Full access to Google Play store; Durable design; Customizable interface; Social integration; Fast performance ; High-quality audio
Outdated version of Android; Reflective screen; Bookstore lacks magazines and periodicals; No Bluetooth
With full access to the Google Play store and a slick interface, the Kobo Arc represents a strong alternative to other 7-inch tablets.
When it comes to the e-reader market, Kobo has largely lived in the shadow of Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and the Barnes & Noble Nook HD. Kobo made the move from E Ink to LCD touch year with its Vox tablet, but its newest offering gives us everything the Vox was missing. With full access to the Google Play store and longer battery life, the Kobo Arc is ready to face the competition.
You'll find Kobo's logo in between these two speakers, but no Home button. In fact, the only physical buttons on the device's body are the volume key on its right-hand side and the power button on its top. The microUSB slot for connecting the charger is located on the bottom of the tablet, and a 3.5mm headphone jack sits just above the volume button.
Kobo also claims that the Arc can withstand drops from 1.5 meters, or roughly 5 feet.
There's no SD card slot for expanding memory, but users can choose to purchase the tablet with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal memory.
Kobo implements its own literary-focused Home screen, which features a Discover tab along the bottom with reading suggestions catered to your taste based on your current library. The rest of the Home screen is divided into four quadrants: Reading, Entertainment, Social and Browsing.
Pinning items is simple -- just press the thumbtack symbol. If it's a URL, the device will ask if you want to pin a Web page or bookmark it, and then asks you where to place the item.
You can pin items to your Home screen or to other sections such as Reading, Entertainment, Browsing or Social. Swiping to the left when on the Home screen will reveal any tapestries you've created
Moving and managing tiles in your tapestry is also very simple -- just hold your finger on the item you wish to move and then place it elsewhere on the screen.
To create a folder in a tapestry, just drag and drop one item over another, and Kobo will prompt you to enter a name for the folder. From there, you can also choose to delete an item by dragging it to a trash can at the bottom of the screen.
Reading Experience and DisplayNexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD 7. However, the Arc's display brightness averaged 393 lux, outshining Google's Nexus 7 tablet (314 lux) and beating the 369 lux category average. Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 7, however, boasts a brighter 436 lux display.
Although the Kobo Arc's color touch screen is susceptible to glare (unlike e-readers with E Ink displays), text was still easy to read. While viewing the display from angles, however, we found that the screen attracted some glare.
Pinch-to-zoom works very smoothly on the Arc's multitouch IPS display, creating a seamless reading experience. Swiping to the left turns the page, and a tap on the screen will call up Kobo's toolbar and settings menu, which enables font and page layout customization. You can adjust the font size by dragging a slider to the right of the screen, and choose to either scroll up and down or turn pages to the left and right when reading.
This side menu also comes with an Advanced Settings option that allow you to manage social features, such as choosing to display comments on a certain page or share reading activity on Facebook. Additionally, you can set either Landscape or Portrait mode as your default, or let Kobo choose for you each time you open a book with the Automatic option.
Audio and Video
Videos looked clear and crisp on the Kobo Arc's 7-inch display. When watching the trailer for "The Hangover 3" via YouTube, fine details came through vividly and vibrantly. From close-up dialogue to action-packed sequences, each scene translated sharply through the Arc's IPS screen.
The dual SRS TruMedia front-facing speakers boast loud, boisterous sound. Listening to Of Monsters and Men's "Little Talks" felt full and deep. Turning the speakers up to their full capacity easily filled our testing room while maintaining the same high-grade audio. You can literally feel sound vibrate through the tablet when the volume is turned up high.
The Kobo Library comes with a feature called Reading Life, which debuted on Kobo's Vox e-reader tablet last year. This function allows users to interact with other Kobo owners while reading, share books and passages on Facebook, and earn awards by tracking reading stats. The stats page tells you how many pages you've turned, which books you're reading and your total reading time, along with other stats.
Tapping a pink splotch at the bottom of each page launches Pulse, which displays any comments users have made on a particular page, shows how many times the book has been read by other users and how many likes it has on Facebook.
Kobo's bookstore doesn't offer its own selection of magazines, periodicals or media, but Arc owners have access to Google's 600,000 apps as well as thousands of movies and millions of songs. Amazon's app store comes with 50,000 apps, 100,000 movies and 20 million songs.
While we like the Kobo bookstore's clean interface, it would be better if you could more easily browse by genre. Kobo arranges its titles into categories such as "New Releases," "New & Hot eBooks," "Popular Pre-Orders" and "NYT Fiction Bestsellers" by default. To browse by genre, you need to press the bullet list symbol on the top left corner of the screen and press the "Browse" button.
Controls for Forward, Back and Refresh are situated at the top of the screen on the left-hand side of the URL box. On the other side, you'll find the thumbtack symbol for pinning pages to your dashboard, a bookmark icon and a symbol that looks like an armchair, which launches the current Web page into a full-screen text-only mode.
The Kobo Arc stacks up nicely against competitors such as Google's Nexus 7, Barnes and Nobles' Nook HD and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 7. Sporting a 1.5-GHz TI OMAP 4470 processor -- a big jump from the Vox's 800-Mhz CPU -- the Arc scored a 7,962 on our graphics-focused An3DBench test, outshining the 7,361 category average. The Arc also surpassed the Kindle Fire HD 7 (7,783), Nexus 7 (7,782) and Barnes and Noble Nook HD (7,831).
The Arc scored 4,302.5 on the CPU Benchmark test. This blows past the 2,982 category average and upstages Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 7 (3,418), Google's Nexus 7 (3,612) and Barnes and Nobles' Nook HD (3,879).
The Kobo Arc was also zippy in everyday use. We never had to wait more than a second or two to launch apps, and swiping between pages when readying was instantaneous. There was no lag when it came to checking our email even with nine other apps open.
The Kobo Arc's front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera takes satisfactory photos in well-lit environments. Images come through generally clear, but with noticeable noise. The 7-incher is also capable of shooting high definition video in 720p.
Kobo offers the Arc in three configurations: 16GB ($199), 32GB ($249) and 64GB ($299) in either black or white. However, we found prices online to be anywhere from $25 to $50 higher.
|CPU||1.5-GHz dual core Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 CPU|
|Storage Drive Size||16GB|
|Storage Drive Type|
|Display Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution|
|Card Reader Size|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||0.5 x 4.75 x 7.45|