Kobo sticks to a familiar design in helping you read anywhere you want to with the new Libra H2O, an eReader built to last.
To be fair, the Libra H2O isn’t a radical change for Kobo. It borrows heavily from previous models, and looks like a slimmed down Kobo Forma. It also takes the water-resistance of the Aura H2O and matches it with the one-handed usability the Forma provided.
Handling the Libra H2O
Apart from its size, the Libra H2O doesn’t deviate all that much from the Forma. The side piece, or lip, along the side is the same, carrying over the ergonomics of the prior model. That also includes the two physical page-turn buttons.
The back has the same rubberized texture to improve grip, particularly when reading in water, thanks to the IPX8 waterproofing. It can handle being submerged in up to two metres of water for up to 60 minutes, though you should steer clear of saltwater.
To accommodate the smaller frame, Kobo had to also go with a smaller screen. The 7-inch Carta E Ink display is an inch shorter than the Forma’s 8-inch screen, but they both have the same resolution. That’s 300ppi to ensure sharp text, helped by the same brightness and ComfortLight Pro amber light to make it easier to read in the dark or at night. The Forma had also introduced the ability to read in landscape mode by tilting it sideways, and that feature also made its way to the Libra H2O.
Despite the obvious similarities, there are two distinct differences to note. First is the fact the Libra H2O also comes in white, whereas the Forma only came in black. Second, is the internal storage capacity. Where the Forma has 32GB of storage, this model has 8GB, which Kobo says is enough for up to 6,000 eBooks.
Kobo’s eBookstore currently has about six million eBooks available, all of which you can access when connected to Wi-Fi. That selection is supplemented by other services designed to load up more reading content outside the store itself.
OverDrive, the platform public libraries use to loan out eBooks, is included here, and all you need is card from your local library to set that in motion. Once you do, you can browse and reserve titles from home, or anywhere you may be while connected to Wi-Fi. You do need to set up an OverDrive account, which is free.
Kobo also maintains its generous support for various file formats. If you have an eBook or document in PDF, EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, TXT, HTML or RTF, you can load it and read it on the Libra H2O. It can also display images in JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG and BMP formats. For comic books, CBZ and CBR will also work. As in previous models, you can only do it through a Windows PC or Mac.
Pocket is still the best way to integrate the web into the device. In lieu of a browser, saving links to a Pocket account makes them available on the Libra H2O. It’s a great way to read up on a series of articles in places where you don’t have Internet access or prefer not to read on your phone.
Reading on the Libra H2O
It hardly surprised me that reading on the Libra H2O felt like the Forma, only smaller. One benefit in handling a smaller device is that it’s a lot more pocketable. This model is easier to carry or transport, and can fit in certain jacket pockets, whereas the Forma was often too big for that.
Kobo introduced new reading features as it launched the Libra H2O, though they aren’t exclusive to the device. Several eReaders received the update, including the Forma among them. They aren’t especially extensive, but are useful additions to what was already there.
A new scrubber simplifies how to navigate across a book, complete with page previews to help visualize where you were, or where you want to go. I also much preferred the new way in getting to bookmarks and footnotes because it reduces the number of steps to get to them. When you’re reading a book that requires going back and forth for referencing or to better absorb the content, you tend to appreciate things like that.
I know I did, and since it’s elective, you can read your own way. Personally, I often go back to confirm a detail or reference a person, place or thing. Certain books can be heavy in facts, especially those dealing with history, and I found these new features better suited to that kind of reading.
As for the Libra H2O itself, the white design really grew on me. And frankly, so did the form factor. Having already been used to the Forma, I didn’t have to change any habits, only that I was using something a little smaller.
If you have the Kobo Forma already, you really don’t need to switch to the Libra H2O. The differences aren’t stark, with the possible exception of their respective storage capacities. If 8GB isn’t enough for you, then the Forma is your alternative option. The same goes for screen size, where the Libra H2O is the smaller of the two.
Battery life is not all that different between them, so there is no inherent advantage, either way. Despite the familiar territory, this is one of the best eReaders currently available. It has the right combination of features, performance and size. I do wish Kobo would use flush screens, as opposed to elevated bezels, but that’s a personal gripe. If you like the openness of the device and supporting services, you won’t go wrong.