Kobo Arc - The "Ultimate 7in Android Tablet" (Part 1)

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Another book company attempting to crack the 7-inch tablet market - this time surprisingly well.

It’s tough to compete though: Kobo’s decent low price black and white e-reader was made almost obsolete by Amazon‘s recent Kindle price cut, so the company is having a crack at the Android tablet space to keep up. Like the Kindle Fire HD and Nook I-ID before it, the Kobo Arc is a low price seven-inch slate running Android, with a big emphasis on ebooks, magazines and comics.

Kobo Arc tablet

Kobo Arc tablet

But it’s not the other bookworm-based tablets the Kobo Arc needs to compete with though. It’s Asus and its Google Nexus 7 slate, with its super-fast software and updates so punctual you could set your watch by them.

Where there’s space for two, there’s space for three. If Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the dueling giants of e-readers and digital book downloads, Kobo is the scrappy upstart looking to carve out a place for itself and end the duopoly.

Android App Store Confusion

Though there are now four seven-inch big name Android tablets priced at $23.5-240, do be aware that not all Android tablets are born equal. Android is open source, you see, and for a couple of rivals - Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble’s Nook I-ID that’s both a blessing and a curse.

Both have stripped out the core Google services from the code including the Google Play app store, home to some 700,000 apps and replaced them with their own. The idea is to own the experience, provide a better one than Google and take all the money from flogging you eBooks, digital magazines, games and movies.

The idea is to own the experience, provide a better one than Google and take all the money from flogging you eBooks, digital magazines, games and movies.

The idea is to own the experience, provide a better one than Google and take all the money from flogging you eBooks, digital magazines, games and movies.

In practice, it’s just petty and spiteful, ruining the experience for the customer just to get one over on Google. Both Amazon and B&N’s app stores lack the vast variety of Google Play, and their mutant operating systems are laggy, and often more confusing than Android was to begin with.

Kobo’s approach is much more mature: you get all Android’s core services, including the Play store, and the Kobo store is simply placed front and center on the home screen. Yes, you could just install the Kindle or Nook Android apps on the Arc instead. Kobo simply trusts that its service is good enough that you won’t bother. A much healthier strategy, we think you’ll agree.

An eBook’s Body

It’s tough to make a tablet that doesn’t just look like a black frame with rounded edges. Supermarket shelves are awash with them: it’s near impossible to tell them apart; even the Kindle Fire HI) is as nondescript as they come.

Yet Kobo’s pulled it off by simply designing an e-reader instead of a tablet. This doesn’t feel like a Samsung Galaxy Tab Seven-Point- Something, it just feels like a Kindlle. People won’t notice you using this on the train, at least until they hear the screech of an angry bird plummeting to earth anyway.

Access to the Google Play App store automatically give Kobo Arc readers access to a hell of a lot more books, apps and games than its Nook and Amazon Kindle rivals...

At just 11.5mm, and with straight corners, it’s comfortable to hold and use. Its substantially larger bezel at the bottom practically orders you to use it in portrait mode, though the seven inch display is well designed for this: the aspect ratio is much like an Wad mini’s, and not too narrow to type on or view web pages as is the case with some Android tablets.

“The screen is weaker than the Google Nexus 7, and can’t be connected to a TV.”

The screen is sadly its most visible flaw as well, however. While the 1280 x 800 display is perfectly crisp (if not as utterly dazzling as that of the Nook HD), the viewing angles are rather poor, and colors slightly overblown. You’d do well to check this out with your own eyes in a store, as it’s ultimately personal preference: an e-reader like design versus the superior display (and software) of Asus’ Nexus 7 slate. Unlike the Amazon Kindle Fire RD and Nook HD, the Arc cannot also output video to a TV via an HDMI connection.

The frame meanwhile does hold one extra, and one the Nook MD lacks: a front facing camera. We can’t say a rear facing sensor is missed, but this does mean you can carry out video chats over Skype, or Google Talk, and tablets are great for these sorts of long distance calls.


§  Price: $239.99

§  Dimensions 189 X 120 X 11.5mm

§  OS Android 4.0

§  Screen 7-inch LCD

§  Resolution 1280x800

§  Processor 1.56Hz dual-core

§  RAM 1GB

§  Storage 16, 32 or 64G not expandable via Micro SD memory card

§  Cameras Front 1.3MP camera, capable of 720p HD video

§  Wireless Wi-Fi

§  Ports Micro USB, 3.5mm audio

§  Battery life 10 hours reading


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