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Old 11-16-2019, 02:28 AM   #1
jkelol111
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Question Should I trust the waterproofing on water-safe Kobos?

Hi all,

After watching a few videos of the Aura H20 (and it's newer sibling Aura H20 Edition 2) in the water, I have come to a conclusion that they employ different waterproofing techniques. While the OG uses flaps and water-resistant tape to seal the device from water, the Edition 2 H2O just relies on HZO Protection nanocoating, which basically means there is (theorotically) no effort to seal the innards from water.

Since I'm living in a tropical country, I'm looking forward to upgrading to an ereader that's not shy of water. So from your experience, are the nanocoating waterproofed Kobos more reliable in terms of long-term waterproofing compared to the old-but-trusty flaps and tape on the older Aura H2O? And what to do with the exposed USB port on the H2O Edition 2 when it's wet? Does the H2O Edition 2 warn of water is present in the port?

Do note that I can get either one brand-new, with the H2O Edition 2 being marginally more expensive. I do not care much about ComfortLight Pro or the extra storage.

Thanks in advance.

Tldr: should I trust the HZO Protected Kobos in tropical conditions?
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Old 11-16-2019, 02:36 AM   #2
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I can put both the original H2O, the Kobo Aura One, and the Forma underwater and they work fine on removal.

Do I suggest constantly keeping them submerged? No.

But atmospheric water should be ok, just make some effort to make sure they aren't swimming all the time.
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Old 11-16-2019, 09:36 AM   #3
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I don't trust it at all.

The coating has gaps in it (as far as I could tell when opening my Kindle Paperwhite 4), and if water got in it'd probably leave residue and whatnot. Not to mention it would take ages to dry.

The original H2O water seal breaks easily (happened to my mother's H2O when snapping it into Fintie case, the front bezel was lifted off in one corner) and for the flap it's hard to tell whether it's closed properly.

There may also be long term effects, a German reviewer (allesebook) put their H2O in the freezer and it was fine afterwards, until it stopped working half a year later due to rusted contacts inside. Water and electronics just doesn't mix. So, I keep my devices away from water. If in doubt, bring a ziploc bag or similar.

That said, some people manage to drown their non-waterproof devices and have them survive regardless (after removing battery and allowing to dry for a week). So maybe having even just a little protection is already considered enough in most cases?

Even so, I just don't trust it. And if I could choose between a waterproof device and one with microsd slot, I'd always go for the microsd... user-replaceable storage is super useful (especially if you're into modding), waterproof is just a gimmick...
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Old 11-16-2019, 12:41 PM   #4
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Despite the name the coating concept is essentially 1940s "tropicalization".
It's better than not having it and means an accident is less likely to be terminal for the gadget.

I'd be very surprised if there are not fractures in the coating with age.

I'd risk reading in the bath but assume it might not survive being dropped in.
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:20 PM   #5
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I read in the shower/bath & have done so with my original H2O, KAO and now the libra. Have had no problems with any of them so far, though they have never been submerged for a significant period of time. I do take care to make sure the reader is dry & sufficient time has passed to allow the USB port to be clear of water before charging.
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:51 PM   #6
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The HZO laquer is much better protection than the original H20 model. That one was subject to 'user' error every time the flap is opened, (is it sealed properly every time?). The flap would break off with use unless you were super careful, and as pointed out, it offered no protection from moisture introduced by condensation.

I've gleefully submerged all my water-proof e-readers multiple times.. that being said, I would not be stressed out if one suffered a misadventure.
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Old 11-16-2019, 03:40 PM   #7
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As expected, a zip-lock bag works perfectly (possibly BETTER) on the capacitive Libra, but only taps (and not always) on the original Aura H2O.

The HZO lacquer can't be trusted. Also if the USB connector is wet you may get electrochemical corrosion of the body of a plug. Long term you could get PCB corrosion via the USB connector.
Gold doesn't corrode at all. But in any damp situation every other non-noble metal will have accelerated corrosion. That's why gold plated audio connectors are madness on any regular nickel or tin or chromed socket on equipment, or even near a damp connector. The rule is only gold to gold.
Also how thick is the gold plating on the USB connector? Most consumer connectors have too thin. Ironically impure gold lasts better. Purest gold is softest. Electrum is a pretty ancient alloy of gold, silver and copper. Still used as it's much harder. Alloys with other noble metals are good too.

