TODO alt text

Kobo Arc review

Good value, fast working 7-inch Android tablet with Google Play apps

Thanks to a firmware upgrade in early April 2013, the Kobo Arc has moved from running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Kobo Arc review

Because it was a totally open Android interface, all of Jelly Bean's new features can now be found on the Kobo Arc, including Google Now, rich notifications and face unlock.

That last feature is, in practice, hit-and-miss. Perhaps it's the Kobo Arc's low-sensitivity 1.3 megapixel camera that's to blame, but in our test the Kobo Arc only managed to identify our big face in three out of five attempts.

Besides, during the set up process the Kobo Arc warned us that face unlock wasn't as secure as a password. So what's the point of it, then?

The new Jelly Bean keyboard is present, as are various voice-to-text functions that culminate in the appearance of Google Now on the Kobo Arc. It's the most significant change brought to this eReader by Jelly Bean, and it's kick-started by a swipe (upwards from the bottom) of the screen, bringing voice-activated search and local information. In short, it makes the Kobo Arc much more aware of its location.

Despite being a thoroughly open Android device, the Kobo Arc is also heavily modified. All Jelly Bean features remain, but the Kobo Arc adds its own layer into the mix. Called Tapestries, it's mostly concerned with Pinterest-style noticeboard organisation, and learning your preferences.

Kobo Arc review

It's organised around dynamically changing carousel tabs, the default being Reading, Entertainment and Social, though you can create your own. Select Social and you'll see Tweets and Facebook status updates.

Press Entertainment from the home screen and a carousel of videos is enlarged, and added to by shortcuts to YouTube, 7digital, CinemaNow, Gallery, Rdio and Play Music.

Meanwhile, the Reading tapestry displays book covers with 'Reading Life' statistics (time read, remaining time, percentage complete, which seem a little similar to those employed on the Kindle Paperwhite) and a link to your Library, the Kobo Store, and Taste Profile, which shows you book covers; drag them into the yes/no pile and the Arc will learn your preferences.

However, the key point of Tapestries is that any picture, web page, chunk of text, widget or app can be 'pinned' to any of your Tapestry folders.

Down the bottom of all Tapestries pages is Discover, a timeline of thumbnail icons of news stories, books and YouTube videos Kobo thinks you might like.

We're not hugely keen on this idea of 'web concierge', but in practice it works pretty well – and if nothing else this makes sure you don't miss the top news stories from around the world.

Kobo Arc review

It only does this from Kobo's own cache of the web – it's not based on your search history.

A shortcut from the home page leads to the usual Android grid of apps, but also includes a tab of widgets such as a clock, bookmarks and any open apps you might have running.

From here it's a cinch to drag them into any Tapestry; as you touch a widget and move it, the home page reappears, ready to accept 'pins'. The result is that, within Tapestries, the Kobo Arc is totally customisable in terms of content and apps.

Gliding between pages, apps, the web browser and books is always fast, as is the virtual keyboard, though the latter's buttons are rather too small in portrait mode (we frequently made mistakes while typing).

It boots-up very quickly, though when titling the device the Arc is slow to re-orientate between landscape and portrait.

We also noticed that the screen isn't quite as responsive as it should do; tapping the tiny 'x' to kill unwanted adverts on games, for instance, proved tricky, as did some drag and dropping of apps, though the Arc is mostly capable with both the basic Android elements and its own architecture.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital Text Reader
Flash Memory Capacity32 GB
Colour SupportGrayscale (16-bit)
Brand NameKobo
Battery Run Time10 Hour
Product LineArc
Screen Size17.8 cm (7")
Display Resolution1280 x 800
Graphic ModeWXGA
Wireless LANYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Text FormatsePub
HeadphoneYes
Height189 mm
Width120 mm
Depth11.5 mm
ColourBlack
Operating SystemAndroid
Image FormatsJPG, PNG, BMP, GIF
Audio FormatsAAC, OGG, WAV, FLAC, MIDI
ManufacturerKobo, Inc
Product NameArc Digital Text Reader
Processor Speed1.50 GHz
Manufacturer Part NumberK107-KBO-32B
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.koboereader.com
Marketing Information

Get more out of your tablet

.

Kobo Arc gets to know you. As you build your multimedia collection, Kobo Arc will recommend content based on your tastes and preferences. So you get more of the content you love without searching for it.

Everything you love at your fingertips

Don't dig through your collection - your Kobo Arc keeps your content on the surface so you don't have to go searching. It's all there on the home screen. Kobo's exclusive interface, Tapestries, allows you to organize your content thematically and pin content you find interesting into customized groups. Based on content you've pinned to your Tapestries, Kobo Arc learns what you're into and suggests content that reflects your personality and interests.

Limited Warranty1 Year
Built-in DevicesVideo Player, Music Player, Camera, Speaker
Standard Memory1 GB
Host InterfaceMicro USB
Weight (Approximate)364 g