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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Kobo’s Elipsa and Sage e-readers are higher for studying than writing

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E Ink shows, with their extremely crisp resolutions and black and white limitations, have been a pure match for changing pen and paper for years. It’s no marvel that the most typical makes use of of the show expertise in client expertise has been for e-readers and digital paper, makes an attempt to attempt to slash by way of paper’s thousand-year hegemony as a dominant expertise for writing down data.

This yr, Kobo took the logical step and mixed the 2 with the large, document-sized 10.3-inch $399.99 Elipsa and its new flagship $259.99 Sage e-reader. On paper, it’s a terrific thought.

Kobo is on no account the primary main firm to supply an E Ink-based writing system: Sony has produced its digital paper tablets for years, and reMarkable is already on its second-generation writing-focused device.

However each Sony and reMarkable’s tablets, which theoretically supporting ebooks, lacked the storefronts and current buyer buy-in to essentially succeed as a viable e-reader, the place the one strategy to get books was to sideload no matter DRM-free ebooks you already had. The 2 new Kobo tablets, however, suggest the most effective of each worlds, combining Kobo’s sturdy ebook storefront and library lending help with the paper-ending prowess of an E Ink stylus system.

Neither system fairly hits the stability, although. The smaller Sage is best to learn with, with bodily flip buttons, waterproofing (though the stylus shouldn’t be), and adjustable shade temperature for extra pure lighting. However the eight-inch show is awkwardly sized, leaving the system too large to suit into any pants pocket (though it does match right into a jacket pocket), whereas on the similar time being a bit too cramped to comfortably write on, particularly in the event you’re a full, letter-sized doc. And in contrast to the Elipsa, it doesn’t embrace a stylus in its $259.99 worth, as a substitute charging an additional $40 for the privilege.

The Kobo Sage excels as an e-reader, though the show is a bit cramped for writing.

The Elipsa suffers from the other downside: its larger show lends itself extra naturally to utilizing it as a digital paper pill for annotating PDFs and scribbling notes in a notepad, however it’s extra awkward to learn on as a result of unwieldy dimension. It’s a terrific choice for issues like digital textbooks, although.

In contrast to its smaller cousin, the Elipsa isn’t waterproof, and the show eschews the adjustable shade temperature function on the Sage, too. (I’d additionally beg Kobo to rethink the location of the ability button on a future mannequin — the present location, on the “proper” facet of the pill, makes all of it however not possible to make use of when holding it in your proper hand.)

In brief, the higher the system is for studying books, the more severe it turns into for utilizing as an E Ink pocket book and vice versa.

The bigger Elipsa is effectively suited to sketching.

And whereas Kobo’s deal with on e-reader software program and expertise is aggressive, the digital paper features of its {hardware} really feel distinctly first technology on each units. Kobo’s alternative to incorporate an additional display layer for its backlight signifies that the writing isn’t fairly as responsive or tactile feeling because the reMarkable 2. Nor does Kobo have the textured, nearly scratchy tactile floor that made the reMarkable so good to write down on.

The software program additionally has some odd quirks, too. One of many extra attention-grabbing capabilities of Kobo’s units is the truth that you possibly can write on books — annotating, underlining, highlighting, and in any other case scribbling over or round no matter you’re studying. Should you’re the sort of one that likes having the ability to do this type of factor, it’s a helpful function when you’ve already received the stylus help (and in contrast to drawing on a paper ebook, it’s simply erased).

Oddly, there’s no straightforward strategy to toggle annotations on and off, wanting altering the margins or font dimension. Since annotations are tied to a particular web page structure, altering show settings makes your scribbles disappear, changed by an icon within the margins that makes it straightforward to revert again to the unique (annotated) settings.

The Kobo Stylus is included with the Elipsa however bought as a $40 add-on for the Sage.

Each e-readers have panorama help, however it’s awkward.

There are additionally some awkward limitations: when you can scribble on Kobo-purchased books to your coronary heart’s content material, you possibly can’t share these annotated books or pages. DRMed PDFs can’t be annotated in any respect, which could restrict your capability to take notes on digital textbooks, and library books borrowed from Overdrive will lose their notes as soon as you come back them.

Kobo’s software program oddities linger all through the system. Each units, as an illustration, help panorama layouts for ebooks however not on any of the menus. And the software program is badly in want of a smartphone-style management tray for adjusting brightness and primary settings: proper now, within the pocket book mode, the one strategy to management brightness is thru a poorly marketed swiping gesture, moderately than by way of any software program menu. And the Sage doesn’t even supply an choice to get to your notebooks from its homescreen, hiding the function away in a secondary menu.

The corporate can be nonetheless largely resting on its laurels in terms of issues like Pocket and Overdrive integration, which, whereas higher than Amazon’s non-implementation of the 2 options, nonetheless may very well be much more user-friendly than they’re. Kobo, presumably, is simply high-quality with prospects shopping for books from its retailer moderately than taking them out from their native libraries.

The Sage’s show can regulate its shade temperature; the Elipsa can’t.

The important thing factor to know about Kobo’s two new tablets, although, is what you’re stepping into before you purchase. The Sage, regardless of having stylus help, continues to be an e-reader first; and whereas the digital paper options are a pleasant bonus, I wouldn’t purchase one to make use of as a digital pocket book. And whereas the Elipsa is an attention-grabbing digital paper system made higher by Kobo’s e-book infrastructure, it’s nonetheless a first-generation piece of {hardware} that’s outclassed as a writing pill by the reMarkable 2.

Nonetheless, even when neither of the 2 units hits the candy spot of an ideal paper alternative, the truth that Kobo is trying to broaden its function set exterior of merely shopping for ebooks is an encouraging one. Hopefully, it should proceed to assist push the business ahead into taking full benefit of the distinctive shows that units just like the Kobo Sage and Elipsa supply.

Pictures by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge

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