One Tablet To Rule Them All: Kobo Arc Review

One Tablet To Rule Them All: Kobo Arc Review

One Tablet to Rule Them All

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!

Package from Canada! What’s with the 3 company brands, though?

Luckily I had a relative over in Canada, so I managed to acquire a Kobo Arc pretty “early” in terms of worldwide product launches.

240V AC charger, phew!

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.

Setting up 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).

Placement of the notification light needs more thought…

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.

A Peek Beneath the Back

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.

Kobo Arc Default Keyboards

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:

  1. 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.
  2. No animated page turns in reading app – I wonder if its due to the recent patent by Apple…
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

One thought on “One Tablet To Rule Them All: Kobo Arc Review

  1. Just read your review on the Kobo Arc, and would say I’m of the same opinion as you are in regards to the ‘Arc’, however there are some points I’d like to pick up on. First your specification comparison of the Arc to the ‘Kindle Fire’ refers to the ‘upgraded’ version (released in September 2012 in the UK/Europe along with the ‘Fire HD’) and not the original Fire (only released in the USA in November 2011). Be it the original or the upgraded Fire there is no comparing it to the Arc since there is not much difference between the original Fire and the upgraded version, bit of extra memory and very slightly faster processor, though the upgraded version has Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). The Fire, partially the original is more comparable with the “disastrous” (as you put it) Kobo ‘Vox’ which was relased in the UK roughly the same time as the original Kindle Fire was released in the USA. Secondly despite your “disastrous” tag for the Vox it was the first ‘dedicated’ colour eReader (that I know of in the UK), has similar specs to the original Fire, though the Fire does have a Duel Core 1GHz against the Vox’s 800MHz Single Core processor, the Vox’s 8Gb memory is upgadable by a futher 32Gb Micro SDHC Card and has a more open Android OS which was later enhanced by the introduction of Google Play. Admittedly the Fire can have Google Play added if your prepared to mess about with the OS, which if it goes wrong your left with a brick and it’s possible Amazon could block the loophole out in later software updates.

    I think the Arc is more comparable with the ‘New’ Kindle ‘Fire HD’, Barnes & Noble ‘Nook HD’ and though termed as entertainment devices you could include the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7 into the mix. All have front facing cameras (iPad has a rear camera and the Nook has no camera), 1Gb memory (except the iPad which only has 512Mb), Duel Core processors (except the Nexus this is 1.3GHz Quad Core, the Arc has a 1.5GHz, Fire HD 1.2GHz the Nook 1.3GHz and the iPad 1.00GHz), identical screen resolution (with the exception of the iPad, this is smaller and only 4:3 and the Nook has a larger screen resolution). The Arc and Fire have an enrty level of 16Gb internal storage along with iPad, while the Nexus and the Nook start at 8Gb. All are priced similar (£159.00 in the UK) with the exception of the iPad which is well over priced for the specs and its then you begin to realise your paying for a ‘brand’ rather than the specs.

    In regards to your niggles (if they have not been resolved already):
    To switch off notifications open a book, press the little circle in the bottom right of the screen, select the spanner, then select/deselect any of the options under ‘Notifications & Social Settings’. Alternativly go into Kobo Libary, while in ‘Home’ or ‘Libary’ select settings from the far right top icon select settings, then select/deselect any of the options under ‘In-App Notifications’. In regards to charging, this is normal as my unit also does the same, though my light glows green/orange depending on what angle its viewed from and if you quickly press the on/off switch the charging battery icon appears briefly. I can’t see the point in a ‘Notification LED’ especialy if you place it in a (hand?) bag!! If your putting it in a hand bag then it might be worth setting up the Arc to play a sound when a notification comes in, this can be done under ‘DEVICE’, Sound, Default notification (on the right pane) in ‘Settings’, the sound level can be adjusted seperatly from the alarm and the main volume.

    Like you I think the Arc specs, design and more open OS far out shine the opersistion; its chaeper than the opersistion when you take into account you have to pay more (£10.00/$15.00) for an ‘Add Free’ Kindle Fire/Fire HD (its something they forget to mention when the Sales Assistant tells you “This is the best eReader tablet on the market”), or that the devise is locked to a particular provider (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Store). My only niggles with the device like you is the lack of replacement ‘Snapbacks’ and ‘official’ covers such as the ‘Sleepcover’, though my old 3rd party Vox cover (a Navitech from Amazon) keeps the Arc protected, but partialy obsures the power and volume buttons and the speakers. Another ‘big’ niggling thing is the lack of a release date for the upgrade to Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) and the ‘Discover’ bar at the bottom of the screen. This thing drives me nuts, despite selecting ‘Not Interested’ the item re-apears, I’m hoping they will give you the option to switch it off in a later update :-).

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