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Old 10-14-2012, 04:43 PM   #1
9littlebees
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Kobo Glo Review - from an eReader Newb

***17-DEC-12: PLEASE READ BELOW FOR AN EXPLANATION OF DELAYS***

I feel quite bad about not being more active on this forum and for finishing this review, but there's a reason...

I started a C Programming evening course at a local college in September and my final assignment is due tomorrow night! It started off slowly enough, but soon ramped up into overdrive, eating majorly into my free time. On top of that, I have other things that eat into my time in the evenings and weekends, so the time required to finish my in-depth review has had to be delayed.

I apologise to those who were hoping this review would provide some perspective on the Glo in the run-up to Christmas. Unfortunately, I will be travelling to rural Germany on Friday for the holidays, and so this review will have to wait until the new year to get picked up again. I will take my Glo and my list of topics with me, so that I can try to get some research in during the quiet moments.

Cheers,
Matt (9littlebees)



INTRODUCTION
Hi everyone, I'm relatively new to this forum, due to the fact that I have only just received my first ever eReader, the Kobo Glo. Being a bit of a tech-head and review junkie, I've decided to post a review of the Glo, based on my own fresh-to-eBook views and in response to many questions asked by the community on a previous thread (you can find the thread here).

As such, the things I will be looking at are things that you wouldn't necessarily get from your standard review sites, though I won't be doing anything that will void the warranty.

REVIEW TOPICS (each on a seperate post):
  • Introduction (this post!)
  • Unboxing & First Impressions
  • First Steps & Loading Content
  • User Interface & Readability
  • Functionality
  • Kobo Customer Service
  • Bug List, Conclusion & Rating

ABOUT ME
I work as a Project Planner for a large Engineering company and hold a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics, which I suppose makes me a bit of a geek.

In terms of books, I read voraciously growing up and one of my first real jobs at the age of 21 was the branch manager of a bargain bookshop here in the UK, where I stayed for 3 years. Because of this job, I have a love for books as physical objects, and love reading a good paperback. This is one of the reasons I've held off getting an eReader for so long.

In terms of reading electronically, I have an Android smartphone and a Win7/Linux PC. I will sometimes read PDF's on my desktop at fairly large size, but my attempts at reading eBooks (MOBI & EPUBS) on my devices have never lasted more than a few minutes, as I hate reading off LCD screens!

Finally, I'm a big fan of open-source, which is the main reason I have not bought a Kindle. Pair that with the fact that you can side-load Kindle books with very little effort onto a Kobo device, and you're left with quite a great, open-source platform. On paper, at least.

So let's get on with the review!

Last edited by 9littlebees; 12-18-2012 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:44 PM   #2
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Unboxing & First Impressions

UNBOXING & FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The Kobo Glo comes packaged in a cardboard box which utilises cutouts in such a way that the Glo should be at fairly low risk of getting damaged during transport (for those of you who order by post).

Upon opening the packaging, you are presented with:
  • the Glo itself,
  • a 1m micro-USB to USB cable,
  • a short quick-start quide,
  • a marketing leaflet offering "up to 90% off your first eBook",
  • a safety and EU declaration of conformity slip.
[holding place for image of contents]

I'm a bit disappointed that there isn't a user manual included in the box, or even a mini-CD with the PDF included. At least it is relatively easy to find online (link). I guess it helps keep the price of the unit down.

I'm happy with the choice of micro-USB, as this is now the prefered electronic standard for devices in Europe, and I already have both an Android phone and a digital camera that use this standard, so I now have no shortage of cables in case the one with the Glo goes missing.

In terms of build quality, the unit feels amazing, considering it is mainly plastic. The quilted back feels lovely in the hand and does not protrude as much as the Touch (which I had a quick look at recently). It also feels quite robust, though I will not be dropping it from a range of heights to test its durability! My Android phone (a Sony Ericcson Xperia Arc) is also plastic, but has a glass screen, and I would say that the Glo feels both more robust and of higher quality.

The screen has a plastic surface, but is still made of a glass-substrate, which has been discussed in some detail on another thread. To my untrained eye, the screen is matte and looks fantastic. I'm not too worried about cracks or bending (as the unit itself is very rigid).

In terms of buttons, there are two, and both on top on the right-hand side. The one closer to the edge of the unit is the power switch, and the other is the light switch.

I'll discuss the lighting feature in the Readability section, but for reading in darkness, the unit is lit by four small LED lights housed at the bottom of the screen, and shine through the screen, causing even illumination across the whole screen. Again, I'll save my thoughts for the relevant section. Apparently, having these lights turned on will not significantly (whatever that means) diminish battery life. This is something I will be testing later and will confirm in a future update.

One small cause for concern is the ports. The micro-SD and micro-USB ports do not have any kind of cover over them. This means that dust and dirt can get inside if you are not careful, or you store the Glo without a case when not in use. If taking it on a beach holiday, I'd strongly recommend covering said ports with some tape (electrical, maybe?).

Another minor issue is with fingerprints and marks. The surface of the unit is covered in a soft-feeling plastic, of the same material as the quilted back. While this makes the feel of the unit very nice, it does act as a bit of a magnet for fingerprints.

PHYSICAL UNIT RATING - 9/10 stars
Overall, I'm very pleased with the unit as a physical device. It feels solid and weighty enough to assure quality, yet still light enough to comfortably hold in the hand for long periods of time. However, the lack of simple covers for the ports and the fingerprint-attracting finish are minor enough points that only warrant one star being knocked off my rating.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:46 PM   #3
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First Steps & Loading Content

PREPARING FOR FIRST USE
The first thing to note when turning on the unit is that it turns on without needing to be charged. Some have said it comes with a 75% initial charge. All I can confirm is that after messing around with the first switch-on and testing all the various install options, it showed a 46% battery charge when I eventually got to the home screen.

