Encouraging people to read has always been part of the story with eReaders, and Kobo has put out an affordable entry-level model in the Clara HD.
The Clara HD is neither water-resistant nor especially cutting-edge, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. If you’re looking for an eReader that sticks to the basics with a smaller form factor, this is one to think about.
The most obvious signs are the size and weight. At 166 grams, the Clara HD is pretty lightweight, and the dimensions make it easy to hold in one hand. Reading for longer periods is always a little more challenging on larger eReaders because of that. Kobo is clearly trying to cater to users who want something smaller.
I tried it in a jeans or jacket pocket and it managed to fit like a glove. Transporting this thing around shouldn’t be a problem. The only catch is that the back of the unit is hardened plastic, not rubberized material, so sweaty hands will make it a bit more slippery. The textured perforations on the back also don’t substitute for a better grip. Personally, I prefer a back with a bit more friction.
The 6-inch E Ink display is naturally smaller than the screen sizes on the company’s other premium devices. The 300dpi resolution is perfectly fine for reading sharp text. Either way, there was little to complain about as far as what I was looking at. Kobo also wisely included some of the dynamic features of its ComfortLight Pro technology, which I’ll touch on later.
There is only one button—the power button at the bottom—next to the microUSB port to charge it. Inside, Kobo put 8GB of storage; more than enough for most, and helpful when it comes to adding documents or content to read through Pocket, a service Kobo has plugged into its eReaders.
There is no microSD slot to expand on the existing storage. Nor is there a headphone jack or Bluetooth to listen to music. With that in mind, there’s no built-in audiobook integration.
Reading on the Clara HD
If you’re coming from a previous Kobo eReader, there is nothing here that will really surprise or confound you. The screen’s responsiveness is about the same as anything else in the Kobo lineup. The interface and menu layout also looks very familiar.
The top left features the main menu with shortcuts to books, collections and articles, along with settings. The Home screen provides a visual shortcut to most of those things, particularly the books and articles.
The ComfortLight Pro settings allow for less blue light when reading in darker settings. That makes it easier on the eyes. In those situations, the hue turns a yellowish orange, almost like a sepia colour. It’s automatic, and you can set what time it becomes active, or adjust it manually yourself. If you don’t care to have it at all, you can turn it off entirely.
Naturally, the Kobo Store is where you buy and download ebooks to read, though you can also upload them from a computer in EPUB format. Link your Pocket account with the Clara HD, and articles you save on your computer’s web browser will become accessible on the eReader.
Notably missing, however, is the Overdrive integration of the Aura One. That offered the option to download ebooks from participating libraries. It’s not in the Clara HD, and from what I could gather, the only way to do it was a manual upload from a computer. If there is an easier way to do it, I’m not aware, and I believe you would have to ask a local library whether or not they can offer books for the device or not.
Battery life and upkeep
Battery life is usually not a problem for eReaders, and the Clara HD falls in line. I would say three weeks is a good bet, but it can easily go a month if you’re not using it every day. Raising the screen brightness and keeping Wi-Fi on tends to sap the battery most.
Either way, an hour or two of reading per day would keep the device going for a good two weeks or more. In any case, you won’t have to charge it very often.
I didn’t use the Clara HD with a case like I have with the Aura One and H2O. Despite the E Ink display being recessed into the bezels surrounding it, I would recommend looking into a case if you want extra protection.
Taking out the water-resistance of the other premium models may be problematic if you want to read in the tub or at the pool. Otherwise, there’s plenty to like about the simplicity of this eReader. It’s not made for the user who wants bells and whistles. The Clara HD delivers the basics, and does so with consistency.
The Kobo Store’s library of ebooks is debatable, at least insofar as what is available. I wouldn’t worry about storage because 8GB is good enough for 6,000 titles. It’s just that if you don’t find the book you’re looking for in their store, then what? Adding titles from a third-party source via a computer isn’t a one-step process in and of itself.
For someone who just wants to easily download a book from the store, read it anywhere and then repeat the process, it’s easy enough to do that here.