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Kobo Mini : First Impressions

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19 Dec 2012, 12:04 AM
Post: #1
The Kobo Mini inhabits a niche that other eReaders have yet to address - it is considerably smaller than even the basic Kindle. Here's some initial impressions from a long-term Kindle user.

The eReader arrived in a tiny box which opened, with some difficulty, to reveal the incredibly cute Kobo Mini.

   

The Mini was almost fully charged and the first thing to do was to go to http://www.kobosetup.com and download and install the Kobo Desktop application (112 Mbytes). The application prompts for you to plug in the Kobo using the supplied cable. At first it did not recognise the device and it wasn't clear whether this was because I happened to initially use a different micro-USB cable or it was sensitive to the exact sequence of launching the app, plugging in the eReader and switching it on. After switching to the supplied cable and retrying a few times it got its act together and announced it was on step 1 of 4 of the installation.

Within a couple of second "Step 2 of 4" was announced - displaying a large dialogue with just a spinning busy icon in the centre. Minutes passed and nothing appeared to be happening. I had searched for help and read a couple of forums of advice before the dialogue suddenly announced:

Installing eReader upgrade...

for a few seconds and then prompted me to sign up for a Kobo account. Given the time it took and the potential problems if it was interrupted it would have been better UI design to have given rather more progress indication during step 2.

Relieved that despite my fears all was going well I entered my Kobo account details and the Mini started downloading my library from the desktop application.

I've only had a quick play with the Kobo Mini, but initial impressions are good. The user interface is intuitive, if a little slow - there is noticeable lag going back to the home screen from within a book, and in using some dialogues, but moving from page to page within a book is more than quick enough. The display has rather less contrast than the last generation Kindles - the background is slightly darker and the text noticeably greyer than the Kindle Touch.

   

But it must be remembered that the Kobo is being sold at less than half the price of the Touch (or its successor the Paperwhite - which sets new standards for contrast). However, note that the photos in this post do not do the Mini justice.

Reading controls are pretty standard; tap on the right side of the screen to go to the next page, tap on the left side to go back a page. Tapping in the centre brings up icon-based menus at the top and bottom of the page. An [Aa] icon at the bottom of the screen opens a display menu dialogue that allows font, size, line spacing, margins and justification to be adjusted. There is also an 'Advanced' button which opens a full-page dialogue that adds font weight and sharpness controls along with a Before and After view. This is rather nice!

If you have the eyesight, the Mini will display about 30 lines of 15 words per page of perfectly formed text. I can only just read that, but knocking the font size up a couple of notches gives a comfortable read for my aged eyes (which have just got to the point where I really should get reading glasses).

The unique selling point of the Kobo Mini is its size - it is truly pocketable and will (just) slip into shirt pocket (though don't expect to look elegant!) Its svelte proportions and light weight will make it really comfortable to hold for long reading sessions and mean it can go almost anywhere.

   

Footnote: I haven't used it long enough to tell yet, but leaving the Wi-Fi on seems to sap the battery quite quickly. However the Wi-Fi on-off checkbox is easy to get to, even if the Wi-Fi dialogue itself is not the friendliest I've come across.
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19 Dec 2012, 02:52 PM
Post: #2
An excellent post Frogplate. I was looking at the Mini before deciding on the standard Kobo Touch which was on offer at WH Smiths with £20 off making it the same price as the Mini.

Interesting to note your problems with the setup as this is exactly what happened to me on my Mac with it seemingly hanging for a very long time leaving me wondering if it was still working or not.

This particular aspect seems to be a drawback with the Kobo particularly the need to run the setup via a computer first. I was quite concerned that there is no mention of having to own a computer and more specifically Windows or OSX on the Kobo packaging. There is no setup software for Linux at all. I am sure there must be a few people around who do have Wi-Fi but perhaps only have a tablet or console and not a computer.

Does the mini have a web browser like its big brother?
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19 Dec 2012, 03:37 PM
Post: #3
I'm not certain if the Mini does have to be setup via a computer. When first switched on the welcome screen offers two buttons:

[COMPUTER SETUP]

[WIRELESS SETUP]

The manual only covers setup via computer. But the Mini doesn't need a computer to browse the book store or sync over Wi-Fi, so I assume the second option provides for initial configuration without using the Kobo Desktop on a PC.