Despite the unit's quick-start manual telling you to tether to a PC for first use, the unit doesn't actually need this to activate and get to work. However, you absolutely MUST be prepared to register for / sign-in to a Kobo account (via WiFi) before you can even get to the home screen if you choose not to tether. You do have the option to log-on via Facebook, which I dutifully attempted, but after providing my Facebook credentials, all I got was an error screen, which then happened every time I restarted and attempted to sign-in this way again.

I should also point out that initially, as I rechoose an option to sign-in to the device, the Glo kept rescanning for my WiFi and asking for my password. I guess your WiFi data only gets stored after successfully completing the initial startup steps. This was annoying for me, but only because I was testing everything out. I would recommend logging on with a Kobo account straight away to avoid this hassle, since there also doesn't appear to be a viable, alternative method of getting to the home screen.

It should be noted that I have been able to sideload all my non-Kobo ebooks via Windows Explorer and all these books work without issue, so although you need to sign-in to a Kobo account, there is no need to ever use the Kobo Desktop account or even Adobe Digital Editions if you prefer to stay free of extraneous software and DRM limitations.

LOADING CONTENT
There were only a handful of free ebooks which appeared in my library after successfully syncing, but I think these were downloaded from my Kobo account (probably linked from a play with the Kobo Android app a couple of months ago) and were not pre-loaded on the device. Not 100% sure, though.

Official "kePUB"s are plentiful and similar in price to competitors, though there are a number of titles that you cannot find in the Kobo store. Also, Amazon has regular sales which sometimes make for cheaper titles. With a small amount of tweaking in Calibre, Kindle titles can be played on the Glo, as can epubs from any other retailer. Not sure how easy it is to side-load unsupported books onto a Kindle, but I'm pretty happy with how easy it has been on the Glo. In Windows Explorer, I simply created a "Calibre" folder on the Glo's hard drive and then just dragged and dropped the epubs into that folder. They were all instantly recognised by the device.

I was asked to compare an Adobe DRM epub with a kepub, when both were purchased from the Kobo store. I don't fully understand how this would actually work, though. When I look in the Kobo store, there is only ever one option for a book, and they are all in "Adobe DRM epub" format. So I decided I would get one book from the Kobo store, and another from the Google Play store. I purchased a Steven King novella, "In the Tall Grass", from the two stores. The Google version (refered to here on out as a "gepub") arrived as an ACSM file - basically a file which open Adobe Digital Editions and adds the book to your library in that program.

The Kobo version worked perfectly: The cover showed up nicely, the page numbers counted for each section of the book (a feature I really like) and when clicked on from the Contents page, the extra "sneak peek" sections brought up first a pop-up footnote window with info about the excerpt, and then an option to "see more" which jumped me to the excerpt pages for these books, at the end of the book.

In contrast to the excellent kepub, the gepub was much more problematic. First issue was that the front page didn't display - for some reason a blank page was inserted in front of the cover, so although the cover is there, it is on page 2 (note this is easy to fix in Calibre). Second, the additional sections were not selectable as links from the Contents page on page 3 (as they were on the kepub), but they were available on the Table of Contents menu option. Finally, the page numbers only counted the entire contents of the book, and didn't seperate the main story from the excerpts at the end. At first I thought this could be an issue with Google Play epubs, as another gepub I picked up, "An Idiot Abroad", also has the strange missing front cover issue. However, James Herbert's "The Rats" trilogy all display correctly as gepubs, so I really have no idea.

Another item I was asked to look at was how easy it is to get back to where you were reading after loading new books onto the device. Suffice it to say that when new books are loaded onto the device, they push the latest read books towards the back of (and off) the list. I tried this with books loaded with Kobo Desktop, Adobe Digital Editions and also sideloading books via Windows Explorer (drag and drop). It would be great if a future firmware added an option to the Settings menu to disable displaying new books on the home screen by default. One way of getting round this is by creating a shelf called something like "!Favourites" and putting all your priority titles in this shelf, so that they are relatively easy to get back to (3 screen touches to get into a shelf). I'll cover the Shelves feature in the "Functionality" section of the review.

The final element I wanted to look at for loading content was looking at enabling dictionaries. This is remarkably easy, as all available dictionaries came pre-installed on my Glo, with the exception of Italian and Spanish (for some reason). Here is the list of all dictionaries (totalling 52.5MB of space on the Glo) available under Settings / Language:
  • Deutsch (6.5MB)
  • English (6.7MB)
  • Espanol (6.2MB)
  • Francais (6.0MB)
  • Italiano (10.6MB)
  • Japanese (maybe Chinese? I don't know the script) (5.5MB)
  • Nederlands (2.3MB)
  • Deutsch-English (0.9MB)
  • English-Deutsch (0.7MB)
  • English-Espanol (1.2MB)
  • English-Francais (1.1MB)
  • English-Italiano (0.7MB)
  • Espanol-English (1.6MB)
  • Francais-English (1.5MB)
  • Italiano-English (1.0MB)

PREP & FIRST USE RATING - 7/10 stars
  • The first thing to note is that the initial sign-in process was a bit clunky and the fact that not all options worked is enough to warrant one star to be removed.
  • Loading content to the Glo really is easy, although the issue of newly loaded titles pushing your current reading list off the home screen is serious and annoying enough to warrant the docking of two stars.

