Kobo Clara HD Review

Lightweight and easy to customize for an almost print-like reading experience

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4.1

Kobo Clara HD

Kobo Clara HD

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Long battery life

  • Suitable for reading outside in bright light

  • ComfortLight brightness feature is easy to adjust

  • Numerous account options for initial setup

  • 14 file formats supported

What We Don't Like
  • Uncomfortable to hold at times

  • Not waterproof

The Kobo Clara HD is a tiny, portable e-reader with a crisp display, ample reading options, and a solid battery life and storage capacity, but it’s not the most comfortable to handle.

4.1

Kobo Clara HD

Kobo Clara HD

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

The Kobo Clara HD is a simple solution for minimizing the bulk in your luggage or everyday bag while still preserving some of the magic that comes with reading a “real” book. This e-reader offers a healthy amount of device storage and support for multiple file types, which means you won’t have to choose which book or books you’ll take with you. And if you prefer a device that doesn’t serve up ads like you’ll find on many Amazon Kindle readers like the Kindle Paperwhite, you can focus on just the content you want with this Kobo reader. 

Kobo Clara HD
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Design: Almost pocket-sized, which is both good and bad

The Kobo Clara HD is tiny. It resembles a small 4 x 6-inch notepad you might use at your desk and weighs just a little under 6 ounces, which is light and small enough to fit in a large jacket pocket and stow comfortably in even small bags without really noticing it’s there. 

Oddly enough, despite the featherweight design, I found this e-reader uncomfortable to hold for extended lengths of time. The black bezel is widest at the bottom at about 1 inch, which is a decent amount of room, but holding the reader at the bottom was very unnatural. The sides of the bezel, however, present only about .5 inches to work with, which wasn’t enough room even though I have small hands. I found the minimal amount of bezel space on the left and right sides of the reader to be restrictive and experienced hand cramping especially when trying to hold the Clara HD with just one hand. The better solution was to hold the device in the palm of one hand or with both hands and completely avoid contact with the bezel. Another design miss is the material on the back of the device. It’s a smooth plastic that offers no grip control. And while there’s a texturized design, it didn’t do much beyond collecting lint.

Despite the featherweight design, I found this e-reader uncomfortable to hold.

But the touchscreen is responsive, which makes turning pages a cinch, as well as making other small adjustments to brightness and text size or navigating to other menu options. Sadly, the Kobo Clara HD is not waterproof, and I would caution anyone from being tempted to take it poolside and inadvertently lose it to the water since it’s quite slippery and lightweight. The sole button on the device, the power button, is located at the bottom of the e-reader. It’s very slim and rests flush against the plastic, but it doesn’t require much effort to engage. 

Kobo Clara HD
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Setup Process: Easy and mostly speedy

The Kobo Clara HD required minimal fuss to set up. Out of the box it was 30% charged and took about 2 hours to charge in full. Once powered on, I had to choose the method for setup. While logging in to a Kobo account is an option, you can also choose to sign in and set up your device via other platforms like Google and Facebook. Once I logged in with credentials, connected to Wi-Fi, and set the time zone, an update was applied and the device restarted. This is where I noticed a slight hiccup. Though I thought the update and system restart implied that the device was up and running, the system prompted me to log in again and indicated the system would be updating a second time. This did the trick, but it was a little annoying to have to repeat the steps. 

Kobo Clara HD
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener 

Display: Crisp and easy to adjust

The Kobo Clara HD’s 6-inch, high-definition touchscreen is one of the highlights of this device. The screen resolution comes in at 1072 x 1448 and 300ppi, which is the pixel-per-inch quality you want in an e-reader. The Clara HD uses E-ink technology, which means it doesn’t have a backlit display and everything is shown in black and white. The upside is that it’s easier on the eyes. I could read clearly whatever was on the screen with zero distortion from any angle, and adjust the light when I wanted to. 

The Kobo Clara HD offers an experience that is very close to perusing print books.

The ComfortLight PRO front lighting built into the reader offers two different ways for adjusting lighting. I found the most convenient option was simply touching the screen on the left side and moving up or down to brighten or darken the screen. There’s also a brightness icon in the top menu where you can increase or decrease light intensity. This takes longer and the screen flashes in a way that’s not very pleasant. I also appreciated the Natural Light feature. It introduces blue light throughout the day when you need it and then gradually decreases the amount to help you unwind. Over the week I used it I’m not sure how much I noticed the transition, but I appreciated the lack of thought I had to put into benefiting from this feature.  