Yes, there is a Web browser in the the "Extras" section of "Settings" but I've not explored the options there yet. I think, but am not certain, that it is running exactly the same software as its larger siblings.
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19 Dec 2012, 03:54 PM
Post: #4
That's odd. Maybe my firmware was older as I only had the computer option.
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19 Dec 2012, 04:06 PM
Post: #5
(19 Dec 2012 02:52 PM)Lou Wrote:  ...with it seemingly hanging for a very long time leaving me wondering if it was still working or not.

Classic case of testing by downloading minor patches whilst sitting on the LAN right next to the server and not thinking through what will happen when the whole OS needs updating by someone connecting their new device to the Internet via two tin cans and a bit of wet string.
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20 Dec 2012, 03:35 PM
Post: #6
Thanks for this post, frogplate, it has prompted me to push the Kobo Mini to the top of my list above a Kindle Fire. This is because I am primarily a reader and the Fire really does a lot of stuff I do not need. I've been using a Nexus 7 recently (mostly for reading off the Kobo app) and although it does some cool things, really I just want the ereader facility. The fact that you describe the Kobo Mini as "pocketeable" really sells it to me, as I sometimes struggle to fit my Kindle into a small, already over-filled handbag. If it doesn't turn up in my Christmas stocking I think I will treat myself.Smile However, I will never give up my Kindle as I love the text-to-speech feature on it so much.

Our True Nationality is Mankind - H.G. Wells
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20 Dec 2012, 03:39 PM
Post: #7
Check out the post I just made - an extra £10 off Mini plus free back cover. http://www.nobooko.com/ereaderforum/thre...html#pid55
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20 Dec 2012, 06:46 PM
Post: #8
The Kobo Mini certainly attracts attention. I commute 5 hours a day by train and usually use a Galaxy S3 or a Kindle Keyboard for the majority of that time. I've never been asked what I was reading before. I took the Kobo Mini out for the first time today and in the space of two hours three people started conversations with me by asking what it was.

When switched off the Kobo shows the cover of the book currently being read. Since I'm reading a book about the innards of Windows 8 the Kobo had "Windows 8" emblazoned across the screen and that fooled at least one interested passerby. I suspect it will be some time before we see a Windows 8 machine quite that small! (Whatever did happen to the strategic link-up between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble?)
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20 Dec 2012, 06:58 PM
Post: #9
(20 Dec 2012 03:35 PM)Daphne Wrote:  Thanks for this post, frogplate, it has prompted me to push the Kobo Mini to the top of my list above a Kindle Fire. This is because I am primarily a reader and the Fire really does a lot of stuff I do not need. I've been using a Nexus 7 recently (mostly for reading off the Kobo app) and although it does some cool things, really I just want the ereader facility. The fact that you describe the Kobo Mini as "pocketeable" really sells it to me, as I sometimes struggle to fit my Kindle into a small, already over-filled handbag. If it doesn't turn up in my Christmas stocking I think I will treat myself.Smile However, I will never give up my Kindle as I love the text-to-speech feature on it so much.

The Kobo Mini Review by PC Mag is pretty fair. I disagree on a couple of points - they seem to think that page turning is slow, whilst I've found it more than acceptable. I've had no problems with touches not registering. The slower processor than its bigger brother does show in some of the dialogues - for example when changing font size - and this could be misinterpreted as missed touches.
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22 Dec 2012, 05:21 PM
Post: #10
(19 Dec 2012 03:37 PM)frogplate Wrote:  Yes, there is a Web browser in the the "Extras" section of "Settings" but I've not explored the options there yet. I think, but am not certain, that it is running exactly the same software as its larger siblings.

The Kobo Mini does seem to be running exactly the same firmware as the Kobo Touch. I've had a delve around in the file system and found three series of slideshows at /.kobo/slideshow/. There are multiple country versions for each of three models:
  • Kraken (Kobo Glo)
  • Pixie (Kobo Mini)
  • Trilogy (Kobo Touch)

Here's the first screen for Pixie:

   

The Pixie screens are 800 x 600 pixels whilst those for Kraken are larger. The 1024 x 758 pixel images can't be displayed on the Mini, confirming that the same firmware is intended to be used on all three models.

Anyone know how to start the slideshows?
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