Last edited by 9littlebees; 01-03-2013 at 05:20 AM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:47 PM   #4
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User Interface

USER INTERFACE

NB: I am aware that there is a new firmware available (2.1.5), which mainly contains some emergency bug-fixes, and I will update to it and cover it once I finish this base review.

The Kobo Glo that I purchased from new in the first week of it going on sale had Software Version 2.1.4 (r43703, 10/1/12) after running an update. It is possible to downgrade the firmware version from 2.1.4 to an earlier, pre-release version, but as the Glo had version 2.1.4 from day one, this is the version I will be looking at. To check your firmware version, go to Settings >> Device Information. Future updates to the firmware (software version) could change many aspects of the user interface, readability and functionality, so I will update these sections in future when new firmware versions are released.

For those interested, update 2.1.4 includes the following changes (quoted directly from v2.1.4's Release Notes on the device itself):
  1. Install dictionaries in your preferred languages
  2. Enjoy faster page turning and book loading
  3. Benefit from better text selection, highlighting and Wi-Fi performance
  4. Watch a new Quick Tour (available in Help)
This list all sounds like good stuff which I want (other than #4)!

So moving away from firmware and back to User Interface, the Home screen is the main thing you will be looking at when you are not reading an ebook.

NB: These are very long sections, which will be boring to anyone who is familiar with the Kobo Home screen layouts, hence the Spoiler tags.

MAIN HOME SCREEN VIEWS
Spoiler:
Let's start with a view of the Home screen itself:


From the photo above, you can see all the main elements of the Home screen. Besides the five books in the middle, I have pointed out in red the sections that can be selected.

The home icon in the top left, unsurprisingly will take you to this screen and is generally available every time you bring up any on-screen prompts.

The three horizontal lines in the top right corner bring up an Information bar, which can be seen in the photo below:


Next down, are the Reading and Discover panes. These only change the items in the middle of the screen, with the Reading view always being the default.

The Discover view shows a selection of books from the Kobo website, which appears to be a truly random selection of "top" books. The layout can be seen on the left-hand side of the image below:


Upon clicking on any of the images, it brings a window of that book up on screen (seen on the right-hand side of the image above), where you can:
  • Choose to buy it (taking you to that book's entry in the Kobo shop)
  • Add it to your Wishlist menu (by selecting the push-pin icon)
  • Read its Synopsis
  • Read a Preview of the Book (downloading the preview it to your Preview menu)
  • Rate it (if you've already read it)
  • Select "Not Interested" (this closes the window and I assume saves your preference when compiling your Recommended titles)
I was initially confused by the "Not Interested" option. After selecting it for the majority of the titles that came up, those titles didn't disappear from the list. It was only when I went back to the Home screen and then entered back into the Discover screen that the device updated the list and excluded those titles.

Moving on, and heading back to the main view, clicking on one of the three selections under the main book view brings up the following menu options:


LIBRARY SUB-MENU
Spoiler:
Library >> Books
The Library >> Books option brings up a list of all books stored on your device. This can be sorted by:
  • Title
  • Author
  • File Type (NB "epub" and "Kobo epub" are different file types here)
  • Recent Reads
My personal preference is to leave this on "Recent Reads" so I always have a quick option of getting back to my last read book should I load / buy new ones. This is the only practical workaround for the issue raised in the last section of replacing last read titles with newly purchased ones. You can see the "Books" window view in the image below:


Each book has an options menu (the three horizontal lines to the right of each title), which brings up the following options when clicking on it:
  • Read Now
  • View Details (Book details, including publisher, language, file size, file format, how much you've read in % and a 5-star rating toggle)
  • Add to Shelf (discussed a bit lower down)
  • Mark as Finished
  • Delete
The arrows at the bottom of the screen progress you forward or backward one page, and the circle in the middle can jump you to a desired location by holding on it and dragging. The square at the bottom right lets you change view from the detailed view (shown in the image above) to a grid view (which only shows book covers).

Library >> News & Magazines
Unfortunately, the Library >> News & Magazines section is useless to me, as the relevant Kobo internet page (www.kobobooks.com/newsstand) informs me that "We currently do not offer newspapers and magazines in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man." The website does hint at potential future availability in my area, though, so I may use this in future.


Library >> Previews
The Library >> Previews option takes you to a list of any book previews you may have downloaded. It looks and behaves exactly like the Books window as seen above, including a Sort List that has "Title", "Author" and "Recent Reads".

Library >> Shelves
The Library >> Shelves option takes you to a great feature of this device. Shelves allow you to categorise your library. You can create a shelf and call it anything you like, and can add any of your ebooks (of any file type) to that shelf. There are no limits to how many shelves you can create or how many books you can add to a shelf. You can also save the same title to multiple shelves. The image below shows the Shelves window.


My personal preference is to only use 7 shelves, as this is the maximum number of shelves visible on screen, and that way I don't need to scroll through multiple pages of shelves to find the one I'm looking for.

Selecting the three horizontal bars to the right of a shelf brings up three options:
  • Edit
  • Rename
  • Delete
Rename and Delete are obvious, but Edit is where you need to go to Add new books to that shelf. Adding a book brings you to your full library (sorted by Title, which you cannot change) and you can add or remove a book from the shelf by clicking on a plus icon to the right of a book. You can also add a book to a shelf by selecting the relevant book's menu option from the Library >> Books view, as mentioned above.

