The need for a device that I can use as an eReader, and also for entertainment and computing necessitated me in getting a tablet. Problem is, given that one brand is out of the picture due to my preference for tinkering stuff (*coughapplecough*), it was a tough choice on the Android platform, although the freedom to choose was there, which is a good thing. I narrowed down my choices to the Kindle Fire, and the B&N Nook HD. I didn’t really like the Kindle’s integration with Amazon’s ecosystem and the advertising, and I also didn’t like the Nook’s proprietary charging port, however, so I was stuck in the doldrums until I chanced upon the Kobo Arc.
I had heard of the Kobo brand, but back then, having launched their “disastrous” Kobo Vox (I wasn’t into the eReader thing back when it was launched, so hence the quotations), I thought that it was just another company that will fade into obscurity after Amazon and B&N. However, it seems that Kobo has taken positive steps towards providing a good product at a fair price. The only problem is buying one online and having it shipped to Singapore, as apparently it seems that Canada gets the Kobo first, and at a few select stores in the UK and France, and there are no Canadian online stores that has it in stock and ships to Singapore, as compared to one of Kobo’s earlier offerings, the Kobo Touch, which is available on Amazon.com!
Luckily I had a relative over in Canada, so I managed to acquire a Kobo Arc pretty “early” in terms of worldwide product launches.
With that said, the only issue I had with the items shipped, which was that the provided power plug is made for American (?) wall outlets, but thankfully, the power plug supports 240V AC, so it was only a matter of getting an appropriate socket adapter. Also, it didn’t come with a miniUSB cable, which was great, since we often have many of these cables from the gadgets that we all buy.
However, the provided charger apparently does not allow other devices to be charged. I’m not sure if it’s because they all have an overcharge (overamp?) regulator, but so far the only device that I can charge is the Kobo Arc.
Setup was self-explanatory, and I – being a first-time tablet user – wasn’t used to using an Android tablet device, so I had to base it more on intuition in using the Android OS in tablet resolution, as compared to iOS. Nevertheless, it did not hinder me in registering on Kobo and rating a few books in order for their “Discover” bar to provide book suggestions for me (if my guess is right, that is).
Specifications-wise, it is similar to the Amazon Kindle Fire, except that its somewhat pricier, due to a better CPU (higher clockspeed), more storage (16GB) and miscellaneous other hardware differences. It also has a multi-color notification and charging LED just beside the power button, but certain colors are hard to tell from one another – particularly, the yellow/orange, cyan/blue and magenta/purple.
This tablet’s backplate is customizable, and it can be replaced with a different backplate of a different color for your own liking. Besides the backplate, Kobo’s own SleepCover accessory – which is basically the same as the Apple Smart Covers for iPads – contains magnets, in order for the screen to be turned off automatically, and also snapping the cover in-place to secure the tablet. I ran my mobile phone’s bottom speaker over the bezels (as it’s been proven that my Xperia Ray’s speaker magnet is strong enough to pick up paper clips, pins and screws in my daily life), and found a sensor spot at the top bezel near the camera, and also one more spot on the right hand side of the tablet, which appears to be used for snapping the cover of the SleepCover in-place.
I am very satisfied with the tablet thus far, as it has a great eBook ecosystem, and I can actually buy eBooks directly from Kobo, bypassing any hassle of buying eBooks from the Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook, given that the big players of the eBook ecosystem aren’t interested in setting up shop locally (besides Apple, that is). Should the Kobo reader app not be to one’s liking, the Kindle and Nook readers for Android can be installed by sideloading them, and not only that – since it is Google certified, I can even install apps which I’ve bought on Google Play, as compared to the Kindle and Nook.
It comes with stock Japanese and Simplified Chinese keyboards too, so it seems that this tablet is designed for worldwide use, as compared to Amazon and B&N’s offerings.
As for performance, its definitely faster than my mobile phone, a 2011 device, which is starting to show signs of age after a year (or maybe even shorter than that)!
However, there are a couple of peeves and/or bugs that I found:
- No one-tap or two-tap access to turn off all notifications from the menu, or the notification bar- very irritating when you’re reading.
- No animated page turns in reading app – I wonder if its due to the recent patent by Apple…
- Offline charging seems broken- for some strange reason, turning off the tablet to charge seems to not work, as I see the battery charging icon come up 2 times, and after that, the charging LED turned green in color. Perhaps a ROM problem? This doesn’t occur if its turned on and charging.
- Notification LED should be placed on the right edge of the tablet so that it’s easier to check for notifications when I stow the tablet away in my bag, kinda like looking at the spine of a book.
- Lack of accessories for the Kobo Arc. Though the tablet was launched only very recently, I was hoping that at least a screen protector and a basic cover would be available at launch.
- Auto-brightness seems to be randomly working and not working, which was a setback. Hopefully the next system update fixes this.
Overall, I feel that it’s not a cheap purchase as I had to jump through hoops to get this tablet, but it’s specifications, design and uniqueness in product positioning in the eReader market are good enough for me to get it, so I find it worth the money. My final verdict? I call it the “Apple of Android tablets”, as compared to Google’s own Nexus 7, or the “street opinion” of the Samsung tablets.