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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Vertical and horizontal orientation supported
Lightweight and comfortable to hold
Adjustable front-light color
Shadows from the front light
The Kobo Forma combines a class-leading screen size with desirable integrations, file support flexibility, and multiple reading options for the shopper who’s ready to make a digital reading investment.
If you’re after a thoughtfully designed e-reader with a large screen that puts the reading experience in your hands, both literally and figuratively, the Kobo Forma could be the best e-reader for you. Its generous 8-inch touchscreen is one of the hallmarks that separate this e-reader from Amazon Kindle competitors, and the e-reading experience with design touches that distinguish it from the crowd I spent some quality time with the Kobo Forma to test other highlights including waterproofness, front-lighting, and the abundance of reading options that are trademarks of Kobo e-readers.
While the Kobo Forma is wider than most e-readers at nearly 7 inches wide, it’s also quite slim. The bezel is extremely thin at just 0.16 inches and rests flat on all edges except the thicker left edge. This gripping edge is a bit thicker at 0.33 inches but this makes holding the Kobo Forma in one hand easy and secure-feeling. Its thin build and light weight (less than half a pound) felt evenly distributed and created no arm or hand strain despite my small hands. And the rubberized texture on the back of the e-reader adds a bit of grip assurance.
The horizontal orientation flexibility and physical page-turn buttons located on the thicker edge of the e-reader add more comfort options. The buttons are well-placed, easy to reach, and responsive for easy advancing or revisiting older pages. I can’t say the same for the placement of the power button, which lives along the thicker edge of the Kobo Forma. For me, the placement was slightly awkward and the lack of give on the button required a hefty push.
Its thin build and light weight felt very evenly distributed and created no arm or hand strain.
The touchscreen page-turn prompts are also very responsive. I chose to turn off touch prompts and stick with swiping motions only. This helped prevent any inadvertent page-turning if my fingers touched the screen while reading.
The Kobo Forma is also ready to head with you to the beach or even for a soak in the bath. It has an IPX8 waterproof rating and Kobo says it’s good for up to an hour in 6.5 feet of water. I took a spray bottle to the screen and noticed that the water pooled immediately. But drying the screen was a bit of an annoyance since there’s no water-lock function and any swipe of the cloth registered as a touchscreen prompt. Still, the device dried very quickly which signals to me that it would be a fine addition to your beach bag. But it’s not dust- or sand-proof, so you’ll need to be cautious of debris.
The Kobo Forma was extremely speedy to set up. There’s minimal equipment, just a micro USB cord for charging the device and transferring files to the e-reader. The charging cable has a protective covering similar to bungee cord material, which lends a heavier-duty and upscale feel to this small accessory. I didn’t need to fuss with charging out of the box since it was nearly 100 percent full. All I had to do was follow the prompts to log in with my Kobo account, set up Wi-Fi, and start browsing for titles.
This e-reader stands out for its large 1920x1440, 8-inch display. Most competitors come in at 6 or 7 inches tops. It also has a pixel density of 300ppi, or pixels per inch, and that falls in line with other models as the general standard for e-readers these days. Like other e-ink readers, the Forma isn’t backlit, which means there’s no glare to deal with. Even in the brightest light visibility was great from every angle.
The only hiccup I experienced with the display was with the front-light feature known as ComfortLight PRO. In daylight, there’s no need to use it, but when I used it around dusk and later in the evening, I noticed a distinct shadow on the left edge of the display. This was distracting, especially because I used the gesture control to swipe the left side of the screen to control the brightness. Every time I would raise and lower the light, I noticed it. This was a bit of a letdown, especially for nighttime reading. But the other benefit of the front-light feature is the built-in blue light reduction throughout the day. If I set the Natural Light setting to automatic, this was adjusted automatically for me, which I appreciated. You can also control this feature manually to create a warm orange hue, similar to candlelight, if you want to eliminate blue light altogether.
Despite the larger screen, the Kobo Forma is still an e-ink product that renders all content in grayscale. If you’re a bookworm that wants an experience that mimics the act of reading a print book you’ll find that here. If you’re a fan of graphic novels and black-and-white comics, though, the Kobo Forma could still be up your alley. I downloaded a couple of graphic novels, and while I wasn’t that impressed with the contrast and quality (both were converted to grayscale from color), the large screen did make it very easy to view and read each panel—especially when I enabled large print mode, which is just a beta feature for now.