Library Conclusion
Of the Library options, I have only really used Books (to return to my last read book) and Shelves (to quickly browse my books by Genre to find a new read), though I could use Previews more often as I download more book previews in future. I strongly doubt I will ever use my Glo for viewing newspapers or magazines, though.

FIND BOOKS SUB-MENU
Spoiler:
Find Books >> Similar Books
The Find Books >> Similar Books window shows you what you would expect. The biggest feature here is that you can manually select which books from your library you would like to be included in this selection by clicking where it says "See All" in the image below.


Touching a similar book at the bottom of the screen brings up the synopsis view of the book, as we saw earlier in the main Discover window view.

Find Books >> Recommended For You
The Find Books >> Recommended For You section displays a list of books that have been determined by Kobo to be of interest to you, probably based on your Wishlist, Ratings and purchase history from Kobo. You can see this screen below.


Personally, if I will be buying a book from Kobo, it is easier to use their website, so I won't be using this feature very much.

Find Books >> Categories (aka Kobo Store)
The next section in Find Books is Categories. This is effectively a way of browsing the Kobo store on your device by looking at books in different categories. It thankfully displays prices next to each book, but you will have to have a WiFi connection to use it. The image below shows the main Categories view on the left and the book list view on the right, once you have chosen your category.


You can sort the selection of displayed books by:
  • Bestsellers
  • Price: Low to High
  • Rating
  • Title: A-Z
  • Title: Z-A
Unfortunately, there is a really cluttered hierarchy for Categories which I don't particularly like. For example, to get a list of Horror titles, I had to choose the following Categories: "Fiction & Literature" >> "Fiction" >> "Horror". Likewise, to get to a list of Science Fiction books, I would have to choose: "Page 2" >> "Page 3" >> "Sci Fi & Fantasy" >> "Science Fiction" >> "All Books in this category". This is an incredible 5 screen presses, each requiring a refresh and a WiFi connection, in order to see a list of Sci Fi books. They also did not include either a Sci Fi or Fantasy option anywhere under the Fiction & Literature heading! This area really needs some major work.

Another area for improvement can be seen in the image above for the book without a cover ("The Haunting of Harriet"). For some reason they have not fixed the height of the book selections, so if a book does not have a cover, the "Buy Now" button combines with the price of the book.

For now, I will continue using a PC browser to look for and purchase new books.

Find Books >> Free eBooks
The next Find Books section is "Free eBooks" which includes a book list of free books that you can download. There is only one category, but you can sort it in the following ways:
  • Top Matches
  • Rating
  • Title: A-Z
  • Title: Z-A
I don't know what drives "Top Matches", but there certainly weren't any books I'd be interested in from the first five options on my screen and certainly did not reflect the sorts of titles showing up in my Recommendations view (Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror titles, mainly).

Find Books >> Reading Lists
This section brings up a list of categories as can be found on the Kobo website, and can be seen in the image below.


At the time of writing this review, the lists span four pages and (other than page 1, which can be seen in the image above) includes:
  • p2: Blood and Sand
  • p2: Books on Film
  • p2: Bundle Up!
  • p2: Contemporary Fiction
  • p2: Dazzling Debuts
  • p2: Fantastical Finds
  • p2: Guilty Pleasures
  • p2: Historical Fiction
  • p3: Intriguing True Crime
  • p3: Kobo Writing Life Bestsellers
  • p3: New & Hot Indie Reads
  • p3: New from Mills & Boon
  • p3: New & Hot Non-fiction
  • p3: Paranormal Fiction
  • p3: Real People, Real Stories
  • p3: Royal Reads
  • p4: Science Fiction
  • p4: Short Reads from Kobo
  • p4: Sports Stories
  • p4: Teen Reads
  • p4: Top Free eBooks
Clicking on any of these list entries takes you to a standard list of titles, exactly the same as seen in the Categories section above.

It looks as though the first 7 lists on the first page are the "featured" reading lists as found on the Kobo website's homepage, and the rest are added in Alphabetic order. There is no way to sort the reading list, either. I doubt I will use this feature on my device.

Find Books >> Search Kobo
Choosing Find Books >> Search Kobo brings up a simple search window, which allows you to either search for a title in your own library or the Kobo shop. I did a quick test of the Kobo shop using the phrase "warlord chronicles" to see if it would find any of the Warlord Chronicle books by Bernard Cornwell. The image below shows the main Search screen and the results of my search.


This works well and even has a real-time drop-down list of potential matches. There is one niggle, though, which is that despite connecting to the Kobo website to show search results, it omits the price from the results view.

Find Books Conclusion
Using the Find Books section should allow a user to fairly easily either find specific titles or browse for titles that may be of interest. Unfortunately, only the Search section is of any real use, as the others are let down largely by bad design decisions which make looking for books a lengthly chore.

As it stands, this is not an eReader that I can see many users using to browse for new books to purchase from the Kobo store. Instead, I suspect those users (myself included) will use a browser and "shop around" anytime they want a new book.

I actually find the clunkiness of this potential "sales" section strange, considering how keen Kobo are to ensure you log in to and sync your device with them. This could be quite lucrative for Kobo if they got it right.

READING LIFE SUB-MENU
Spoiler:
READING LIFE
I don't want to spend too long on this section. Essentially, the image below shows the two elements of the Reading Life interface.


"Reading Stats" on the left shows only basic reading stats for both your current book and all the books on your device.

