Kobo Clara HD eBook reader review

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REVIEW – Carrying a whole library of your favorite books in the palm of your hand is a glorious luxury and a lot of us do just that on our smartphones or tablets. But there is an alternative to reading on your iPhone or Android device; a dedicated eBook reader like the Kobo Clara HD. Why would you want a separate device? Keep reading to find out.

What is it?

The Kobo Clara HD is a small handheld eInk eBook reader.

What’s in the box?

Kobo Clara HD eReader
micro USB charging cable
Quick start guide

Hardware specs

Screen: 6” Carta E-Ink touchscreen, 300 ppi, print quality
Storage: 8 GB of on-board memory, holds up to 6,000 eBooks
Front-light: ComfortLight PRO – Reduces blue-light exposure for more comfortable nighttime reading
Customizability: TypeGenius: 11 different fonts and over 40 font styles
Supported formats: 14 file formats supported natively (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR)
Read eBooks borrowed from Public Library
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Micro USB
Battery Life: Up to weeks of battery life depending on usage
Languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish
Weight: 166 g
Size: 159.6 x 110 x 8.35 mm

Design and features

The Kobo Clara HD eBook reader is almost pocket sized. It actually does fit in a cargo pocket in a pair of my pants. It’s almost exactly the same height as my Pixel 2 XL, but its black plastic case is half again as wide as the Pixel. Front and center below the 6-inch display is the Kobo logo, but otherwise, this device is low key when it comes to style, which isn’t a bad thing.

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The back of the eReader has an interesting pattern etched in the rounded back case that adds a minimum amount of grip to this small device.

Along the bottom edge of the Clara HD is a small power button with a micro USB port next to it that is used to both charge and transfer files to the device with the aid of a computer.

The e-Ink touchscreen display is easy on the eyes with or without the automatic backlight on. Text is perfectly crisp and clear just like printed text on paper.

This type of display has a much lower power consumption than the displays that we have in our phones and tablets. This little eReader can be used for a couple of weeks with one charge instead of a few hours with a phone. It’s also perfectly readable in the full sunlight which one of the main reasons that I still find dedicated eReaders compelling. If you’ve ever tried to read a book outside on a smartphone on a sunny day, you know that the results aren’t great.

The Kobo’s interface is meant to be simple so that it doesn’t get in the way of the job of this device, which is to let you read a book with zero distractions. It displays the page in the book with your choice of reading status lines at the bottom of the page like the percentage read.

Another option is to show the current page number and total pages.

Or even how many minutes or hours it will take to finish reading the current chapter or the entire book.

Tapping the screen will bring up a status bar at the top and bottom from which you can access the main menu and various customization menus.

You can customize the line spacing, where to tap to advance to the next page, brightness levels, fonts and more. As far as fonts, Kobo’s TypeGenius offers customizable font options, which include exclusive weight and sharpness settings, with the choice of 11 font types and more than 40 font sizes.

In addition to choosing a font, you can also adjust margins, highlight passages, write notes, and look up words with the built-in dictionary.

The Clara HD eReader also features a ComfortLight PRO backlight that automatically softens the brightness and blue-light exposure as the day progresses into the night so using this device will not affect your sleep.

Adding books to the Clara HD eBook reader

You can buy new books directly from the reader itself when you connect to WiFi and browse the built-in storefront. Other ways to add books is to connect the reader to your PC or Mac with the included USB cable. From there you can drag and drop EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, TXT, HTML, RTF, and other formats. For DRM books that you own, you will need to install the Adobe Digital Editions application on your PC or Mac and use that to transfer books to the Clara HD. Another way to add books to this reader is with Overdrive which is an account that uses your local library to borrow books.

Another cool feature is that you can install the Kobo app on your smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac which lets you start reading with Kobo Clara HD and pick up on your smartphone or tablet or vice versa as your place in the book syncs across devices.

What I like

  • Small size
  • Long battery life
  • Clear crisp text

What needs to be improved

  • eBook prices are too expensive but this isn’t limited to Kobo

Final thoughts

Dedicated eBook readers are not extinct yet. There is still a place for them on the market. Especially for people who want a distraction-free method of reading on an eye-friendly display. When you read on your phone or tablet, you can get distracted by notifications, text messages, and other apps, but on a device like the Kobo Clara HD, you won’t be bothered with a notification that it’s your turn to play Words with Friends or that your frenemy just tweeted something annoying on Twitter. Nope, you’ll be happily engrossed in your favorite book that you can continue reading it outside on a bright sunny day without having to worry about finding an outlet to charge it in a couple hours.

Update 12/18/20

I haven’t used this eReader in 2 years and decided to pull it out and start reading again because I’ve only read 1 book this year. Thanks Covid! I usually read on my phone but decided that I wanted a more book-like experience. I was VERY surprised that it powered on and had over a 50% battery charge left. After 2 years of no use. Wow!

Price: $129.99
Where to buy: Rakuten Kobo
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Rakuten Kobo.

8 thoughts on “Kobo Clara HD eBook reader review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. ebook readers are great. What isn’t great is that the ability to organize your ebook library is terrible. If you have more than a few dozen books on a Kindle, for instance, you are forced to page through screen after screen after screen to find a specific book. Even though they all point out that they can contain thousands of books it would be ridiculous to put them on the device because you couldn’t possibly keep track of them. If only Amazon would open up the firmware so third parties could correct this stupid (deliberate?) shortcoming.
    You made no mention at all about organizing your collection of books on this device. Does it provide any means of doing so?

    1. Jim, I apologize for leaving out that info. Yes, the Kobo does offer some organization options. You can sort books by author and title, and you can also create named collections that you manually put the books in.

  3. A question: is it possible to reverse the background/text colors of the books? Personally I prefer to read white(ish) text on black(ish) background…

    1. Hi, yes it is possible. In order to turn the secret developer mode on, simply click on the magnifying glass on the top right corner and type devmodeon in the Kobo search bar.

  4. Years ago I worked as a product specialist for Kobo readers, presenting the product in stores like Best Buy. I was always impressed with the features and functionality of the product, but the units were a little pricey. I was, however, sad to have to send my demo unit back to the company. I read your review and decided to purchase the unit reviewed.

    Imagine my surprise to find out that the ebooks I had purchased from Kobo were still available for me after 6 years! Now you can read them on your iPad as they have an app for that device. Still, the reader is kind of cool, and if you want to read outdoors, it is the ideal device.

    Thanks for the review!

  5. “For DRM books that you own, you will need to install the Adobe Digital Editions application on your PC or Mac and use that to transfer books to the Clara HD.“

    This would be incorrect for Mac. Drag and drop into the Kobo folder that appears on your desktop works flawlessly. You can also side-load custom fonts you have privately purchased this way as well.

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