While the rubber bung on the original H2O could wear out or break off, a sealed case is a far better idea than a coated PCB. How reliable will the coating be for display connector interfaces?

A screw on watch back with an inset neoprene ring is reliable. The original H2O was not. It relied on double sided sticky tape in one piece to stop water getting in at the screen (which meant a gap for dust) and at the outer edge of the bezel which wasn't inset to case so it could catch. Some have been poorly assembled and had a gap on the outer edge.

Add a zip bag if on the beach, pool, camping or in the bath. Even if the HZO coating works today, it will fail. The exposed USB and gap at the buttons on the Libra is mad. Blow in at the USB and feel air come out at the buttons.

I didn't trust the original Aura H2O which cost me €220 at the beginning; it's certainly not trustworthy now. I'll not trust the Kobo Libra H2O either. Less so, as it's impossible to visually gauge any degradation. They (HZO call it "nanotechnology". So is two part polyurethane varnish*, which will waterproof a circuit board). Independent Figures for how good HZO is on something with connectors and degradation with time that are independent tests? The awards received say nothing about the goodness of the technology, but about marketing. This is an 80 year old concept.

(*The Polyurethane eventually develops cracks. Wax was used 1830s to 1950s, think something closer to Vaseline than candle wax so it does crack. Water amazing does dissolve in it (and in paraffin, diesel, jet fuel etc) so after 8 to 12 years protected parts and wiring start to corrode. In the 1940s military gear switched to a mix of hermetic sealing and special varnishes.)

I'd be very upset to lose €180 worth of Kobo Libra H2O due to a dunking.

Last edited by Quoth; 11-16-2019 at 03:43 PM. Reason: Consequences
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Old 11-16-2019, 08:08 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the insightful replies. So I assume neither waterproofing methods truly work? If so I might get a Paperwhite 4, since Amazon support is great with these issues.

Also, I watched a disassembly of the Paperwhite 4 and there is absolutely no seal between the back cover and all the electronics inside, so is the waterproofing technique there similar to HZO? I don't see it being mentioned anywhere.
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Old 11-16-2019, 08:12 PM   #9
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Also, a video from HZO themselves claim the coating is permanent. I doubt it now...
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Old 11-16-2019, 10:14 PM   #10
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@jkelol111: I can't work out why you have come to this conclusion. There are no reports above of failures in the current waterproofing method. This method has been around for a number of years for other devices, and other than the pessimism expressed above, there is no reason to think it is no good.

For the two actual failures reported, they are for the original Aura H2O. One is after the device was put in a freezer, which will means it was exposed to a temperature outside Kobo's recommended storage temperatures. That might have caused the later failure of the seals. The other is a failure during handling that shouldn't have happened. I won't deny I always hesitate before taking my devices out of their covers as I'm always worried I'll twist it and damage the screen.

Overall, there have been very few reports of failures of the waterproofing of the original Aura H2O here. And, I cannot think of a single report for the HZO treated devices. I haven't searched elsewhere, but, I would expect to see them linked to here if there was a problem.
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Old 11-17-2019, 05:26 AM   #11
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It's too new to say if reliable, and where is any independent audit?

Also reports on a website are a small proportion of failures for anything, in general. Or they can be the reverse, some feature blown out of proportion.

Obviously if a product is completely terrible that's quite obvious.
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Old 11-17-2019, 10:23 AM   #12
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I agree with Davidfor: I washed my Kobo Aura One and I had no problem. I don't think that rain, even in a tropical country, could be more dangerous than putting it under tap water.

Last edited by ps67; 11-17-2019 at 10:37 AM.
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Old 11-17-2019, 10:31 AM   #13
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I'm with Davidfor. Doing a quick internet search doesn't throw up any results of failure. Are there going to be some? Sure. Nothing is 100% perfect, but since there doesn't seem to be many reports of HZO failure I'm guessing it's pretty good. Yes it's good to be skeptical of the marketing claims for something like this, but "similar" to a 70's product isn't the same.
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Old 11-17-2019, 11:03 AM   #14
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I read in the shower/bath & have done so with my original H2O, KAO and now the libra.
You read in the shower?
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Old 11-17-2019, 11:21 AM   #15
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So I assume neither waterproofing methods truly work?
It works, well enough to pass testing and reviews anyway.

I just don't _trust_ it regardless. Better safe than sorry.
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