The one on the right shows "Awards" which are essentially a list of Achievements you can unlock when using your device. To be honest, I find it gimmicky, considering I've not really read a book properly and I've already unlocked the majority of the awards.

WISHLIST SUB-MENU
Spoiler:
WISHLIST
Finally, we come to the last element of the Home screen, the Wishlist. This simply shows the books from the Kobo Store that you may have added to your Wishlist.


Unfortunately, there is a major issue with this feature, and has to do with the Kobo website (which needs a lot of work!). The issues is that adding something to your Wishlist is only possible on the device itself. Despite being logged in on the website, I am unable to add any titles to my Wishlist, or even view a Wishlist at all. I am also unable to do this on my Kobo Android app.

For a Kobo Shop Wishlist to actually be useful, Kobo really need to add it to all of their platforms and ensure it is included anytime a user syncs one of their devices.

GENERAL THOUGHTS ON THE HOME SCREEN
Something I didn't touch on in the sections above was how easy it was to navigate the menus

So looking at the Home screen and sub-menus, here are a list of my major quibbles:
  • Selecting the Discover option should default to the "Recommended for You" screen
  • Every time the "Buy Now" button is present (mainly under the "Find Books" sub-menu), the price for that book should also be present.
  • The "Find Books >> Categories" sub-menu needs a lot of work to make it useful - there are currently far too many menus to go through before you can look at a list of books.
  • I'm not sure why "Free eBooks" and the "Reading List" sub-menus are not included in the "Categories" sub-menu as options. When they are on their own, they seem a bit redundant.
  • Reading Life Awards feel gimmicky.
  • Kobo are really missing a trick with the Wishlist by not making it available on other Kobo platforms (especially their website).
SETTINGS (INC EXTRAS)
Spoiler:
I'm reluctant to spend too long on the Settings sections. Suffice it to say that the list of Settings you find can be seen in the image below:

  • The "Account" section contains your Kobo, Facebook and Adobe Authorisation account details.
  • "Light, Sleep & Power" lets you set details for (you guessed it!) light, sleep and power options.
  • "Date & Time" and "Language" are straightforward (the latter allowing you to manage your dictionaries).
  • "Reading Settings" lets you choose your page turning layout, page refresh options and setting whether page numbers appear in the margins.
  • "Reading Life" only has two settings: one to toggle it on or off and the other to toggle notifications on or off.
  • "Wi Fi Connection", "Device Information" and "About Kobo Glo" are all pretty standard settings menus.
It is under "Extras" where things become more surprising. This is where Chess, Sudoku, a Sketch Pad and the Web Browser are all found.

CHESS
This actually works fairly well, without any bugs that I could spot. I played one match against the dapper, pipe-smoking Glo AI and it seemed to respond logically to my moves. Pictures below:


SUDOKU
Sudoku didn't work as well.


I could add potential numbers to each square, but there was no way I could find to remove those small numbers off of a square. This kind of ruined the whole implementation of the game for me. I probably would have used this quite often, too, seeing how much I play sudoku on my Android phone.

SKETCH PAD
Due to the rather clumsy infrared touch interface, a sketch pad was never going to be that good.


Still, it does what it says and you can save your sketches as PNG files. Note that these actually show up on the Home screen as new ebooks, which is a bug that will need ironing out. I personally won't be using it.

WEB BROWSER
Ah, the browser. Here is a shot of Google in the browser, and the browser's menu options.


I could spend a lot of time on the browser feature, but I won't. Suffice it to say that it does work, but there are a lot of things to point out:
  • It takes four screen touches to actually access the bloody thing (Menu >> Settings >> Extras >> Browser).
  • The keyboard layout is rubbish for web browsing. It needs to have a dot / comma and a backslash on the main display to be taken seriously.
  • The keyboard requires firm touches to actually register a button press, which slows the whole process down significantly. You would not want to write a forum post on this device.
  • When typing in a url, you cannot select a point in the address bar with your finger; you have to use a left and right arrow and backspace to modify. This means that if you are in a website with a really long url, it will take you a bit of time to delete it and type in a new one.
  • Scrolling horizontally and vertically works without any major issues.
  • The zoom slider at the bottom of the browser window works to zoom in and out, but it zooms in so closely after the first zoom that it is impossible to fine-tune. Luckily the widest / furthest setting (also the default) is at a decent level, so there is probably very little need to zoom in more than one stop.
  • Pages render quite well.
  • The mobile Wikipedia website is worth bookmarking, if not setting as your homepage - it looks great and the zoom works perfectly with it.
  • The small number of websites I tested with mobile versions appeared to load the mobile version on the Glo, which is reassuring. These sites look and operate quite well on the Glo.
  • The lack of a browser settings menu is surprising and disappointing.
Despite these quibbles, the fact that I can use Wikipedia fairly well is quite good, and setting a number of useful mobile websites as favourites will make the experience much better. I would personally not recommend this for normal web browsing, though.


USER INTERFACE RATING - 7/10 stars
Overall, I would say that the User Interface needs work. There is potential here for quite a high score, and the framework exists to just tweak slightly to bring everything together.

Extras (like the browser & the games) are nice to have, but not essential for an eReader, so I will not be docking any stars for some of the issues I had with the browser and Sudoku. The bug where saved sketches appear on the Home screen is annoying, but not enough to justify a deduction in stars.

