Summer holidays spent lounging by the pool - they’re the best. And a good book only makes ‘em better.
Filling your luggage with paperbacks isn’t too practical, though - especially when you’re flying with a low-cost airline that’ll charge a fortune for anything other than carry-on bags.
That’s why an e-reader like Kobo’s Aura H2O make for the perfect travel companion. Sure, it’ll fit your entire reading library into something barely any bigger than your passport, but it’ll keep working if you accidentally drop it in the drink, too.
Yep, it’s completely waterproof.
The original Aura H2O beat the mighty Amazon Kindle to become the world’s first water-resistant e-reader, and now Kobo has combined that resilience with the best bits of last year’s excellent Aura One.
The combination makes it the best alternative to a Kindle we’ve seen yet.
Kobo Aura H2O (2017) Design & build
It’s not as sleek as the Kindle Oasis, but that doesn’t matter: the H2O puts function over form, with a black plastic body and grippy rubber rear.
More important is the IPX8 rating, which means it’ll be able to live 2m underwater for up to 60 minutes with no ill effects. Forget reading by the pool - with one of these you can read in the pool.
You’re unlikely to drop it in accidentally, as that rubber back gives you plenty to grab hold of. At 210g it’s not the lightest of e-readers, and you’ll struggle to squeeze it into a back pocket, but it’ll easily slide into a carry-on bag when it’s time to hit the beach.
There are no physical buttons on the front, which not everyone will like. You’ve got to tap or swipe the E ink screen to turn your digital pages. The single power button on the back wakes the H2O from sleep. It’s easy enough to find if you’re right-handed, but hardly in a convenient place for southpaws.
Kobo Aura H2O (2017) reading experience
It doesn’t have the expansive display of the Aura One, but this second generation H2O still crams plenty of words on the screen. At 6.8in it’s noticeably larger than any current Kindle, and the 256ppi resolution helps keep images and text looking crisp - useful for graphic novels and digital comics.
Kobo has always gone for a more book-like layout in terms of spacing, numbering and page furniture, and that doesn’t change here. the H2O has 11 fonts, 50 different sizes and plenty of layout options to tweak until you’re happy.
Adobe's eBook format also adds different fonts for different publishers, giving your books a lot more individuality than Amazon's meagre few choices.
it all looks fantastic on the E Ink Carta display, with luscious contrast that’s about as close as you can get to actually reading a plain old paperback.
You don’t get an ambient light sensor like you do with the Aura One, meaning you’ve got to tweak the backlight manually whenever you wake the H2O from sleep. These kinds of sensors are still rarer than hens’ teeth on e-readers, anyway, so it’s difficult to grumble given the price.
Kobo’s ComfortLight PRO adjustable backlight does make a return, though. It varies the amount of blue light being pumped out depending on the time of day, so it doesn’t keep you awake when you’re reading at night.
The display gets noticeably yellower and warmer as the sun sets, then reverts back to a cool white in the morning. You can set it manually, too, if you feel like burning the midnight oil.
There’s 8GB of on-board storage, which is enough space for over 6000 books. So basically it’ll carry every book you could ever hope to read on every holiday you’ll take for the rest of your life. Handy.
The only downside is a reduced battery. Whereas the Aura One could go for a month between top-ups, you'll be searching for a plug socket after a week with the H20. That's still long enough for most people to finish at least one trashy holiday novel, mind.