touchscreen isn’t quite as responsive as a top-tier tablet, it’s a definite step up from the Kobo Touch.
Kobo Vox – storage
The Kobo Vox sports 8GB of on-board storage, which should give you room for around 8,000 books, while the inclusion of a Micro SD card slot means that you can expand this by 32GB, making room for up to 40,000 titles.
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What’s more, unlike the Kobo Touch, there’s unlimited cloud storage on offer. There’s no Android Market access, but you can choose from a stripped-down selection of apps at online store GetJar.
Kobo Vox – reading
The interface is pretty slick and very easy to use and even brings Facebook integration to the table with its Reading Life function. What’s more, Kobo Pulse means that you can share comments with other readers in real time.
Page turning is swift although there’s a lengthy lag when switching between portrait and landscape. The built-in speaker offers adequate audio for listening to videos and audiobooks, while switching to the headphone socket offers a big improvement in sound.
Kobo Vox – review verdict
There are plenty of reasons to like the Kobo Vox, including the audio support, the big bright screen and the fact that it’s child’s play to operate. It’s also worth remembering that the Vox supports open books so you won’t be tied into downloading books from one platform, as you are with the Kindle.
The fact that it bundles in the ability to browse the web, check email, watch videos and listen to audio books is also good news. However, reading from an LCD-backlit screen for long periods of time simply isn’t comfortable when compared to E Ink, which is far closer to the real feel of a book. On the tablet side, the lack of Android Market support is a major disadvantage.
Combining an ereader with a budget Android tablet might sound like a nifty space-saving idea, but the result is a product that’s not really as good as either of the two gadgets it combines. Having said that, if you’re dead set on a two-in-one gadget then it’s a good choice as long as the Kindle Fire remains unavailable on this side of the pond.