The same cannot be said with the rest of the User Interface, and I have deducted stars for the following major issues:
  • General poor design decisions overall on the User Interface (-1 star)
  • A rubbish Categories hierarchy that is extremely confusing and seems to want to prevent you from finding new books (-1 star)
  • Not having the price available when browsing books in the various "Find Books" sub-menus (-1/2 star)
  • The Wishlist only taking note of Kobo store books which have been earmarked on the device itself, practically forcing you to use the sub-par "Find Books" sub-menus to build up a useful Watchlist (-1/2 star)

Last edited by 9littlebees; 01-03-2013 at 05:19 AM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:47 PM   #5
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Readability

READABILITY
Finally, the "meat" of my review, and the major area of importance any ereader should be judged on.

PAGE TURN SPEED
Page turning (both forward and backward) on the Glo is mostly consistent.
Spoiler:
For most epubs and all kepubs, there is only a very slight delay in which is actually faster than it would take me to physically turn a paperback page. I do have at least one epub from a free ebook site that takes just under 1 second to turn a page. This feels sluggish but not overly long.

Thinking that maybe the quantity of text on the next page might affect speed, I can confirm that neither changing font size nor changing the page refresh value in Reading Settings make any discernible difference.

With previous Kobo devices, firmware patches have addressed page turn speed, so it will be interesting to see if this improves in future firmware (I'm on 2.14).

One thing to note about page turning is that you have to ensure that you don't slide a finger too much vertically when touching the relevant side. You can either press on the relevant side or flick it the relevant direction (i.e. from the right edge towards the centre to turn a page forwards). However, if your finger moves more than what seems to be 45 degrees on a vertical angle to the x axis (horizontal) of the ereader, the epub doesn't do anything, so there is the possibility of page turns that aren't recognised. More on this in the next section.

EASE OF TURNING PAGES ONE-HANDED
This is a bit of a tricky one, as it appears at first glance that the issue with vertical travel on when tapping to page turn could make one-handed reading quite annoying, but thankfully this is not the case.
Spoiler:
Let's back up a bit first, though.

As mentioned, vertical travel by your finger (even if only over a very small distance) will not allow the page to turn as the Glo doesn't recognise what you are trying to do.

This isn't normally a problem, but it could become more problematic when you are trying to turn pages one-handed when reclined. I mainly read my Glo in bed and so am laying on my side, with the Glo held sideways, and turn it with one hand. Unfortunately, in this scenario (and other similar ones, like lying on a couch), it is inevitable that the threshold of 45 degrees of vertical travel will be surpassed and you will wonder why the page hasn't turned.

When reading a book, if you go to the Reading Settings, you can change where on the screen you need to tap to change pages (forward or backward) and bring up the menu. There are three options, depending on the way in which you hold your Glo, as seen below:


Thankfully, regardless of the screen page turning setup you decide to go for, you can still progress a page forward or backward by swiping horizontally anywhere on the page.

Swiping makes reading the Glo one-handed possible and I'm thrilled it wasn't overlooked, since this is how I now regularly turn pages on mine. It also makes no difference how big your hands are, since you can swipe anywhere on the screen.

Otherwise, the Glo is comfortable to hold one-handed due to its size, weight and lovely quilted back.

PAGE REFRESHING
Just a quick one here. Also in the Reading Settings is an option to change the Page Refresh time. This "sets the number of pages you turn before a full screen refresh occurs". You can choose anywhere between 1 and 6 pages.

In my testing, I can't see any noticeable difference when setting it to 1 or 6. As such, I leave it on 6, since in my paranoia refreshing the screen every page probably uses a little more battery.

SCREEN CLARITY/QUALITY WITH LIGHT ON/OFF
Now I have no basis for comparison, since I've never had an ereader before, but this is one area that the Glo is really good in.
Spoiler:
The main reason why is that Kobo have included some advanced text settings, which essentially allow you to tweak the font size, weight and sharpness to an incredible level of customisation. Since the screen is e-ink, changing these settings allows you to have an incredible amount of control over how clear the text is displayed. See the screenshot below for the relevant setting page:


With the screen light off and normal ambient light reading conditions (i.e. during the day or in a well-lit room), I cannot fault the screen or the clarity of the text on display.

When things get darker and the Glo's light is switched on, the clarity of the text is if anything improved. This is because the light thankfully does not dim the text (at least not that I can see!) and brightens the "white" areas of the page. This actually boosts the contrast, making books even easier to read.

In fact, I have found myself turning the light on even under adequate lighting conditions, since the Glo light is barely noticeable with significant ambient light, yet the text seems to pop out much more noticeably.

LIGHT BRIGHTNESS
I have to say that overall I am happy with the light brightness of the Glo, though it would be nice to have the thresholds for screen brightness shifted to be dimmer overall (both on the lowest and highest settings).
Spoiler:
After originally trying out the various levels of screen brightness, it is now permanently set to the lowest setting.

I do not like to read with a bright light, and I find any but the lowest 10% light settings to be too bright. That said, I am 100% happy with these low light settings, as they meet my needs perfectly, especially in total darkness.

One thing that does niggle me slightly, though, is that I do have the light on the lowest setting. I would have liked to have seen the light thresholds moved to the dimmer end of the spectrum personally, since using an extreme makes me wonder whether it might be even better just a little dimmer. Plus I personally think the brighter settings are too bright for any setting.

Next, there is a nice feature to do with the light coming back on after sleep. If you were using a light and put the Glo to sleep, when you wake it up again, the light turns back on gradually (but at quite a perfect, reasonably fast speed), rather than blinking on instantly. Not sure how other ereader devices do this, but it's nice not to be pelted in the eyes by light, like my bloody mobile phones have always done. Note that if you turn the device off when the light was on, it will not be switched back on when you power it back up.

