Tech Biz

Kobo: Three New Tablets and an eReader Arriving October 16

New “Reading Mode” will put the emphasis on reading first and apps second.

J.T. Quigley

Kobo has some attractive new hardware on the way for the upcoming holiday season. The Rakuten-owned company will aim for the higher-end market, likely hoping to steal some attention from eReader and budget tablet pioneer Amazon.

Last night, Kobo hosted an event in New York City to show off three reading-focused tablets and a dedicated eReader. The entry-level Arc 7 will sport a 1024 x 600 pixel display with 8GB of built-in memory. In the middle will be the Arc 7HD – with a 1920 x 1200 pixel display. As the names imply, both will have screens that measure 7 inches diagonally. The non-HD model will retail for $150, while the HD version will sell for $200 with 16GB of storage or $250 with 32GB of storage.

At the top of the line will be Kobo’s Arc 10HD. It will come equipped with a 10-inch display that is packed with an impressive 2560 x 1600 pixels. Beneath the screen, the Arc 10HD will be powered by a 1.8GHz NVIDIA Tegra 4 quad-core processor, coupled with 2GB of RAM. It will retail for $400 with 16GB of internal storage – but with the added benefit of a microSD slot (and an HDMI port).

“Compared to the offerings we've seen from other e-reader makers, [the Arc 10HD] really is a beast. It's also a pretty nice piece of hardware with a solid build. The front of the slate is all screen, plus a glossy, flush bezel that also houses the device's one webcam, a 1.3-megapixel offering that can also shoot 720p,” said Engadget.

All of the Arc tablets will run Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 with a custom Kobo skin – called Reading Life – which puts books and magazines at the forefront of the user experience. Building on to the idea that Kobo is an eBook company first and a hardware maker second, the new devices will come with a bookworm-friendly feature called “Reading Mode.”

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“[Reading Mode] turns off all notifications from email, apps, and social media. It also optimizes the screen brightness and adjusts battery consumption. The latter can extend battery life from hours to days, according to Kobo. The Reading Mode can even be set to automatically turn itself on when you start reading. Manual mode is available too, if you’re waiting for an important tweet,” explained Wired.

Alongside the trio of Android slates, Kobo is also launching a new eReader. The Kobo Aura has a 6-inch E ink display with 768 x 1024 pixels. Like Amazon’s popular Kindle Papewhite, the Aura will also feature a front light for reading in the dark. At 4GB, it will pack twice as much storage as its Kindle rival – while also including a microSD slot for up to 32GB of additional media. Kobo also claims that the new eReader will space out page refreshing to prevent text “ghosting.” It will sell for $150 – about $30 more than Kindle Paperwhite.

Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce company, acquired Kobo for $315 million in 2011.