If you’re a bookworm that wants an experience that mimics the act of reading a print book you’ll find that here.
The multitude of reading options help you cater the reading experience based on your preferences. The automatic orientation shift is on by default, but you can also opt to lock the screen in vertical or horizontal reading mode. Because of the generous display, I didn’t have an issue with font size, but accessing font style, size, and margin and spacing preferences is easy from the reading menu—which you can also control the placement of. Kobo says there are 11 fonts and over 50 font styles loaded onto the device for more reading customization.
The Kobo Forma offers a solid 8GB of device storage, which is good enough for 6,000 e-books, according to Kobo. The standard e-book files are supported: EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, and MOBI. Ten other file types are supported for images as well as file reading. Plus, you can purchase e-books from other stores for use with your Kobo Forma. If they’re protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM), you’ll need to register for Adobe Digital Editions software, which is free, and set it up on your device. Transferring content from your computer to the device is also quite simple. Just plug in the e-reader to your computer and drag and drop content. The Dropbox integration is another handy way to add content directly to the Koba Forms. It’s as simple as signing in on the Forma, linking the two accounts, and adding files from your Dropbox account either through the desktop or web apps.
If you stick with the Kobo e-book library, you’ll have access to over 6 million pieces of content, according to Kobo. In addition to the Kobo e-book selection, the brand has partnered with Walmart to bring more content to customers from the retailer’s e-book inventory. The Kobo app is another compliment to the reading experience since it automatically syncs your progress and allows you to keep up with whatever you’re reading on your Kobo Forma. If you’d like to purchase e- and audiobooks for your phone, you can do that through the Kobo site, which I think is the better way to do it because browsing the Kobo e-book library on the device isn’t the fastest experience.
The multitude of reading options helps you cater the reading experience based on your preferences.
Other highlights include the OverDrive and Pocket integrations. With a Pocket account, you can save articles from the web for reading on the Forma, which could be convenient for a plane ride or daily commute. I found the OverDrive support the best aspect of the Kobo Forma experience. All I had to do was locate my public library branch, input my card number, and within seconds I could download titles to the device.
The Kobo Forma costs about $270, which is quite a bit of money to put down if you’re not a regular or devoted reader. Since there are no other bells and whistles like Bluetooth and audiobook support, the customer who would find this investment worth it is a person who exclusively consumes e-books and doesn’t require a lot of extras to take the plunge.
The Kindle Oasis is a close match to the Kobo Forma. It costs about the same and also comes with a 300ppi screen resolution, IPX8 waterproof rating, adaptive front lighting, and 8GB of storage (though both e-readers can be upgraded to 32GB), which Amazon says is good enough for thousands of books or over 35 audiobooks—which the Forma doesn’t support. The Oasis is only slightly lighter, even though it’s noticeably smaller, with a 7-inch screen and measuring 5.6 inches wide and 6.3-inches tall. But the width variation matches the Forma, which could offer a similar ergonomic reading experience. There are also similarly placed reading buttons.
If you want a more upscale feel, you might prefer the aluminum body of the Kindle Oasis. But if audiobooks, Bluetooth connectivity, and access to Kindle content aren’t really your priorities, the Forma could be the better choice. With respect to battery charging and library book borrowing, the Kobo Forma take the edge at only 2 hours with the provided charger (the Oasis can charge faster than 2 hours if you purchase a separate charge from Amazon) and built-in OverDrive borrowing is more convenient than the Amazon integration that requires you to visit your library website to initiate the lending/downloading process. But if you want an opportunity to upgrade to an Audible subscription and 4G LTE support, and you’re willing to pay for it, the Kindle Oasis is your better bet.
If you want to take e-reading up a notch, the Kobo Forma is worth considering.
The Kobo Forma is a solid e-reader with an upscale sensibility. It’s not packed with the many extras that Amazon Kindle e-readers throw into the mix, but the features it offers are focused squarely on enhancing your digital reading experience. If you’re most concerned about enjoying print-like reading in a portable device and you like borrowing content from your local library, this Kobo e-reader could more than fit the bill.