Finally. let's move on to the infamous problem area: uniformity of light distribution. As has been noted in numerous other threads, there is a small strip at the bottom of the device where the light isn't as bright.

It only occurs at the very bottom edge of the screen, is only slightly less bright than the remaining light (i.e. it's not like a black strip of darkness), is only about 2mm in depth and the rest of the screen is perfectly uniform at all brightness levels. I don't actually notice it unless I'm looking for it, and wasn't aware it was a problem until I read about it on another thread. Therefore, I have to disagree with some of the hype-mongerers out there who have been making this into a massive issue and will not dock any stars for it.

"TEXT-EDIT" MODE
By pressing on the screen and holding your finger on a word for at least 1.5 seconds (approx), the word will become underlined as the Glo enters what I am calling the "text-edit" mode.

Once in this mode, you can either drag your finger around to select more than one word (if you are still pressing on the word), or you can take your finger off to see a definition pop up.

From this mode, you can highlight text, add notes, translate, search the book for other instances and even share that text selection to Facebook.

NOTE-TAKING
Adding notes is reasonably easy on the Glo.
Spoiler:
Here's how it works:
  1. Simply hold on a word until it is underlined (as described above).
  2. (only if resizing beyond one word) Still touching the screen, drag your finger to resize the selection you want to add the note to.
  3. Tap on the pencil icon which now appears at the bottom of the screen.
  4. Tap on the "Add note" option which pops up.
  5. Write your note in the window which pops up and press "Save" on the keyboard when done.
Three screen touches getting from a blank page to the add note window will struggle to be done in less than 4 seconds. Much of this time is taken up by how long you have to press on a word for the Glo to recognise you want to do something with it, about 1.5 seconds. This seems perfectly reasonable to me.

To see all the notes in an ebook, Bring up the Reading Menu, select the book icon and then "Annotations". This shows all the notes (and highlights) in the book you have open, displaying the highlighted text, the note, the date it was created and a settings option (denoted by three horizontal lines). If you choose settings, you can then jump to the page the note is on, view the note in full, delete it, edit it and share it on Facebook. Quite thorough.

HIGHLIGHTING TEXT
When highlighting text, you do this in the same manner as adding a note, using the other option under the pencil icon when in "Edit-Text" mode.
Spoiler:
Highlighted selections appear alongside notes under the "Annotations" sub-menu in the Reading Menu. You can also add a note to a highlighted selection, which is quite useful.

Note that the Glo displays annotated text in only one way, with a faint grey highlight. There is no distinction between notes and highlights.

[STILL TO REVIEW:]
Can annotations be exported? How are they accessed outside the book itself? Do they sync with kepubs between devices? How are / can they be accessed outside of the device?

SEARCHING
There are two ways to search for text in an ebook on the Glo.
Spoiler:
When selecting text as described in the Note-Taking section above, one of the options is a magnifying glass. Tapping this brings up all instances of that word in the book, displayed from the very beginning of the book. This could be annoying if you are halfway through a book and want to find the next instance of some text, as you will have to pass over the other, earlier instances of that text before getting to the later selections.

The other way to search is from the Reading Menu. Click on the book icon, choose the "Search in Book" option and then enter the required text. This is fairly straight-forward and even offers a list of the last used search phrases, which is unexpected and very useful.

There has been a report in this thread about the search feature not always going to the page you select. I've tested this on a number of epubs and kepubs and couldn't replicate this.

FOOTNOTES
Still to come... (I need to renew my library rental of one of Terry Pratchett's books, as they're the only ones I've found that have footnotes.)
How are they displayed? Thoughts / comments


DICTIONARIES
Still to come...
can they interpret foreign text (try to use example from every supported language - test with Anna Karenina)?


"TIME LEFT TO END OF CHAPTER"
Apparently the Paperwhite has a "time left to end of chapter" feature. The Glo also has this, but only with kepubs.
Spoiler:
It may be possible to replicate this in epubs somehow, but I've not seen or bought any yet that do this. epubs for me show "time left to end of book", in other words "PG. x OF y".

I do not think this should be counted against the Glo compared to the Paperwhite, as the Paperwhite only officially supports Amazon mobi ebooks, and so are in control of what features their ebooks will have. The Glo has this same feature for their officially supported kepub ebooks (and so ranks evenly with them in this regard), but will also allow the user to read any other epub they want, however it may be configured. This is a huge selling point for the Glo over the Paperwhite, in my opinion.

For me personally, I much prefer the epubs. I'd rather know how many pages I have left until the end of the book, not the end of the chapter. You can still see this info (sort of) on a kepub, by bringing up the Reading Menu, whereby you can see percentage complete at the top. As far as I know, there is no way to display how many pages to the end of the book in a kepub.

It would be nice in future firmware to be able to decide to switch off the "time left to end of chapter" feature in kepubs in the Reading Settings menu and display "PG. x OF y" instead.

READABILITY RATING - TBD
Still to come...

Last edited by 9littlebees; 01-03-2013 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:47 PM   #6
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Functionality

FUNCTIONALITY
Work in Progress, finished soon...

MEMORY CARDS
Using microSD cards to store & access eBooks, and also interact with Calibre (using both generic & branded, plus new and used cards)

EPUBs VS KEPUBs
I've mentioned in other parts of this review where the main differences between EPUB and KEPUB have cropped up, but allow me to recap here.
Essentially, if you want books to display nicely on the Glo, you have to be prepared to accept that only Kobo epub files (aka kepub's) are going to cut the mustard.