Just like there are options for lighting, there are options for text size, font choice, line spacing, and margins. You also have the power to decide where on the screen you want to access these settings when you read. I fiddled with the font size quite a bit. Since the Kobo Clara HD has a small 6-inch screen, I struggled to find the right balance of text size that didn’t feel like I was blowing everything up and continuously turning the page or straining my eyes to read what was on the screen. 

Reading: Best for basic text

While the Kobo Clara HD does support comic books and other content originally published in full color, you will lose out on the full effect of the reading experience. I read a couple of comic books and noticed more of a flashing pattern on the screen when turning pages and waiting for pictures to load. This isn’t as severe when loading/reading text only.

While the Kobo Clara HD does support comic books and other content originally published in full color, you will lose out on the full effect of the reading experience.

Turning pages is easy, and the intuitive gestures for annotating and highlighting text do mimic the experience of reading in print. Swiping gestures work best on this e-reader. Tapping motions I found to be much less responsive and would cause the screen to flash with each tap.

Kobo Clara HD
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Store and Software: Good variety and multi-format support

The Kobo Clara HD comes with 8GB of storage, which Kobo says makes the device capable of holding up to 6,000 e-books. Even better, this e-reader supports 14 different file formats including e-books in EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, and MOBI form along with images, comic books, and documents. I didn’t purchase any e-books from the Kobo store, but the brand claims there are more than 6 million titles in the store. 

This e-reader supports 14 different file formats including e-books, images, comics, and documents.

The Kobo store browsing experience on the Clara HD is clunky. The interface is not that smooth or fast, and I found it better in a browser. In addition to the e-books store, Kobo Clara HD supports e-books from other sources than those in the Kobo store that are protected by Digital Rights Management. You just have to install Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) to access them on the Kobo. ADE isn’t necessary for borrowing books from the public library. Thanks to the OverDrive integration, I was able to seamlessly borrow books, which always downloaded almost instantly. You can also save and read articles by logging in to your Pocket account if that’s something that interests you. I spent less time with this feature, but Pocket users might appreciate the integration.

Price: Fair for the quality

The Kobo Clara HD retails for about $120, which is fair given the competition and the quality of the device. It doesn’t pack a punch when it comes to bells and whistles, but what it does well it does better than other e-ink readers. And it’s not much more than competing models that don’t offer the same amount of storage and file flexibility.

Kobo Clara HD vs. Amazon Kindle 

The Amazon Kindle costs about $10-$40 less than the Kobo Clara HD. For that extra bit of money in your pocket, you get a few extras the Kobo Clara HD doesn’t offer—like Bluetooth connectivity for access to audiobooks. At just a hair heavier, it’s virtually the exact same size as the Kobo Clara HD. What it lacks, however, is the same resolution and storage. The Kindle’s screen resolution is only 167ppi, which won’t deliver the same crisp quality of the Clara HD’s 300ppi, and there’s only 4GB of memory, which is half the capacity of the Kobo reader. 

Of course, the edge that the Amazon Kindle has is that it supports Kindle files and benefits from access to the Kindle library of e-books and magazines. Battery life is supposed to be 4 weeks, but that’s with the caveat that you can read only 30 minutes each day with Wi-Fi off. Bluetooth connectivity will also reduce battery life. I charged the Clara HD only once and was still using it for a week with Wi-Fi on and longer than 30-minute stints of reading. Even so, the battery was over 50%, which convinces me that the Clara HD stands toe to toe with the Kindle. Another win is the blue light reduction. The Amazon Kindle comes with four LED front lights but there’s no built-in feature to reduce blue light throughout the day and at bedtime. If you’re interested in reading in bed without this extra stimulation, the Clara HD could be the better bedside reading companion. 

Final Verdict

A basic e-ink e-reader that does the job well.

The Kobo Clara HD offers an experience that is very close to perusing print books. If you’re looking for a device that puts the focus on reading content, especially online articles and books from the library, this top e-reader should be on your list. While it’s not the most ergonomically designed, it’s relatively gentle on the eyes and puts the power in your hands with thoughtful light settings and reading customization options.

Specs

  • Product Name Kobo Clara HD Review
  • Product Brand Rakuten Kobo
  • MPN N249
  • Price $120.00
  • Product Dimensions 6.28 x 4.33 x 0.33 in.
  • Release Date June 2018
  • Warranty 1 year
  • Compatibility OverDrive, Pocket
  • Platform Kobo OS
  • Storage 8GB
  • Battery Capacity Weeks
  • Ports Micro USB
  • Waterproof No
  • Connectivity Wi-Fi, Micro USB