Kobo Tries to Steal Amazon's Thunder with Arc Tablet, Glo E-Reader

Amazon is scheduled to make a big announcement later today, presumably to unveil the Kindle Fire 2, new Kindle e-readers and, some say, a smartphone. But the Kobo folks are here to let some air out of those tires. The Kobo Glo backlit e-reader, Kobo Mini touchscreen E Ink e-reader and Kobo Arc 7-inch Android tablet are all poised to directly compete with both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

These three devices join the 7-inch Kobo Vox Android tablet to create a stylish e-reader/tablet family filled with multiple color bodies and Kobo's uniquely-social e-reading software called Reading Life. All four devices offer access to a fully-stocked e-bookstore with nearly 3 million books, newspapers and magazines, 1 million of which are free. The Toronto-based company, which is owned by Japanese-based Rakuten, plans to officially launch the three new devices in the next couple of months, and pre-orders are available now through Best Buy. 

Taking on the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire, the Kobo Arc is the company's second Android tablet. This one features a new user interface called Tapestries that is meant to improve content discovery. It allows you to "pin" movies, e-books and such to the homescreen, which teaches the device what your favorites are to improve upon its content suggestions. The base model includes 8GB of onboard storage for $199, or the 16GB model can be had for $249. 

The outside featrues a 7-inch touchscreen with 1280 x 800-pixel resolution that's capable of reproducing 16 million colors. The IPS LCD is optimized for 178-degree viewing angles, and the glass is reportedly resistant to day-to-day damage. The Kobo Arc comes with a black or white face and two optional backs in blue or purple that can be snapped on. There is a 720p 1.3-megapixel forward-facing camera. 

Inside, the 12.8 ounce device you'll find 1GB of RAM and a 1.5-GHz dual core TI OMAP 4470 CPU. The Android 4.0 Kobo Arc offers access to the full Google Play store with its 600,00 apps. But more interestingly, the Arc features WiFi Direct for streaming multimedia content directly wto your TV. The company claims the Arc should get up to 10 hours of continuous use with Wi-Fi off, or two weeks on standby. 

Ready to take on the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, as well as whatever Amazon has planned for later today, the $129 Kobo Glo is competitively priced. This 6-inch E Ink XGA display features a built-in light and remarkable 1024 x 768-pixel resolution, but still only 16 levels of grey scale. The "non-glass" touchscreen is covered in a thin coating to evenly distribute the light and shouldn't pick up fingerprints, according to the company. The device, powered by a 1GHz Freescale Solo 6 CPU, will house 2GB of onboard storage, as well as support up to a 32GB microSD card. For the fashionista in all of us, you can choose from black, blue, pink or silver frames. Kobo claims the battery will last more than one month with Wi-Fi and light off, and more than 55 hours of continuous use with light on. 

The $79.99 Kobo Mini hopes to create an even smaller category of e-reader devices, measuring just 5-inches and weighing just 4.7 ounces. Powered by an 800-MHz CPU, this E Ink device features a Vizplex V110 display wtih 16 level grey scale. It too holds 2GB (or 1,000 e-books) worth of content, but no microSD card. It's available in black or white, but you can get interchangeable backs in blue, purple or red. The battery should last a disappointing two weeks with Wi-Fi turned off. 

We can't wait to get our fingers on all three of these devices. 

Anna Attkisson
Managing Editor
A lover of lists and deadlines, Anna Attkisson heads up features and special projects for Laptopmag.com, in addition to covering social networking and accessories. She joined the LAPTOP staff in 2007, after working at Time Inc. Content Solutions where she created custom publications for companies from American Express to National Parks Foundation.