To put it briefly, these "official" ebooks will allow you to:


Functional differences between epubs and kepubs (also, kepubs vs "official" epubs, i.e. purchased from WH Smith)

SIDELOADING EPUBs & MOBIs
Purchasing non-standard books and ease of converting & sideloading (inc Amazon, Google, Smashwords, BOB, B&N). Also functionality with side-loaded eBooks, including epubs, PDFs, CBRs, CBZs, etc.

FORMATTING PRIORITIES
Do eReader settings override font, justification, line spacing, margin widths, etc if these are set in an eBook?

ADD-IN FONT HANDLING
Add-in (i.e. non-standard) font handling

LIBRARY EPUBS
Thankfully, I have been a member of the local library service for the city I live in for a number of years, and they are one of the relatively few places in the world to offer an ebook library service for free!
How it works (at least with Libraries West) is that you browse their library for a book that you would like to check out. Just like in a normal library, however, there are limited copies, and these can be checked out at any time.

For my library (and I have no idea whether this is standard or regulated in any way), you have the option of renting an ebook for a maximum of 21 days. Once that time limit is finished,

ADOBE DIGITAL EDITIONS
Compatibility with Adobe Digital Editions, including ease of syncing with the Glo, and exporting ebooks, data, etc from ADE to the Glo

CALIBRE EPUBs
Format handling when reading epubs converted by Calibre. Can a Glo's library be organised from within Calibre, without issues?

SHELVES
Functionality of "shelves" and support for it outside of the device, also do shelves have full functionality with ebooks stored on a microSD

SCREEN DISPLAY WHEN ASLEEP/OFF
In sleep/off mode, are epub book covers properly full screen right away, or do they require editing in Calibre? Does the last book read show, or is it the book before last, or other?

DOES RESTARTING WIPE ANY SETTINGS?
Are any features / configurations lost upon restarting the device? So far, only light on status observed.

BATTERY TEST
After other elements of review are finished, fully charge battery then test battery life with light left switched on continuously. Duration of full recharge, following full discharge.

Last edited by 9littlebees; 01-03-2013 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:48 PM   #7
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Conclusion

Coming soon...

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Old 10-14-2012, 05:16 PM   #8
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pictures please.
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Old 10-14-2012, 05:18 PM   #9
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pictures please.
Pictures are planned, don't worry.
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Old 10-14-2012, 05:43 PM   #10
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Thats a pretty good start for your review, keep the other charters coming!
I would put the same ratings as you did. But the description for PREP & FIRST USE RATING I see somewhat different. For me it's:
-1 for need to create an account
-1 for clunky initial sign-in process
-1 for pushing current reading list off the home screen
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Old 10-15-2012, 01:18 AM   #11
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Another item I was asked to look at was how easy it is to get back to where you were reading after loading new books onto the device. Suffice it to say that when new books are loaded onto the device, they push the latest read books towards the back of (and off) the list.
First of all: Wow, thanks for all your work on the review so far!

This point really sucks though. I'm buying new books all the time. I don't get why it's done that way on a Kobo. Who wants to go searching for the book their currently reading just because they bought new ones?
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Old 10-15-2012, 02:41 AM   #12
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PREPARING FOR FIRST USE


...I was asked to compare an Adobe DRM epub with a kepub, when both were purchased from the Kobo store. I don't fully understand how this would actually work, though...

...when clicked on from the Contents page, the extra "sneak peek" sections brought up first a pop-up footnote window with info about the excerpt, and then an option to "see more" which jumped me to the excerpt pages for these books, at the end of the book...
I believe the Kobo version is the one you buy from the Kobo Glo (itself) or through the desktop client, the adobe one is from the website directly.

Also. Can you check to see how well sideload connect works with the dictionaries and translators. On Good Reader review they said it work. The manual said it may not work.

Also. what is the "extra "sneak peek" sections ".

thanks.

Last edited by pjoshua5000; 10-15-2012 at 02:47 AM. Reason: Edit: "Store" to "Kobo Glo (itself) and "thought" to "through"
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Old 10-15-2012, 05:00 AM   #13
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Thanks for this review-I'm looking forward to reading it over the coming weeks.
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Old 10-15-2012, 05:24 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjoshua5000 View Post
I believe the Kobo version is the one you buy from the Kobo Glo (itself) or through the desktop client, the adobe one is from the website directly.

Also. Can you check to see how well sideload connect works with the dictionaries and translators. On Good Reader review they said it work. The manual said it may not work.

Also. what is the "extra "sneak peek" sections ".

thanks.
Ah, so I need to obtain a book from the device / desktop application itself for it to be a true "kepub"? Will do a test with a free book and update that section.

Absolutely will look into dictionary and translation of sideloaded epubs. This will be covered in either the upcoming "Readability" or "Functionality" sections. I have a number of free classics from Project Gutenberg I can test this with.

Sorry, I meant to say that the epub I was testing was a £0.99 novella, which included excerpts (or "sneak peeks") for two full length novels at the end of the epub, after the novella itself. Bit confusing, I know, and I'll update the wording when I get home from work to make it a bit clearer.
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Old 10-15-2012, 05:27 AM   #15
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Thanks for this review-I'm looking forward to reading it over the coming weeks.
No worries.

I definitely bit off more than I could chew with this review. Wanted it finished and posted last weekend but other stuff butted in and writing the review itself takes a long time! And that's not even taking photos into consideration! :P

Last edited by 9littlebees; 10-15-2012 at 05:37 AM.
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