Meet the Kobo Forma, one of the largest and most expensive e-readers in the mainstream market.
Rakuten Kobo is perhaps the only e-reader company still able to challenge Amazon’s dominance in the market. They were the first to introduce waterproof e-readers, and first to incorporate warm lighting for a comfortable night reading experience. The two features Amazon later adopted in their Kindles as well.
In their line-up of budget to high-end eBook readers, we take a look at the best they have to offer.
Appearance and body:
At a glance, the Forma feels a lot like its younger brother, the Libra H2O. With the enlarged left bezel – thickened and bent upwards to resemble a book’s spine – and physical page-turn buttons for single-handed reading.
Unlike the Libra, the Forma doesn’t have a recessed screen, and the whole device is flat and flush. The flat screen helps prevent dirt or sand ingress at the screen corners.
The body is black, and the back has a rubbery texture which provides additional grip. Like most modern e-readers, the Forma is waterproof at up to two meters for an hour. You can take it to the bath or the pool without worries.
The power key and charging port are located on the side of the spine. The power key is quite hard, likely to prevent accidental operation.
The large size means it isn’t pocketable; however, it is still quite light for its size. While the plastic build keeps the weight down, it also gives the Forma a less-than-premium feel. A downer for a premium device.
The whole reason to shell out extra money on the Forma is its large screen. Casual book readers should get their money’s worth with a Kobo Aura or Clara. But the huge, 8-inch screen on the Forma should appease those who like reading larger typefaces, or hardcore manga fans.
The monochrome e-ink display has a resolution of 1440×1920 to provide a 300PPI, crystal-clear viewing experience. A whopping 17 LEDs (7 red, 10 white) illuminate the display evenly for reading in any condition.
The screen lighting is manually adjustable and can be set to appear between bluish-white, white, and amber. You can also set the amber lighting to automatically follow local sunrise/sunset timings. Unlike the Kindle Oasis, there is no ambient light sensor.
The screen uses Mobius tech. Meaning they substituted the glass back panel of the e-ink display for plastic – giving it flexibility, durability, and low weight.
The screen rotates automatically in all four directions, but you also have the option to lock it in one orientation. It is also the first Kobo to have a landscape orientation. However, it is only available in reading mode; not all across the UI.
Software and UI:
The Forma supports 14 file formats. The list includes most of the popular eBook formats, plus EPUB and EPUB3 which the Kindles don’t support. This gives you the option of buying eBooks from different stores, as well as side-loading them from your computer.
Forma also supports many image and text formats, as well as HTML for reading web articles. Kobo’s Pocket integration allows you to read articles saved elsewhere on the Forma, with ads filtered out.
The Kobo’s eBook store is ever-increasing with over 5 million titles currently available. You also have the option to borrow eBooks from local libraries using an Overdrive account. All you need is your library code and Overdrive credentials. Borrowed books stay in your device for a week before they disappear.
Kobo e-readers lack support for audiobooks and Amazon’s propriety ebook formats. Plus, their eBook repository isn’t as big as Amazon’s. However, you can buy and sideload books from other sources. And the convenience of borrowing from local libraries makes up for the shortcomings.
While reading eBooks on the Forma, you can pick from 11 pre-loaded and customizable fonts. In addition, Kobo e-readers also support side-loading fonts. There are dictionaries pre-installed in the device and you have the side-loading option here as well.
Unlike Kindles, Kobo e-readers don’t have lock-screen ads. The overall experience of the Forma is very freeing compared to the tight and restrictive Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem.
The Forma is armed with a 1GHz processor with half a gigabyte of RAM. While the non-expandable 8GB storage should be plenty, there is also a 32GB version available in select markets.
Linux is the operating system of choice here. It’s light on the processer and allows a fluid user-experience. The Forma is equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, while data transfer can be done via a Micro-USB cable.
The Forma has a 1200mAh battery, which is bigger than the Oasis. This allows weeks and weeks between charges. Turn down the screen brightness and turn the Wi-Fi off occasionally, and the Forma will last even longer.
A full charge takes 2 hours, which is a bit long considering the size of the battery. But the six weeks of the company-claimed running time is commendable.
Price and conclusion:
While Kobo Forma shows promise as a must-have e-reader, the $250 price tag might be a deal-breaker for many. The more premium-looking Kindle Oasis costs a tad higher. And if you shell out a bit more, you can even get a brand new Apple iPad.
In conclusion, unless you are a manga fan, or you have visual impairments requiring large fonts, you are better off opting for more sensible options than the Kobo Forma.